How celebrities can reveal the naked truth

The Argus: Riding to the rescue: Lizzie Jagger Riding to the rescue: Lizzie Jagger

By Nicholas Rohl

Moshimo restaurant

 

In 2009, I approached my good friend, the actress Greta Scacchi, to pose naked in front of one of the world’s most famous fashion photographers with a huge cod in her arms.

I’ll never forget the scene: her letting her dressing gown drop to the floor in the glare of the lights just as she was handed the cold, heavy, and slippery cod that she could barely keep hold of. Smiling bashfully and with real emotion, she looked down at the fish in her arms. Greta can’t have been in front of the camera lens for more than a few moments, but that photograph made history. It became an overnight sensation, with magazines, newspapers, televi- sion and radio stations from all over the world falling over themselves to show the photograph and interview Greta. Within a few weeks, she was invited to 10 Downing Street. We made the photograph in a desperate attempt to raise awareness of the terrible environmental disaster of over-fishing that was – and still is - pushing the marine ecology to the brink of collapse.

Back then, campaigners were struggling to make people interested in the subject, which is complex, confusing, and – yes – boring. How much easier it is to understand and worry about the extinction of the Indian tiger as opposed to a slimy, cold-blooded creature from the sea. Our attitude to fish is enshrined in our language, prefer- ring to refer to fish by that awful word ‘seafood’.

This is why the photograph of Greta was so electrifying. It was an image without the need for words that said everything we needed to know about fish: love and cherish them, otherwise they will disappear from our seas within a generation. There was, of course, another reason for the photograph’s success: Greta’s celebrity status. It led to a very heated debate in the press about the actress’ suitability in becoming the spokesperson for the fish campaign. It was ridiculous, some claimed, that it was Greta who was invited to 10 Downing Street to meet the Fisheries Minister rather than someone who knew what they were talking about.

But, then, who could be better placed than a beautiful, intelligent actress who has spent her life communicating ideas, stories and emotions to vast audiences through film and radio? Who better to tell the world what is happening in our seas? Greta’s image has become one of a whole series of photographs we have produced for the Fishlove Photo- graphic Project, using fish supplied to us (sustainably) from Waitrose, and our wonderful fish suppliers Direct Seafoods.

The photographs have been credited by campaigners as having made a crucial difference in the debate about changing the laws on over-fish- ing in Europe. Sir Ben Kingsley, Mark Foster, Jerry Hall, Richard E Grant, Mariella Frostrup and many more people have come in front of the camera to have their photograph taken with a sea creature. The photographs have been so interesting and successful because they embrace the cult of celebrity, but with bundles of irony and wit - with a knowing nod and a wink to the camera, saying “we know what we’re doing here”.

I remember Claire Lewis, the producer of The End of the Line and one of the most important campaigners on fish conservation taking me aside at the very beginning of the project and explaining that what the campaign needed was to break through to the wider public with the message: we needed to get into the tabloids to make a difference.

And that’s where Lizzy Jagger came riding to the rescue. The image of her sitting on a yellow-fin tuna was nothing short of a media sensa tion, featuring in all the major tabloids in the UK and abroad. Not bad for a campaign that was financed in part by Moshimo’s loyal customers who have bought the Fishlove membership cards over the past few years!

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