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Heroes & Villains

by David Steen

David Steen

Over a period of 50 years David Steen photographed cultural icons from just about every walk of life - from the rockers (The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pete Townshend) to the rollers (Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart) to other artists in all fields (Robert Redford, Stephen Spielberg, Somerset Maughan, Nureyev) and politicians, sportsmen and entrepreneurs (Harold Macmillan, Graham Hill, Brian Epstein).

Sean Connery was a favourite, and Lee Marvin reportedly the most fun assignment. Steen has played his ukulele in duet with Peter Sellers; suffered mad days and nights with Oliver Reed; fished with Charlie Chaplin; was privy to the inner sanctum of Harold Macmillan's lonely bedroom; lived with Rod Stewart in Los Angeles and celebrated in Rio with Ronnie Biggs.

The Photography

Heroes & Villains

Over a period of 50 years Steen photographed cultural icons from just about every walk of life - from the rockers (The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Pete Townshend) to the rollers (Cliff Richard, Tom Jones, Rod Stewart) to other artists in all fields (Robert Redford, Stephen Spielberg, Somerset Maughan, Nureyev) and politicians, sportsmen and entrepreneurs (Harold Macmillan, Graham Hill, Brian Epstein).

Sean Connery was a favourite, and Lee Marvin reportedly the most fun assignment. Steen has played his ukulele in duet with Peter Sellers; suffered mad days and nights with Oliver Reed; fished with Charlie Chaplin; was privy to the inner sanctum of Harold Macmillan's lonely bedroom; lived with Rod Stewart in Los Angeles and celebrated in Rio with Ronnie Biggs.

Ringo Starr, Allen Klein - Almeria, Spain
July 1971

Ringo was becoming known for character spots in feature films, in Blindman as a vicious kidnapper - he had tired of playing lovable characters. In this jokey off set cameo, producer Allen Klein, the sharp-talking American lawyer brought in to manage The Beatles' finances and take over management of Apple, holds a gun to Ringo's stomach. The matey relationship was already doomed - The Beatles were to fall out over Klein's appointment. In 1971, Paul McCartney had already instituted High Court action against him.

Charlie Chaplin - Waterville, County Kerry, Ireland
April 1962

This shot always makes me smile, it reminds me of my trip to Ireland. I had flown into Shannon Airport at 4am and the hire desk didn't open until 7am. The place was empty, chairs on tables; I had a long, boring wait ahead of me. I needed an Irish coffee. The lone waiter, who was sweeping the floor, took the order and disappeared for some considerable time. He eventually returned and placed a large tumbler full of neat Irish whisky in front of me. 'What's this? I asked for an Irish coffee,' I said. 'And so you did, Sir,' he replied. 'Trouble is, the coffee's cold and the fucking cream is off.' Don't you love the Irish logic!

And so I came to be sitting in a boat with Chaplin. Every year he would stay at the The Butler Arms Hotel in County Kerry to indulge his passion for fishing, sea, river and lake (where this was shot). The photograph was taken holding the camera up over my head, cutting the land out of the top of the picture. It was a bitterly cold day and Chaplin was showing off his cashmere jacket, my first awareness of cashmere.

Peter O'Toole - Hampstead, London
September 1978

Say Peter O'Toole and the other person thinks Lawrence of Arabia and vice versa. In fact it was due to Albert Finney turning it down that the part was offered and O'Toole, already a highly regarded actor, was catapulted into the ranks of major international stars. ('If you'd been any prettier,' Noel Coward told him, 'it would have been Florence of Arabia.') More work followed but it was difficult to avoid comparisons and there was a period in the Seventies when his career slumped. For most people O'Toole was Lawrence, but it wasn't until 1982 that he actually watched the entire film, on a hotel television in Amman, Jordan.

He has a reputation for good quotes. Such as: 'I have no intention of uttering my last words on the stage. Room service and a couple of depraved young women will do me quite nicely for an exit.'

Sean Connery - County Wicklow, Ireland
June 1973

Sean was making the movie Zardoz, directed by John Boorman on location in County Wicklow. There wasn't much to do in the evenings except for the existence of a spacious snooker hall containing some 30 tables.

John Alderton, also starring in the film, suggested a knockout snooker contest, the prize a magnum of champagne donated by him. He was known to be a good player with his own snooker table at home so possibly he figured it was likely he wouldn't be presenting the prize to anybody but himself. The competition commenced. It came down to the last table, John Alderton versus Sean Connery. The lights were dimmed except for the one above the centre table and the crew stood around to watch the final. This was to be the best of three. Sean, who likes to win, won the first game amid absolute silence. It got to the second game, clearly Sean was winning again, the atmosphere was tense. John stopped play, 'It's only a game,' he said, 'You didn't think I was serious did you?' Sean ignored him, put his head down and won the second game. A local photographer was there to record John presenting the magnum to Sean.

