Working with Rik

Photographer Alistair Morrison, Rik Mayall and some Fish.

In October 1991 I went to see Rik and Ade in Waiting for Godot. I always like to buy a programme and in that programme was an interesting photograph of Rik with two fish on his head, a striking and very memorable image I’m sure you will agree. Plus soon after I found a similar picture from a magazine article I saved, I had always wondered what the story was behind that photograph.

Theatre Programmes, Waiting For Godot.

It was also an image Rik sent signed to many fans who wrote to him.

Shaun Gibson received this personalised signed photo when he wrote to Rik wishing him a speedy recovery from his quad bike accident. Lovely that Rik actually took the time to personalise it for Shaun too.

It was taken by photographer Alistair Morrison in February 1991. Since 1982 Alistair has worked as a freelance editorial fashion photographer for a variety of newspapers and magazines, including The Sunday Times, Observer and Vogue. He specialises in portraits of celebrities and well-known prominent people. The National Portrait Gallery in London have copies of many of Alistair’s portait’s, including this next photograph of Rik.

I recently saw this next image posted on Instagram by the photographer himself, not only that but he explained the simple story behind the image…


Alistair explains: “Rik Mayall in 1991. Rik was a really good looking man – although you would imagine that he was more like the scruffy Richie in Bottom or Rick from The Young Ones. I always like to hear the analysis of others when they talk about my portrait which can sometimes vary from being a reflection of the fact that he was a Piscean (I never knew this until it was pointed out to me many years after I had done the shoot) or that I was tapping into his ‘dreamier side’ by having his eyes closed and including the ‘kissing fish’. The reality is a little more straightforward and spontaneous. I did not want him to fool around with his ‘mad’ character faces but instead show his good looks, adding an element of surreal humour – as we were shooting close to Billingsgate Market I asked my assistant to pop out and buy some fish or crabs (earmuffs) or lobsters (very Dali!) and this is what she came back with. However I often say that every photograph depends on three people in the relationship – the sitter, the photographer and the audience so your interpretation is just as valid as mine as you have your own memories of Rik Mayall which allow you to view this image in your own private way.”

Alistair also said; “I was experimenting with different angles but then the symmetry of this one felt absolutely right. The Art world tends to then choose the one portrait that is linked to the subject – whereas the magazine world always needed a cover and at least five images for the inside spreads.”

Photo and quote used with kind permission of Alistair Morrison @alistairmorrisonphotography (Instagram)

When I asked Alistair if I could quote and use his photograph here, he replied:

“Go ahead. Rik is certainly worth every accolade we can give him in his absence”.

Thank you to Alistair Morrison, you can find him on Instagram, or visit his Website to see more of his wonderful work.

How do you view this image?

Did you receive a signed photo from Rik with the fish on his head?


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