Born in Shropshire, raised in London, Perry Ogden is a fashion photographer and documentary film director. He lives in Dublin with his wife, documentary director Niamh Sammon and their twin daughters, Isabella and Grace (9). His grown-up daughter Violet lives close by with her daughter, Nancy.
DESCRIBE YOUR PARENTS My mother, Moira Keenan, was a journalist and women’s editor with The Times in London and I was very close to her. She died when I was eleven. She was forceful, bubbly, lively. Her parents were Irish but she had grown up in India. I’m making a film about her, part family memoir, part historical documentary. Her grandfather was Cecil Moss, a Quaker, who came to Ireland in 1770 and had a mill in Kilternan, Co Dublin. My dad is English: he ran away from school to join the army but later went into advertising. He’s 90 now and living in Oxford.
WHAT TRAITS DO YOU THINK YOU INHERITED? From my dad, I get a military sense of discipline that gets things done. From my mother, I have a kind of empathy for anyone disadvantaged. Her death gave me the drive to prove myself and I think people who lose a parent that young either have that drive or get hooked up in self-destruction.
HOW WERE YOUR SCHOOLDAYS? I was 13 when I went to Eton. My mother was very pro state education but after her death I think it was easier for my father, as a single parent, to send me to boarding school. I also think he was worried about me being out the streets of East London. I’m sure I complained a lot at the time, but Eton was an amazing school. It had its own theatre and its own art schools that were underused, but I spent a lot of time there. It was a good time to be at Eton because they had banned older boys beating the younger boys.
WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU’D GROW UP TO BE? There was an attempt at school to guide me into something professional but I always thought I’d be a photographer. From about 14, in the school holidays, I worked with photographer John Timbers, who was a friend of my mother’s. Initially, I was answering the door and making coffee, but soon I was in the dark room and helping with shoots. My dad tried to dissuade me, but he was very supportive once he realised I was determined.
DO YOU HAVE GOOD FRIENDS? My friendships are for the most part with people I might not see for years, but when we do meet, we reconnect very quickly. I have a few friends from school. Justin Adams is a wonderful musician who plays in Robert Plant’s band. We were very close in our teens – we both had very fixed ambitions and passions and we both ended up making them our livelihoods.
BEING FIT, HAVING FUN – MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE? I’m 62 now, so trying to keep fit is really important. It used to be more fun when I played football once a week, but that usually ended at three or four in the morning. It was an hour of healthiness and then dinner and drinks and then a club.
“I think men don’t talk enough about issues… Once the discussion is started, we are good at it, but there is a tendency to leave things unspoken.”
HOW DO YOU STAY ACTIVE NOW? I’m trying to run again. I used to run quite seriously and I tried to start again recently on my treadmill, but I came down with an injury. That set me back a little bit. I’ve done yoga for years because I got fed up having a bad back. I like Yoga with Adrienne online. She does the 30 Days of Yoga every January and this year I got to about Day Nine.
HOW COULD MENS’ MENTAL HEALTH BE BETTER SUPPORTED? I think men don’t talk enough about issues. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and I was surprised by how little it was ever discussed. I was making all my friends aware that they should get their PSA checked, but men aren’t particularly good at discussing their health in general. Once the discussion is started, we are good at it, but there is a tendency to leave things unspoken.
WHAT KEEPS YOU SANE? I always have some project on the go. I have an active mind and many things engage my curiosity, sometimes too many things.
YOUR STYLE SIGNIFIER IS … I wear the same thing every day. I have multiples of the same thing, mainly dark blue and mainly workwear. I used to be a lot flashier. Now I quite like having a uniform and knowing exactly what I’m going to put on each day.
WHERE DO YOU BUY YOUR CLOTHES? I used to buy a lot of things in APC, if I had sold a print or something, but it’s different when you have a family and a lot of overheads. Now I’m equally happy going to Uniqlo for great jeans that are not so different to APC but cost about six times less.
YOUR FAVOURITE SHOES ARE … New Balance 574 trainers. I have a lot of those. My wife often tries to throw some out.
DO YOU USE SKINCARE PRODUCTS? There was a time I used Kiehl’s, but now I tend to sneak my wife’s stuff. At the moment I think I’m using Boots. I think they’re for women, but we don’t have different skin, do we?
FAVOURITE PODCAST? Empire, with Anita Anand and William Dalrymple. I really like Eamon Dunphy’s podcast. My wife tells me that’s an old bloke’s thing. I loved Sinéad O’Connor’s book, which she reads herself on Audible.
CAN YOU SPEAK A FOREIGN LANGUAGE? French, very poorly.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH A SETBACK? Kind of grabbing it with both hands. It might already have defeated me, but my mind might not admit to that and I’d still be grappling with it. I am aware that I take too much on and I’m trying to limit that. I’m trying to learn to say no. I’ve launched Perry Ogden Productions, a production house making content for people. It’s separate to my own personal work and that way I feel I can broaden things out a bit.
A HOLIDAY YOU’D LIKE TO REPEAT? Camping in Kerry, just outside Kenmare.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCE OF GRIEF? My mother’s death. My brother William was born three years after me, and soon after that she discovered a lump on her breast. I remember very well when she died. We’d been to visit her in the Westminster Hospital. She was all jolly and gave us presents, and on the Monday, I remember my father came down with tears running down his face and said, “Mummy’s died.” It was a traumatic experience, but in that old-fashioned English-y way.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF A PERFECT WEEKEND? I love the west of Ireland, Connemara in particular. It’s the first place I went in the west. But sometimes being at home with the family and not having to do anything is the best thing of all.