I met photographer Johnny Rozsa about 15 years ago when I hired him to do a ambitious (very low-budget) photo shoot in two cities, no less. He did an amazing job and we became friends straight away. He’s the kind of irresistible character that you want to be friends with. He was born and raised in Nairobi. “Living in Kenya made me curious,” he observes in his introduction to Untouched a collection of celebrity portraiture he published a few years back with Glitterati. He arrived in London in the Swinging 60s and after he had finished school he ran a vintage shop in Covent Garden where he met fashion editors, models, actors, and photographers every day. He went to all the smart parties and hobnobbed with the likes of Ian McKellen, Leigh Bowery, and John Galliano and photographed them all.
“When I was a teenager I painted. I enjoyed the texture of oil paints and painted almost every day from the age of 15 until I turned 20. I loathed filling in backgrounds because they were so time consuming, and often wished I had an assistant to do the boring bits! When I discovered the instant moment of taking a photograph and the speed in which to develop it in a darkroom I was hooked! I poured over glossy magazines and started to collect big photo books by the photographic masters, and the fashion greats. I never trained as a photographer, and as a result felt a little ‘less than’ so I practiced with light until I understood it. I have an open mind. I usually wait until they turn up to the studio or location, chat to them while scanning their face, their body, and then, on the spur of the moment, while they are getting their hair done, I set up lights and backgrounds. I am an optimist. I am flexible. If someone believes that his or her left side is their more photogenic side, I go with that and then try to encourage them to break out of a mold that really is in their own head… I revere and respect my subjects, and I do think that humor and a sense of wit and fun add to my images. I have a sense of history too, which all blends, like a braid, to create this book of which I am proud.”
These are just a few examples of his work from back in the day. No, they aren’t new, they’ve now passed into being classics. The tile of the book comes from the fact that they are unretouched images, unheard of today in celebrity portraiture. Johnny’s still drawing and taking photographs – refining that keen POV. (A little backstory to our cover girl, Johnny was introduced to Buddhism by Tina Turner in ’82, and has been practicing ever since.) You can get Untouched here.