When I photographed Ray Charles

I had the privilege to photograph Ray Charles in Brisbane on his tour in 2003 for a Griffith campaign created by Redsuit Advertising.

The morning shoot was in the Sheraton Hotel, now the Sofitel. Before I started my shoot I was told by one of his minders “I was not to speak to Mr Charles, that he would sit in his chair and you will photograph him when he smiles”, I thought this was strange. Ray entered the room, immaculately dressed in a black suit with a black shirt. He walked in guided by a young man. As Ray sat down the young man lent in and asked Ray if he would like a glass of water, Ray replied “yes, please” and the young man went away. During this moment I decided to ignore the minder’s direction as I considered it rude not to introduce yourself to somebody before taking their portrait. So I quietly said “Good morning, Mr Charles, my name is Aaron, it’s an honour to meet you and I’ll be taking your photograph” and Ray replied, “Thank you, it’s nice to meet you, too”. The minder didn’t say a word. The boy returned without the water and again he lent in but this time I couldn’t hear what he said, Ray replied “don’t tell me that, now I must have some!”. The young man went away and returned once more with a pint glass of what looked like cider and he placed it near Ray’s right foot and tapped Ray’s leg to indicate the glass was on that side. The young man left and Ray picked up the glass and took a nice long drink and smiled. I took some shots and the result is the photograph you see today. It wasn’t until after the shoot I found out he wasn’t drinking cider, it was Dom PĂ©rignon Champagne.

I also love Ray’s music so to meet him and take his photograph was a real thrill. To cap off a great shoot I also went to see him perform that evening. It was a memorable day.