Albert van Nierop, St Paul’s Cathedral, June 1986, by Bo Lutoslawski

By Alan Sparrow

Seriously, how many books do we need? is there room or even a need for another book of photography?

Photographer Boleslaw Lutoslawski believes so and is seeking a publisher for his book, Stories and Portraits. Bo is a portrait photographer who has lived in London and now enjoys life in Norfolk having worked for newspapers such as the Guardian and the Independent and magazines including Vogue, Harpers and Queen and Newsweek during the last 40 years. It is estimated that only 1 or 2% of manuscripts submitted make it to publication. Undeterred, Bo has put his favourite portraits from those years into a book.

Each portrait is accompanied by a story of the meeting between sitter and photographer, an insight into the relationship that Bo built in that fraction of a second it took to take the photo. A relationship that often became a lasting friendship.

“We take portraits of people we care for, who are special to us, because for most of the time they are somewhere else” Lutoslawski told me. “We want to remember their presence and the wonderful moments we shared together. Some meetings lasted for an hour or even less, some for years, some happened purely by chance, others took long time to organise. Their portraits are reminders of those unique, memorable encounters.

“My choices when taking photographs are guided by the intensity of the situation in front of me, by psychological truthfulness and by visual clarity, as they fold into a single moment. It is like taking a photograph of a jumping dancer reaching an apex of his movement. The same applies to close portraits as face combined with hands gestures are most natural expressions of our personalities.

“I always used a single reflex camera. Most of the time it was Canon A1 for film and Canon EOS, 50 D digital camera. It takes a long time for me to merge, fuse, entwine with my camera, but (then)… I don’t even think that I have a camera in my hand; it’s part of me. Therefore, I do not change cameras. My camera is my camera only and I don’t share it.

“I always use standard lens(50mm) so I can see the situation in front of me in the same way as I see it through a camera lens. I often take photographs with two eyes open, one for a viewfinder and another one to keep an eye on the scene in front of me. I do not use a zoom lens”.

All but one of the photographs in the book are in black and white. “I feel it suits me because black and white leaves a lot of room for imagination, both for myself when I work with images and also for the audience”.

European stars of screen and stage and the world of art have been photographed by Lutoslawski: a questioning portrait of photographer Bill Brandt, peering at us as if we have interrupted a moment of thought; Glenda Jackson preparing for a stage appearance; the television journalist Robin Day looking stern.

With so many to show I wondered if there were some that had escaped from the Lutoslawski lens: it was Peter Brook, “a most creative theatre and film director and an amazing writer. I read his books many times and he is very inspirational for me in my profession as a photographer. I tried and tried to get in touch with him, but it never happened and it is too late now”. And the portraits he most enjoyed? “Albert van Nierop, a very good friend of mine and a dancer from Ballet Rambert. He was always inspirational as a dancer and my model in photography. We worked with each other in a most natural and dynamic manner. We both created those images for which I am very very grateful to him”.

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