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Neil Kendall lives in Chester, Cheshire in the UK and loves to travel. He has worked worldwide as a burlesque photographer and producer for over 20 years, being voted National Vintage Photographer of the Year three years on the run, plus World Number One Burlesque Personality and Number One in World Burlesque Photography in a global poll by 21st Century Pin Ups.
How long have you been a photographer and what made you start?
It's been since the mid 1990s, a lifetime really. It's odd, I am 50 now and still living like a 20 year old. My work has kept me young and inspired – I feel my work feeds me. It feeds my creativity and imagination so it's really important to me. I was always a visual person and I am very dyslexic so I found, as an artist, I could communicate more with the world through being visual. I started from scratch pre internet and have grown from there. Early on I discovered I had a natural aptitude for photography and I had a passion and a calling to create beautiful images, it was in my DNA.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I am a huge vintage fan so I really am inspired by old Hollywood films and stills. I love to create sets so if I wasn’t a photographer I would work on film as a designer. Artists inspire me very much and my whole client base is a menagerie of mermaids, burlesque dancers, stilt walkers, contortionists , horror hostesses and drag acts – so I take my inspiration from them. Inspirations can come through a dusty old postcard I found at a flea market in Paris to some weird old film I am watching by the fire on a winters night. I consume pop culture so my eyes are always peeled. It's funny I have that kind of a hive mind where I really am constantly being inspired.
Where is your favourite place to photograph?
My studio! It's an old Sunday school in Chester, England. Beneath its old timber eves I have photographed everyone. The famous like Dita Von Teese, the legendary like Dirty Martini and the fabulous like Cheddar Gorgeous – all of whom are in the Burlesque Special. I also love old buildings – I produce world renowned cabaret shows. They are an extension of my art work. In Morecambe I shot the acts for my Enchantment Under The Sea Ball inside this decaying Edwardian Theatre complete with plaster Mermaids and Posidons swimming around 200 meters above us, that was amazing. I am currently at Blackpool working on a Trip To The Moon show, where I am writing this from in an Old Ballroom built by the guy who designed sets for Cecil B Demille in the 1930s – so that's very special. I love old buildings! I have shot in Hollywood for Dita, Las Vegas, Cuba, Egypt – all over. Old theatre bars, speakeasies. I love places with atmosphere but these days I mostly work in the studio.
What are your photography kit essentials?
I love my lighting and shoot with an old style seven light set up, I shoot on Canon 5Ds but its what you do with the images, the posing, the lighting, the concept that’s the most important thing so in that respect the biggest part of my kit is me, my imagination and my ability to light. I don’t rely upon a lot of post production at all. My kit is like a workhorse. I shoot a lot and travel the world so high-quality robust cameras and really good prime lenses are essentials.
What’s the piece of work that you’re most proud of or enjoyed doing the most?
Hmm, there have been so many. I just shot some amazing images for my Trip To The Moon show – it's a giant cabaret, the biggest in the UK! So for the press images I shot all the international performers on my moon sets which were like 1920’s postcards, these lovely burlesque acts floating in space on giant planets and crescent moons – it was delicious. There's been so many great shoots and shows it's hard but you have selected some amazing images for the magazine. I am thrilled people with be making their own versions of them.