Idil Sukan: This Comedian

27 February 2015 | Laura Stevens

Idil Sukan’s images of the talented starts of the comedy world are instantly recognisable from billboards, book covers and albums. Gathered in Sukan’s debut exhibition are over 200 photographs of the funny and famous with Olivia Coleman, Celia Imrie and Julian Clary all making an appearance.

London Calling: Have you photographed any divas?

Idil Sukan: Miss Piggy! She’s the diva. I have a picture of the Wanted there with Katy Brand. I think that’s the only time that someone has just taken off their top off with no prompting – that has never happened to me even in a personal situation. That was hilarious.

He was just hanging out without his top on. I’ve never seen anything like it. I didn’t know whether to comment on it, if someone’s naked is it prude to comment?

LC: And how was photographing the Muppets?

IS: I mean it was the best day of my whole life. I’ve shot them a few times now and it’s wonderful. It just feels like you’ve come home.

Miss Piggy is a real diva, and they’re all absolutely lovely.

LC: Are any comedians coming along to look at themselves?

IS: Yes I think so – I don’t want to say names.

LC: Where are all the photographs taken?

IS: A lot of them are in my studio in Richmond. A lot are on site at the Edinburgh Festival backstage, some are at the British Academy Film Awards and so are at the British Comedy Awards.

So every so often we run off to Richmond Park and take pictures.

LC: Have you got any good stories from shooting in the park?

IS: We took a sousaphone in the back of a tiny car and we drove into Richmond Park and got out a sousaphone and then walked around Richmond.

LC: Did you get a lot of looks?

IS: Yeah, from the deer mostly. But that was a really fun shoot.

LC: How are the photographs ordered? Is it chronological?

IS: My goodness no. I wouldn’t do it in the order in which they were taken.

I think the order is much more a celebration of comedy rather than anything else. I don’t want it to be just about me - that doesn’t interest me. I really hope that the whole exhibition is for the comedy community, for the industry.

I want there to be that similar feeling to the Royal Mile where you just see so much and it’s in no particular order of time or venue or date or anything.

LC: Or in order of fame?

IS: There’s a really nice equality with comedy – whenever you get up on stage if you’re funny, you’re funny – it doesn’t really matter how famous you are. And I think that’s really important to see unknowns right next to really famous. And I think that’s quite fun.

LC: So why comedians?

IS: I’ve worked in comedy for over a decade.

LC: OK, going right back, why did you get into comedy in the first place?

IS: Well I’ve always written, directed or produced it. Even when I was a kid I put on shows and things.

LC: This wall is covered with images of comedians. Why did you choose to display it like this?

IS: The whole exhibition is about how many different comedians there are. And it’s such a shame that comedians all get treated the same way, all represented in a similar way. They all look wacky.

The idea behind this is there’s so many different types of comedians, so many different origins, so many different styles. And I wanted to show that diversity, there are so many and they shouldn’t be treated all the same. They should have diversity of representation through photography.

LC: What’s your favourite portrait?

IS: No, that’s crazy. Everyone always asks me that and I still haven’t figured it out.

LC: How about the best story with the shoot?

IS: They all have really harrowing, emotional stories. They’re all very harrowing.

LC: Who made you laugh the most?

IS: Elis James.

LC: Hands down?

IS: No question. Funniest person I’ve ever had in the studio.

I really hope he becomes a megastar, the world needs him.

Idil Sukan: This Comedian is on at Embassy Tea Gallery, Southwark 20 Feb – 8 March. Check out their website and have a giggle.  


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