Tom Munro’s new book is chock-full of celebrity portraits: Jennifer Lopez, Dustin Hoffman, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Johnny Depp, Ashton Kutcher. But it’s Madonna that he seems most smitten with: Madge is on the cover, scattered throughout the book, and even wrote the foreword. Her poetic summation of the photographer’s art? “To have your picture taken by Tom Munro / Is kind of like smoking a bubblegum cigarette. / You can strike a pose, look cool / Get all of the sweetness, / And not suffer any side effects.”
Getting Madonna to write your introduction is pretty major. What is it like to work with her? When did you meet, and how did you become such close collaborators?
I first met Madonna on an editorial shoot for Elle. I think Madonna was keen to work with me as I had worked with her stylist Arianne Phillips before, and my ex-boss Steven Meisel put in a good word for me. Working with Madonna is really inspiring and a privilege. It’s rare to work with someone who is so driven, who brings so much to the creative process. After the shoot, Madonna asked if I would be interested in collaborating on her music video “Give It to Me.” This was my first introduction to film and I jumped at the opportunity. We did another video, “Die Another Day,” and I shot the tour book for Sticky and Sweet.
Also I had been involved with a Charity in Kenya called MEAK (Medical and Education Aid for Kenya) and knew of Madonna’s charity work in Malawi, so I asked Madonna if I could tag along on one of her visits to Africa. What she is doing there is quite extensive. It was a wonderful and moving experience to go with her, so I asked Madonna if I could list her charity as one of the beneficiaries of the book, along with MEAK.
Finally, I know I could never ask a photographer to pick just one, but who are some of your favorite subjects?
Johnny Depp, because he was the first celebrity I ever shot. He looked so cool when he walked in the studio I shot him just as he was. And then there’s Madonna, for so many reasons, not least of all because she’s such a wonderful and passionate person. Dustin Hoffman was undoubtedly one of the most memorable.