Richard Harris - Malta
1963

Like a few of the guys I have photographed, Richard was a heavy drinker and you had to keep up with him. If he asked, 'Do you want a drink?' you couldn't ask for lemonade, better you just had what he was having. I found him in one of his moods where he was adamant that he didn't want to be photographed. Well, when you've flown all that way to photograph somebody and the somebody says forget it, you're not happy. The days passed and I was due to fly back to London in the evening and I still didn't have any photographs and was starting to panic. At about three o'clock in the afternoon Richard eventually came around and said, 'Come on then...' and I got my session with him and Ann on the beach. It was such a relief. That's the sort of guy he was, unpredictable.


Brian Epstein - The Cavern Club, Liverpool
October 1963

Brian Epstein worked at his parents' music shop in Liverpool. In those days every young boy wanted to play the guitar and copy the rock musicians so the shop was busy and successful. I wanted to photograph The Cavern where the live music was and Brian and I spent the evening there. I don't know the name of the band in the background but it wasn't The Beatles. Youngsters could play as loud as they liked, this place was literally a cave made form solid rock.


John Cleese - On Haystack, England
July 1985

John was filming Clockwise and I was up against the problem of trying to avoid any aspect of the movie itself in the photograph. The scenes, the lighting, the drama had been perfected by somebody else; for me to borrow some of that is a bit of a cheat. Knowing John Cleese has a great sense of humour, knowing he won't object to looking absurd on a haystack, I went for the fun shot. He's a great clown.
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The Manuscript

Heroes & Villains

HEROES & VILLAINS demonstrates the amazing dynamic between Steen and his subject, allowing him to capture figures in their most diverse and natural forms. Accompanied by personal anecdotes and summarised biographies, and including a foreword by Sir Roger Moore, this book provides a fascinating overview of some of the most influential personalities of the last century. Only 1,250 copies are being published, each hand bound to the highest quality in Italian silver paper.

Why the title? "The hero is the man admired for outstanding achievements," says Steen. "The villain is the one capable of great wickedness, but there again he could be just a loveable rogue... and I love the rogues..."Jerry Lewis. Jerry Lewis, director, was a different person to Jerry Lewis, stooge to Dean Martin. On set he took filming Hardly Working very seriously except for the occasional - and disconcerting - burst of laughter. In this particular shot he unexpectedly turned around and poked his tongue at me.

Truman Capote. I hate photographing people in hotels; it's so impersonal. Furniture that isn't theirs, someone else's paintings on the walls, you can't make it look like home. Invariably I tried to come up with an interesting close-up. I asked, 'Can you pull a face or do something?' This is what the charmingly camp Capote did.

Orson Welles. He made Citizen Kane in 1942 when he was 25 years old. Thirty years later, when this photograph was taken, he was often derided ('America's youngest living has-been' was coined while he was still in his twenties) and he himself admitted that he began at the top and 'had been working my way down ever since.'

Ian Fleming. This shot was taken at Fleming's office in Mitre Court, just off Fleet Street. The magnifying glass, an irresistible prop for a spy-writer, was there on his desk. As for the cigarette holder, in those days everyone smoked and the day had yet to arrive when smoking became politically incorrect and editors decreed no shots of smokers.

Terence Stamp. With Terence it was always about perfection. I had previously photographed him when he appeared with Julie Christie in Far from the Madding Crowd. From the brogues to the handkerchief, the posture, the way in which he had to stand forward at an angle, look in the camera and feel good: everything had to be right.

Tony Benn. Strung between the walls of his large basement office were a series of washing lines. Hung on the lines with clothes pegs, for immediate reference, were sheets or scraps of paper reminding Tony of ideas. What caught my eye were his braces with the House of Commons logo. You couldn't photograph Tony Benn without a pipe in his mouth because apparently he never took it out.

Peter Sellers. When I got to Peter Sellers' house I couldn't believe my eyes at the sight of a ukulele propped up on a chair. I play the ukulele myself (well, I like to think I do) and keep it in the boot of my car at all times on the off chance of being asked for an impromptu performance. The opportunity was too good to pass up and we whiled away the time in duet, playing and singing and crying with laughter.

Eric Clapton. I never went to concerts as a fan, I was there as an observer, albeit an observer in a privileged position, being close. As a fan I would have been frustrated to be sitting several rows away, and that would apply to whoever was appearing on stage. To photograph Clapton I was no more than five yards away, close enough to watch the perspiration running down his face.

Oliver Reed. The room in this picture, in Ollie's house Broome Hall, was massive with four pairs of French windows on to the gardens. The military accessories were important to Ollie. After doing the picture we had a drink, and when he asked if you wanted a drink he wouldn't offer a glass or even open a bottle, he'd bring out a case.

