Nick Yarsley is a commercial lifestyle and interiors photographer who grew up in Dumbleton, near Cheltenham, where he attended the local primary school before going to Pates Grammar School. Every day, the children from Dumbleton and surrounding villages had to be ferried over to Cheltenham on a double-decker bus.
‘Three to a seat under 13’ the driver used to shout as the bus struggled to get up Cleeve Hill!
We are chatting in his flat – it’s located above the shops in the heart of Montpellier. You need to be fit to climb the two floors of winding stairs that lead up to it but the view over Montpellier Gardens is worth it. Cheltenham is one of those places I always wanted to come back to, he tells me, as we study the wealth of historic churches and period properties which can be seen from the sitting room window.
He doesn’t use the flat as a studio, not because of the stairs he jokes, but because he always photographs on location. He is not an architectural photographer though; neither does he work for estate agents. He photographs the interiors of the kinds of properties which are featured in national magazines such as Homes & Gardens, Livingetc and 25 Beautiful Homes. They are the kind of glossies that inspire you when choosing your own decor or you are just being plain nosy and like peeking inside the lavishly decorated mansions of well known celebs. But not all the houses he shoots are like that. Some are four or five hundred year old cottages while some are new build. He loves his job. He has a feel for it – a friend once said that ‘his pictures looked like you could walk into them’.
He is totally freelance and works together with various writers including Maggie Colvin.
But it didn’t start out that way. Nick studied photography at Evesham College, but surprisingly he never pursued it as a career at the time. Instead he worked as an RAF civilian in Supply Squadron of the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Upper Heyford, an American airbase which closed in the mid-nineties.
However, he got into GCHQ where he worked for a couple of years, but realising that he was not cut out to be a civil servant, he moved to London in 1990 where he joined the company which started the Hampton Court Palace International Flower Show. Three years later the Royal Horticultural Society took over (having dropped the word International) and Nick went with them. In 1997 he moved on as operations manager for Chelsea Flower Show.
‘I wasn’t remotely green fingered,’ he told me, ‘I was involved in the planning and logistics.’ He even had his fifteen minutes of fame when Channel 4 followed him round the site.
But in 2000 he felt the need to return to his first love – photography. He set up in business with his brother Paul, an IT specialist, and together they were involved in the remake of Superstars on TV and he got to meet and photograph, amongst others, Suzi Perry, Johnny Vaughan, Denis Wise, Tony & Rory Underwood and Annabel Croft. But the partnership didn’t last. Paul went back to IT and Nick continued on his own. Six years ago he decided to return to Cheltenham. When he went to London, he tells me, he couldn’t wait, but now he is back, it’s amazing what you take for granted. Just going for a walk up the hill is a ‘real voyage of discovery’.
As well as working as a photographer, Nick is shooting an exhibition in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support. It is going to be an exhibition dedicated to the Artistic Nude and inspired by Bonnard, Degas and photographers Brandt and Helmut Newton. In fact Newton is probably his greatest influence.
The photographs will represent his take on an interior with a female nude. The pictures will be tasteful and subtle and focus on the background – often the nude will not be the focal point. So far he has had a lot of support from Hotel Du Vin and No 32 Imperial Square who have let him use their inspirational rooms for some of the shoots. He is looking for a principal sponsor for the exhibition in addition to the drinks sponsor Ruinart, the Champagne house, who have provisionally agreed to sponsor the preview evening. Both the preview and the exhibition will be held in London, in 2012. It’s a lot of work, he assures me. I can imagine. He wants to create at least 50 ‘strong’ photographs, which will be life-size if not larger so he will need a lot of space to display them.
He is extremely passionate about photography. His father inspired him when he was a boy. He owned an old Voigtländer camera - he still has it - which Nick was allowed to use. He also gave him a copy of the All-in-One Camera Book, originally written in 1939 though the one he gave Nick was the 1979 reprint edition.
When I get up to leave I realise I have been there for an hour and a half! I got carried away looking at the photography books which have inspired him and I wish him well with the exhibition. It’s going to be a labour of love but the result should be spectacular.
You can contact Nick on 01242 242606 or 07733 110069 or by email: email@example.com
His website is at: