He’s got a good northern head on him has the photographer Nick
Georghiou, exemplified by the flat cap sporting the Nike tick he wears
to this interview.
It’s hard to believe that Georghiou, who is responsible for the
ground-breaking images used in Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s award-winning
Barnardo’s campaign, only became a photographer because he needed a job
that guaranteed an income. If the worst came to the worst, he says, he
could always have done weddings.
Thank goodness he didn’t, because - apologies to Georghiou for sounding
like a luvvie - his portfolios, both personal and commercial, contain
the most diverse collection of images I have ever seen. The work is more
like the combined efforts of four photographers. As a result, it’s
impossible to put a label on his output.
Much of the work is not only striking, it’s controversial. His dramatic
shot of a baby holding a syringe for Barnodo’s sparked debate about the
ethics of advertising and caused the Committee of Advertising Practice
to advise the media not to carry it. Many found the work so compelling
that they ignored CAP’s advice.
’Baby’, as well as ’suicide’ and ’prison’ - all for Barnardo’s - went on
to win a host of awards, including a silver and a bronze at the Campaign
Press Awards. The series was also awarded a silver at the Association of
Photographers Awards with the host, Lord Puttnam, describing the work
as: ’A series of arresting images that make you understand one specific
attitude of where we are going as a society.’
Georghiou’s personal work is also acclaimed. ’Leanne’, for example, hung
in the National Portrait Gallery and is now moving to the new Tate
Despite his exotic name, Georghiou is Lancashire born and bred. (He is
the son of a Greek cafe owner.)
Upon leaving school he opted to become a furniture designer and went to
study in Burnley. He then went to the Manchester Painting School and
studied other media including photography which, ultimately, he began to
see as more lucrative than furniture. ’I’m working class, so it was
important to me to be able to earn a living,’ he explains.
In 1986 he went to the Royal College of Art to complete an MA in
There he experimented with graphics, printing and sculpture and ploughed
all his money into his degree show. A wise decision as he sold most of
his work and picked up a Vogue award.
He says: ’I didn’t know what to do when I graduated so I just showed my
work to everyone. Issey Miyake liked it and I did some ads for them.
Then I had this idea for a book for them and borrowed clothes from them
to shoot it. Consequently, I did a lot of fashion stuff, not that I was
a fashion photographer,’ he adds somewhat guiltily, as if betraying his
He asks if I would like to see his ratting pictures. Ratting pictures?
One minute Georghiou is running down the road with a Miyake dress
stitched with gold thread in a carrier bag, the next he’s taking
incredible images of his former school mates ridding local farmers of
rodents. Georghiou’s personal work is ’important for his sanity’. ’I’ve
had images used directly from the book for commissions, but I need to
It’s this talent for diversity that has led to a fruitful working
relationship with Mark Reddy, BMP DDB’s head of art, who says of
Georghiou: ’We work together at least once a year. Nick is a consummate
and meticulous observer with a grounded comedic wit. He is a chameleon
and has the ability to reinvent himself with each project. He’s a real
He is undoubtedly a ’real thinker’, but he isn’t letting on today. I ask
him what the titles of various pictures are but he isn’t having any of
it. ’I don’t go in for that,’ he says.
’Call it untitled 49,’ he suggests. ’Everyone is influenced by things
going on around them but I try not to think about my work too
analytically because it takes away the essence of the picture. I also
try not to let the technology take over the idea.’ Leagas Delaney’s
’Ince barbed wire’ ad for Adidas is a good example of this approach.
His AFAEP-winning work showed a pregnant belly separated from the rest
of the body to form a kind of egg. What was all that about?
’That idea came from ante-natal classes my wife and I went to,’ he
’At one of them the midwife said that at least two of the women there
would need caesareans. So it’s about that and form, lines and texture.
It does upset a lot of women but it wasn’t intended to. It was meant to
Such work has led to Georghiou being described as an ’edgy’ photographer
but he says: ’I like making an image, it doesn’t have to have an
He adds: ’Advertising is such that if you’ve got a shot of a fridge in
your portfolio, you’ll get commissioned to shoot a fridge in an ad. I
can do cars and landscapes. But that shouldn’t matter. What is important
is that the photographer understands the whole picture and what is
required in shooting and managing a job. That tends to make account men
less nervous,’ he adds with a laugh.
He admits that his Barnardo’s work did make some people nervous. ’The
way we used children in the various environments was difficult,’ he
’I’m not sure that I would want my child in an ad pretending to commit
suicide. But we showed pictures of all the environments to the models’
mothers so they knew our intentions.’
Adrian Rossi, the BBH art director on the Barnardo’s job, says: ’It’s
easy to get a charity photographer as the genre is formulaic, tending to
consist of black and white grainy images. Nick was cast against type as
much of his work is very beautiful and stylish, but that doesn’t mean he
can’t do hard-hitting.
’He gave 100 per cent to the project, so much so that he made me climb
the side of the 28-storey tower block for ’suicide’ to make sure that I
was happy with the shot. He is a top photographer.’