Michael Caine. I went to his house in Windsor and as I motored up the long driveway. I saw the gardener standing there with a wheelbarrow, a fork on his shoulder. He turned and it was Michael. 'Stay as you are,' I said.

Ronnie Wood. Both musician and artist, he had been painting and drawing from the age of 12, some time before he took up the guitar, and examples of his work scattered about the house were seriously accomplished. He went on to mount prestigious exhibitions.

Mark McCormack. I was commissioned to photograph a typical working day in the life of Mark McCormack. He flew in from the US. He came straight from Heathrow Airport to a 7.30am business breakfast at Claridge's, followed by another meeeting at 9am, at 10am, at 11am, at midday and so on until the evening. His philosophy was simply: 'Be the best. Learn the business and expand by applying what you already know.'

John Hurt. I went to John's home to photograph him, he was living alone at the time, his marriage over. I feel that windows are emotive - peering through them, looking for something, waiting for someone. John, standing by that window gave the feeling he was either looking into the future, or looking back on past problems. I took the photograph and expected him to walk away, but he just stood there, frozen in thought.

Bill Wyman. At his home in Cheyne Walk. Bass-player with the Stones for over 30 years, Wyman was always the quiet one. 'You sometimes read about us and I am not even mentioned,' he said. 'I'm just a guy at the back of the band. I'd like a bit of the limelight too.'
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The Author

Heroes & Villains

David Steen's introduction to photography was as a 15-year-old school-leaver joining Picture Postwhere he had the good luck to be taken under the wing of the legendary Bert Hardy as an assistant. It was the ultimate training ground in photojournalism, and the launch pad for his career.

Steen's reunion with Picture Post after doing his National Service was short-lived. The magazine was losing groundand closed. He moved to Fleet Street, first to a bright new title, Women's Sunday Mirror,where he picked up First Prize in Encyclopaedia Britannica's Best Picture of the Year Award for his sequence 'Birth of the Baby'. He was21, the youngest ever to be awarded the prize. There followed one year as a staff photographer with the Daily Mail; Fleet Street was the hub of the world...

On to freelancing, Queen Magazine, Nova, the Sunday Times Magazine,international magazines around the world, over the years covering projects as diverse as riots in Harlem to a film set in Acapulco.Trained on the maxim "every picture tells a story", he has focused on film stars, actors, criminals, politicians, prime ministers (numerous) and countless men, women and children going about their everyday lives.

"I am over the moon to have Genesis as my publisher" comments Steen "it is a meeting of perfectionists."

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The Collector Edition

Heroes & Villains

The edition is strictly limited to one thousand two hundred and fifty copies signed by David Steen.

One hundred and three photographs are superbly reproduced in fine screen duotone on heavy stock (200gsm)white matt art archival paper. Each photograph is image varnished. The text is master printed on bright yellow cartridge paper.

Copies numbered 351-1,250 are Collector Copies, are signed by David and are presented in a special plastic transparency box slipcase, resembling a Kodachrome slide case.
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The Deluxe Edition

Heroes & Villains

Copies numbered 1-350 in the edition are Deluxe copies and are additionally autographed by Sir Roger Moore. An extra print is also included. This image does not otherwise appear in the book and is of Rod Stewart.

They are full bound in silver leather with silver foiled page edges and each book contains a printed acetate bookmark. Pasted onto the front cover is a replica transparency mount in acetate and card, featuring The Beatles.

Each book is housed in a large replica custom-made yellow and white plastic slide box unique to this edition.
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The Exhibition

Heroes & Villains

The Exhibition: 18th May - 3rd June 2005

To launch this epic collection, 42 of the most iconographic of these original prints were showcased in a unique exhibition also entitled Heroes+Villains at Hooper's Gallery, Clerkenwell on 18th May 2005. The exhibition provided a rare opportunity to purchase limited edition prints of these enigmatic characters, and also offered the opportunity to view copies of the book.

David Steen was at the gallery on 21st and 28th May 2005 to personalise copies of the book. Click here to read more.

Heroes & Villains

by David Steen

Select from the following editions:

Heroes & Villains

Heroes & Villains

  • ISBN:
    0904351939
  • Collector:
    900 copies
  • Signed by:
    David Steen
  • Contributors:
    Sir Roger Moore
  • Paper:
    Heavy stock (200gsm) white matt art archival paper and bright yellow cartridge paper.
  • Binding:
    Silver paper over heavy boards with silver page edging.
  • Box:
    A large replica custom-made yellow and white plastic transparency box unique to this edition.
Collector No longer available

We have loved them, and we have loathed them; over 100 of the world’s most emblematic characters have been brought together for the first time in a rare and unseen collection by photojournalist David Steen.

  • Page size: 350mm x 250mm
  • 144 pages
  • 103 images
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