On photographing Paolo Nutini

by Adeline Amar, Press Officer, 09 December 2016

Singer-songwriter Paolo Nutini will headline the 2016 Edinburgh Hogmanay Festival with two sold-out concerts on 30 and 31 December. We took the opportunity to chat with photographer Eva Vermandel, who took this shot of the Paisley-born musician in 2009. This photograph is an unusual portrait of the star: not only does the abstract and unidentifiable background dominate the composition but the singer looks out of the frame as if distracted by something else. 

Paolo Nutini, b. 1987. Singer, Eva Vermandel, 2009 − © Eva Vermandel

Eva kindly shared her recollection of the photoshoot with us: "It’s quite tricky to give you anecdotes about this shoot because Paolo is so shy - it was mainly a case of getting him comfortable and ensuring I got a good selection of setups from this shoot where he looked at ease. 

The picture in your collection was taken at the tail end of the session. The shoot was at Wilton’s Music Hall where he’d be doing a performance later on that day. I had noticed the cladding on the wall outside as I got to the location and thought it would be good to use. We started off shooting in the bar area and then moved outside to take this picture. He was very polite and sweet, and very camera-shy - it was pretty clear from his behaviour that the whole fame-thing is not something he relishes. The final image shows that: someone who’s more comfortable in his own head, looking away, observing, rather then being at the centre of attention."

Eva Vermandel's portrait of Paolo Nutini

Paolo Nutini was born in Paisley in 1987, where his great-grandfather had founded the Castelvecchi fish and chip shop (now run by Nutini’s parents) in 1914. It was Paolo’s music-loving grandfather who encouraged him to sing, sparking an interest in the music industry; he left school to work as a roadie and was then employed as a studio hand at Glasgow’s Park Lane studios. His career was launched somewhat by chance at a concert in Paisley in 2003. With the main act delayed, Nutini was offered the chance to perform. The following year he moved to London and was soon signed to Atlantic Records. 

He released his first album These Streets in 2006 and followed it up with Sunny Side Up in 2009, which topped the UK album charts and for which he won an Ivor Novello Award for Best Album. His sound has been described as ‘scuffed-up white-soul rasp’. His third and current studio album Caustic Love was the fourth-best selling album of 2014 in the UK - ‘whisky-soaked words writhe their way around a multitude of Motown-inflected could-be singles.’

Paolo has an Honorary doctorate from the University of the West of Scotland, to which he responded: "The doctor will see you now!"

This portrait joined the Scottish National Portrait Gallery's collection in 2011; it is currently on display by the Gallery's entrance.

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