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In this series, some of our best known photographers and contributors recall some of the most memorable moments in their career.
My most unexpected moment took place at the 2012 Lord Mayor’s Banquet in the opulent surroundings of London’s Guildhall.
The white-tie evening for the great and the good of the City of London is based on centuries of well-established formality and consists of congratulatory speeches and a slap-up dinner.
It also presents an in-at-the-deep-end experience for the new Lord Mayor of London as they’ll have only taken up the job a couple of days before and the guests include: the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the previous Lord Mayor.
In 2012, the 685th Lord Mayor, Roger Gifford, had just started in the role and, having photographed the Banquet before, I had a fair idea of how the evening would pan out: formal introductions in the Old Library, procession into the Great Hall, an hour’s break to send some pictures (whilst the dignitaries tuck in to starters and the main course), then up to a balcony overlooking the Great Hall to photograph the speeches.
The main shot of the night (as it always is) is to capture the Prime Minister resplendent in tails and a white bowtie surrounded by gold furniture and oak panelled walls. The contrast between the setting and attire of someone whose mantra has been to impose fiscal austerity is not lost on the UK newspapers.
The evening played out to plan up until the moment the Archbishop was about to address the audience.
The State Trumpeters blew their horns to provide a ceremonial fanfare before his speech and I was all set on the balcony high above the hall with my 500mm telephoto lens ready to photograph ‘man speaks at lectern’.
Before the speech started I took a quick moment to photograph the Prime Minister and noticed, to my great surprise, that his formal starched white shirt had become unbuttoned revealing his naked, ample stomach.
No sooner had I spotted this, and taken a couple of frames, when the PM became aware of his wardrobe malfunction. Over the course of the next five minutes I continued to photograph as Mr Cameron carefully and surreptitiously re-buttoned his shirt without drawing the attention of his fellow diners.
Such a spontaneous button-popping incident could have happened to anyone but it didn’t stop the newspapers enjoying the spectacle of the usually immaculately attired PM flashing a bit of belly.
The Telegraph cartoonist Christian Adams even created a sequence of drawings based on some of my pictures
Suffice to say that when I photographed the 2013 Lord Mayor’s Banquet recently Mr Cameron took the trouble to check his shirt several times and kept a keen eye on me up in the balcony!
About Oli Scarff
Oli Scarff is a staff news photographer for Getty Images based in London covering news and features in south east England as well as foreign assignments.
During four years of mathematics study at Warwick University, Oli devoted a significant portion of his free time to photography and picture-editing the student paper. In 2002 he won the ‘Student Photographer of the Year award’ and upon graduating decided to shun maths and the inevitable career in the lucrative world of finance in favour of becoming a press photographer.
Oli began his career with South West News Service, a prestigious regional agency based in Bristol supplying national newspapers and magazines with news and feature images. After three years of interesting and eclectic assignments he was offered a contract with the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London. One year later he accepted a staff position at Getty Images to join a team of five other UK news photographers.
Since joining in 2008 Oli has covered international assignments in numerous countries including: Kenya, Italy, France, Greece, America, and Switzerland. His images have appeared in publications around the world including: The New York Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, The LA Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Time and Newsweek.
In the fleeting moments when not taking pictures, eating or sleeping, Oli serves as a board member of the British Press Photographer’s Association. He also enjoys riding his bike, running, climbing and being dragged up high mountains by his adventurous wife.
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