McVirn Etienne What's in a name? - part 1 of 1 2 3


At one point my entire lighting repertoire consisted of a couple of reading lamps. That was before I moved up to a pair of really old Bowens 750s - which I bought for £50. They were brilliant.'

He thinks it was because his mother had to bear the brunt of extreme labour pains just before he was born - so the payback was his Christian name: McVirn.

"Well I've got a sister called Valerie and a brother called Mervyn - so there's got to be some good reason that I ended up with McVirn" jokes the 46 year old London-based photographer - whose friends all call him 'Mac'.

Big Mac (he's also a karate brown belt) used to be a car cleaner at a Vauxhall dealership next to West Ham football stadium - but these days the only thing you'll find him polishing will be a camera lens before a shoot.

Interestingly, it was a stunning-looking woman running topless along a Spanish beach with an Alsatian in tow that changed his life forever.

Explains Mac: "It was back in 1986 and I had decided to take my first ever summer holiday abroad. I wanted to shoot some film despite the fact that I knew very little about photography at the time.

A good friend lent me his Canon AE-1 Program, which at the time was one of the most popular amateur cameras ever brought to market. Of course, I had no clue how to use it so I picked up a copy of Practical Photography magazine and just read and re-read.

Then about ten weeks before the holiday I bought an additional lens, a tripod, a camera bag, various filters and a cable release.

When I got to Spain I just happened to be strolling along a beach when this beautiful woman jogged by with her dog. She was topless and as she ran past a large rock in the water the waves just crashed right behind. I got a great picture and that was it. I made up my mind right there and then that I was going to be a photographer."

Mac managed to talk his way into a job as a junior at Metro Imaging in London. "I had to be a bit creative to get that job" he says. "I persuaded a friend who knew about printing techniques to provide me with a couple of prints that I passed off as my own. I guess it was cheating but I was really desperate to find a way into the business."

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