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Julia Boggio photographs Richard Branson

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They say that good things happen in threes. Well, May definitely had its share of good things for me: first, I got to photograph the Queen; second, my baby girl had her first birthday; and third, I got to photograph Mr. Screw-It-Let’s-Do-It himself, Sir Richard Branson.

The occasion was the launch of Babylon’s revamped terrace at the Roof Gardens in Kensington. Before I go on, let me just say: you must go. I ate my own body weight in delicious king-sized prawns that night and, if they are indicative of the kind of fare you can expect, then I highly recommend.

Delicious food at Babylon Terrace in Roof Gardens, Kensington, photographed by Julia Boggio

Katy and I dolled up for the event. After all, if one wishes to make an impression, one must stand out. So out came my red and white frock and the beehive hair-do. I was pretty hard to miss! Katy played the role of Robin to my Batman in her lovely green chiffon number. As one inebriated, but jolly guest said to me later that night, “You are the best dressed photographer I’ve ever seen!” Exactly, mon frère.

Julia Boggio dresses up Vintage for photographing Richard Branson

We arrived at the Roof Gardens and walked straight into the foyer of Babylon on the 7th floor. Gasp! La Branson was sitting just on the other side of the glass on the balcony. His back was to us, but I would recognise that blonde barnet anywhere. I busied myself with prepping my equipment. I don’t know how many times I formatted my CF card.

The most important elements of our brief for the evening were to get a picture of Richard with the new fibreglass cow that had just been installed on the meadow up on the roof at Babylon and capture him leaving Babylon, speeding off into the sunset on the back of a Virgin Limobike. Cool – I could handle that.

5:30. That’s when I was supposed to do the cow picture. But I could see he was still busy on the other end of the balcony, giving interview after interview. He only had a small amount of time at the Roof Gardens and the time was packed with meetings

Six o’clock rolled around and I still hadn’t taken this cow picture. For some reason, I found this more nerve-wracking than waiting for the Queen. I eyed the beautifully-crafted cocktails passing me by, wishing I could have one, but I’m such a lightweight, I’d probably forget how to use the camera.

James Derbyshire as stand-in Richard Branson at fibreglass cow

I had practiced the lighting with James as a stand-in Richard, so everyone knew what they were doing and the camera settings were locked in. Katy was at the ready with her Lastolite umbrella on the Speedlite. The big question we all had was: would he just stand next to the banister a la James or would he jump over to milk the cow?

Well, what do you think? He finally came back upstairs and, before I could say, howdy-do, he jumped over the banister and was milking the fibreglass cow. Fantastic! We did a couple more poses, but, frankly, we all knew it was the milking shot that we wanted.

Richard Branson milks cow at Babylon, photographed by Julia Boggio, Entrepreneur of the Year

In the meantime, Holly Branson and Princess Beatrice arrived to enjoy a night out.

I would make a really crappy paparazza. The next part of my job was to capture Richard having fun and chatting to people, but I felt bad; the poor guy probably just wanted to enjoy a drink and a chat with his daughter without me pointing a camera at him. And I felt so conspicuous with my big long lens (the one that, at every wedding, at least one male guest comes up to me and makes some off-colour joke about the size of my lens).

Richard Branson enjoys a drink at Babylon photographed by Julia Boggio

One guest who I’m sure you’ve all heard about was Claire Lomas. She’s the inspiring woman, paralysed from the chest down, who finished the London Marathon in 16 days, wearing a bionic suit to help her walk. She was there with her husband and parents having a marvellous time and sharing a laugh with Richard.

Claire Lomas, Holly Branson and Richard Branson at Babylon photographed by Julia Boggio

The time was approaching 7:00pm and Richard had a Limobike to catch, so suddenly it was all systems go, go, go! James, Katy and I found ourselves shoved into the lift with Richard. Having grabbed a copy of my BOGGIO book before leaving the studio, James took the opportunity to gift it to Richard, who had a good look through it. He particularly liked my Vintage Boudoir images ;o)

Outside waited a Roof Gardens and a Necker Island branded Limobike. If the helmets didn’t squash my hair, I would travel this way all the time! It looked like a good way to navigate the London traffic when you’re in a hurry (as Richard probably is 100% of the time). He jumped onto the bike, giving me a great picture as he waved at the camera.

Richard Branson rides Virgin Limobike photographed by Julia Boggio

Once Hurricane Richard left, the party could really begin for us. The lovely Alicia at the Roof Gardens ordered us to put our cameras down and enjoy the party. Fantastic! I’d been inwardly drooling over those cocktails since I’d arrived. I practically dove on the waiter who was passing with a tray of Kir Royals, topped with a liquid nitrogen ice cube and a cherry. Not quite sure what to do with the cube, I went to taste it, which is when the whole thing stuck to my tongue and lips. I was delicately, but frantically trying to pry it off and I thought I could feed some skin leaving my body with it. “Ith my tongue bweeding? Ith my tongue bweeding?!!” I asked Katy in dismay. Thankfully, it was just very very red. So please learn from my mistakes and don’t suck on liquid nitrogen ice cubes. I really needed that drink after that.

Excellent mixologist at Babylon, delicious cocktails, photographed by Julia Boggio

I felt a bit sad for Richard at this point. He left just when the party was getting good. The London Essentials started playing and they are, quite frankly, some of the best event entertainment I’ve seen. In fact, they played at Holly Branson’s wedding on Necker Island. So full of personality, they plonk their instruments right down in front of you and get down to the business of singing the songs you want to hear, even if they don’t know them and have never rehearsed them. They went smoothly from “Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano” to “I’m Just a Teenage Dirtbag, Baby” without skipping a beat. Alicia sneakily requested “I’ve Had the Time of My Life”, which, as you know, is the song and dance that made James and me international YouTube superstars. For not knowing it, they did a pretty darned good job of muddling through. I danced and sang along. James did the Lift with the main singer.

THe London Essentials play Babylon, Holly Branson wedding entertainment, photographed by Julia Boggio

Another fabulous part of the night was the cocktail mixologist. He was using liquid nitrogen to create gin and tonic ice cream, frozen popcorn bites, and frozen meringue. Yummy! When you put them into your mouth, you could do dragon impressions out of pretty much every orifice in your head (okay, maybe not your ears). But I’d recommend visiting Babylon just for this alone.

We were having a lot of fun, but at some point, reality had to prevail. After all, I had a newborn to photograph at 9:30 the next morning and I’d need my wits about me. So we left the party and cocktails dragging our heels, but vowing to make a reservation some time in the near future.

Thus, my crazy month of May came to an end. Let’s see what June has in store!


And here is what Richard Branson had to say about his whistle-stop tour of London on the Virgin Blog. Notice a few of my images are in there!


5 thoughts on “Julia Boggio photographs Richard Branson

  1. Hi Julia, welcome to my world of snapping unpredictable celebrities, Nice work but you got to put your morals aside and get the shots, full length portraits and not posed if you want a tip to break into this field 😉

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