We're used to seeing snaps of the world's best dressed and most glamorous living the high life at fashion parties, but do you ever wonder what it's like for the photographers taking those shots? Darren Gerrish is one such jet-set camera pro. Adorned with his signature beret, Darren is a recognisable and regular figure at fashion week events and parties – gliding between the hip-shaking, cocktail quaffing models, musicians and designers to get the perfect shots for the likes of Vogue, Vanity Fair and Tatler.
How and when did you start in photography?
I started a few years ago now. Just picked up a camera to while away the time and enjoyed it. Managed to get into the London College of Printing [London College of Communication these days] and that set me on my way. I started by recording art gallery events and then lucked out by taking pics for a certain gallery whose friends and clients liked to party hard and managed to capture fab people and moments. So knocked on Vogue's door and that was that.
Is photographing fashion parties as glamorous as it looks?
Yes it is, I'm afraid. It's fun and glamourous. I still find it exciting to see where my camera takes me and the people I meet and photograph. I love covering the front rows at the fashion weeks in New York, London and Paris – and the parties that follow. Even now it still gets me. My favourite is Couture week, that still blows my mind. The dresses, the people the places.
How does your night usually unfold when you're working a party?
I arrive, beret on and we're off. Just move around the place where the party's happening and take your shots. Now after a few years, people know you and trust you, so the job of getting the right type of image is easier. It enables me to try and get a better shot, more than just a grabbed snap. I enjoy the entire atmosphere, it feels like you're at home, it feels like it's not work.
What's the most memorable thing that's happened to you at a party?
There have been so many. Usually it's photographing people who I've admired – loved in the sense of their work. Whether it be an artist, model, designer, actress, actor. Isabella Rossellini in New York was massive for me. The model Anna Cleveland blows my mind. The french actress Fanny Ardent, I couldn't believe I had the chance to photograph her in Paris. Emmanuelle Beart at Dior. The designers Azzedine Alaïa, Valentino, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Erdem, Christopher Kane. I still can't believe I can capture these people, these moments. Sheer joy.
What's the best party you've been to?
Again so many, it's ridiculous. The Vogue 100th Anniversary party was fantastic – everyone from the world I work in was there. Sam McKnight's 60th was incredible, all the models he'd worked with were there. It was like the most glamorous house party ever. The Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott party this season in New York was incredible.
What have you learned about the world's most fashionable people from parties?
That they're very lovely people. Well, to me they are. They make my job/life so easy, it's the best. I honestly don't think I've had a bad moment at a party. I do this day in, day out with no breaks for weeks and months at a time and one of the reasons is that the people I photograph are fun and gracious. I'm very lucky.
Do you feel like you're partying at these events or working?
No, I’m still working. I enjoy myself and have an absolute ball but I’m not a guest.
When and why did you start wearing a beret and are there other practical/professional/aesthetic reasons for what you wear on the job?
The beret is my trademark but it’s become that because I love berets and have always worn them. I do dress in a certain way – that has also become my trademark but again I’ve always looked like that. But it does make me recognisable to people, “oh, it’s Darren”, which again makes my job easier.
What would be your tips for the non-professional looking to get that perfect party photo for Instagram?
I'm looking all the time. You pick up this unexplainable radar that puts you in the right place at the right time. I can't really describe it but things just seem to happen. So you have to always be ready, lose a second and it's gone. Be aware of what might happen and then you get a great shot that you can put up.