08.06.09

Celebrity Imposters

Photographer Alison Jackson has shot Brad and Angelina shopping for babies, Madonna changing diapers, and the Queen on her bathroom throne. If only they were real. VIEW OUR GALLERY

Photographer Alison Jackson has shot Brad and Angelina shopping for babies, Madonna changing diapers, and the Queen on her bathroom throne. If only they were real.

Alison Jackson’s candid photographs of famous people capture her subjects, including Brad and Angelina, Jack Nicholson, Madonna, Kate Moss, Tony Blair, and George Bush, in the most compromising and embarrassing situations. Nicholson is caught frolicking in a pool with a bevy of topless beauties; Madonna is seen changing her newly adopted baby’s diaper; Kate Moss does a hit of coke, while boyfriend Pete Doherty holds back her hair; and Tony Blair and George W. Bush dress up like cowboys and go horseback riding.

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How does Jackson get so close to these heavily guarded politicians and celebrities to make such intimate portraits? The trick is she doesn’t. The British-born photographer uses doubles to construct a satirical view of what her subjects’ real lives might be like. An exhibition of her faux-photographs of Prince William—which show him nude, trying on the royal cape and crown in front of a full-length mirror, and holding off his girlfriend as she writes king on his chest in lipstick—is on view at Kunsthandel Stefan Hellmich in Munich, through September 1.

A graduate of London’s Royal College of Art London, Jackson first gained notoriety in 1999 for her staged photograph of Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed with their love child. Since then, she has exhibited her series of doppelganger portraits around the world and published them in her Taschen monograph, Confidential. A filmmaker as well, Jackson has made two critically acclaimed mockumentaries, Blared Vision and Doubletake, for which she won a BAFTA, and have been widely screened on British television and featured on Saturday Night Live in the United States.

Among her most famous images are a photograph of President George W. Bush trying to solve a Rubik's Cube at his desk in the Oval Office, which Jackson later turned into a three-dimensional sculpture that she exhibited in the Tate Liverpool cafeteria during the last Liverpool Biennale. Another image of an overweight Elton John lookalike having his colon flushed by a nurse is shockingly funny, as is an image of Paul McCartney caught in the lens as he is supposedly about to bash Heather Mills with her prosthetic leg.

Jackson’s videos on her Web site are equally as humorous. In one, David Beckham is seen spreading paper on a toilet seat before dropping his drawers to occupy the throne and make a call on his cellphone. In others, Michael Jackson’s nose falls off in the backseat of his limo, which is surrounded by paparazzi; the Queen gets her legs waxed, while a hidden camera watches from a distance; and Bush and Blair casually plan a war.

An artist with a vivid imagination and a wicked sense of humor, Alison Jackson knows no boundaries. As new politicians are elected and new celebrities crowned, Jackson will be there to remind us that they are human.

Plus: Check out Art Beast, for galleries, interviews with artists, and photos from the hottest parties.

Paul Laster is the editor of Artkrush.com, a contributing editor at Flavorpill.com and Art Asia Pacific, and a contributing writer at Time Out New York and Art in America.