Albert Watson has made his mark as one of the world’s most successful fashion and commercial photographers during the last four decades, while creating his own art along the way. Over the years, his striking images have appeared on more than 100 covers of Vogue around the world and been featured in countless other publications, from Rolling Stone to Time to Vibe – many of the photographs are iconic portraits of rock stars, rappers, actors and other celebrities.
Watson also has created the photography for hundreds of successful advertising campaigns for major corporations, such as Prada, the Gap, Levi’s, Revlon and Chanel, and he has directed many TV commercials and shot dozens of posters for major Hollywood movies. All the while, Watson has spent much of his time working on personal projects, creating stunning images from his travels and interests, from Marrakech to Las Vegas to the Orkneys. Much of this work, along with his well-known portraits and fashion photographs, has been featured in museum and gallery shows worldwide.
Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, Watson studied graphic design at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, and film and television at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1970, he moved to the United States with his wife, Elizabeth, who got a job as an elementary school teacher in Los Angeles, where Watson began shooting photos, mostly as a hobby.
Later that year, Watson was introduced to an art director at Max Factor, who offered him his first test session, from which the company bought two shots. Watson’s distinctive style eventually caught the attention of American and European fashion magazines such as Mademoiselle, GQ and Harper’s Bazaar, and he began commuting between Los Angeles and New York. In 1976, he landed his first job for Vogue. With his move to New York that same year, his career took off.
Despite the demands of his commissioned assignments, Watson devotes much of his time to extensive personal projects, and he has published three books: Cyclops (1994); Maroc (1998); and a retrospective called simply Albert Watson that was released by Phaidon in November 2007. In Autumn 2010, PQ Blackwell, in association with Abrams, published two new books, one on Las Vegas, Strip Search and another on fashion, UFO: Unified Fashion Objectives. Since 2004, he has had solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art in Milan, Italy; the KunstHausWien in Vienna, Austria; the City Art Centre in Edinburgh; the FotoMuseum in Antwerp, Belgium; the NRW Forum in Dusseldorf, Germany; the Forma Galleria in Milan; Fotografiska in Stockholm; and Hamiltons Gallery, London. Albert’s photographs have also been featured in many group shows at museums, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, the International Center of Photography in New York, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, Germany. His photographs are included in the permanent collections at the National Portrait Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Watson’s visual language follows his own distinctive rules and concepts of quality. With their brilliance, urgency, even grandeur, his photographs stand out so clearly against the world of today’s images. His way of lighting subjects, especially the fetish objects and portraits, creates a nearly meditative atmosphere in the photographs.
Though the wide variety of his images reflects an effortless versatility, they are nevertheless identifiable as Albert Watson photographs by their sheer power and technical virtuosity _ whether it’s a portrait of a Las Vegas dominatrix or a close-up of King Tutankhamen’s sock. This single-minded commitment to perfection has made Watson one of the world’s most sought-after photographers.