What the photographer saw: the story behind the Prince Harry pictures

Chris Jackson
Prince Harry watches the sun rise after spending the night in the Himalayan hilltop village of Leorani on his visit to Nepal in March 2016  - 2016 Getty Images

Daphne Dunne, a 97-year-old war widow, had been sitting in the rain all morning, waiting to meet Prince Harry. In Sydney last June to launch the countdown to the 2018 Invictus Games, the skies had opened and rain had soaked him. But as soon as he spotted her in the crowd, he sprinted straight over and gave her a huge hug. They had met just once before, two years earlier, but Harry had remembered her nevertheless.

It’s this natural affinity he has with people that makes him so great to photograph. I should know: as the royal photographer for picture agency Getty Images, I’ve been capturing him on camera for many years now, watching his story unfold. And what a story it’s been.

I was there in Jamaica in 2012 when he met Usain Bolt and it was decided the two should have a race. The prince memorably did what he does best, introducing some of that unexpected Harry magic into the mix: in this case, it meant he ran off before the starting gun had even been fired, leaving the Olympic sprinter trailing in his wake.

Then there’s all the charity work he’s thrown his heart and soul into. I’ve been there with him in Africa when he’s travelled there with Sentebale, the charity he founded with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho after visiting on his gap year, and seen first hand how much he truly cares; a young man with passion, and an instinct to use fully his ability to shine a spotlight on causes close to his heart.

Another example: I was positioned in the corner of a tiny clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital in South London when he did a HIV test in 2016, another entirely unexpected moment. 

Rihanna and Prince Harry have blood samples taken for a HIV test, on a different occasion Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Here was Harry breaking boundaries and continuing what his mother, Princess Diana, did before him; understanding, as she did, the power he’s been gifted to do good in the world and deploying it to inspiring effect.

After all this, watching him introduce his girlfriend Meghan Markle to the world at their first public appearance together was amazing. Seeing them holding hands, laughing and smiling at the Invictus Games in Toronto last September was a very special moment indeed. It also brought a whole new dynamic to my job. For so long I’d been photographing Harry as a successful solo royal. Now, here he was no longer working alone  but with someone by his side who would be part of the next chapter of his already eventful life.

Having photographed them together a fair few times since then, I’ve seen how well they work as a team, interacting very naturally and visibly delighting in each other’s company.

I’ll be there when the couple tie the knot in Windsor on May 19, recording the day through my pictures as usual, along with the rest of our Getty Images team. My own official fixed position will be inside the grounds of Windsor Castle, and I’ll arrive there early in the morning to capture some of the atmosphere on the day and watch all the build-up.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle attend a Wheelchair Tennis match during the Invictus Games 2017 Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

In this job, you’re either working at a frenetic pace, or you’re waiting for something to happen, but rarely are you bored with the waiting. There’s always something going on, people to observe and much preparation to be done - checking equipment being key for these big historic moments where there is absolutely no room for error.

But for all the preparation and planning, you never know where the best image will come from and there’s always an element of luck involved: will my subject look in the right direction? Will I be in the exactly the right place at the right time? How will the light fall? Crucially, in Britain, will the weather hold out?

On the day of the wedding I will certainly be aiming to capture the magnitude of the occasion, the crowds, guests and ceremony. Most importantly, however, I will be aiming to capture the expressions and interaction of a very happy bride and groom as they begin their married life on what will undoubtedly be a memorable day for all involved.

We have a fantastic archive at Getty Images, to which I recently paid a visit to look at all the images of royal weddings past. It’s an incredible collection, stretching back as far as the 1893 wedding of Prince George, Duke of York, and Princess Mary of Teck (the future George V and Queen Mary), who married at the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace in London.

Prince Harry greets Daphne Dunne during a walkabout in the torrential rain ahead of a Sydney 2018 Invictus Games Launch Event, in June 2017  Credit: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Those early pictures of royal pomp and pageantry really brought home the historical significance of the work of a photographer tasked with documenting a day like this. Some may ask what the big deal is about. But it’s these grand events, and the record we take of them, that make the Royal family what it is. The hype and the buzz are everything, and recording it for posterity is the all-important means by which we tell the story of our monarchy, taking a front row seat at these moments in history.

I’m a big believer in ensuring I appreciate the moment. As a photographer, I’m there to document what happens, but that doesn’t mean I cannot occasionally take a step back and take stock of what’s going on around me. Travelling around the world with the royal family is a privilege and over the years I’ve been everywhere from Papua New Guinea to Japan, the Galapagos, Australia, Brazil and many more - to over 100 countries in fact. I remember being in Nigeria during one of my early Royal tours with the Prince of Wales in 2006, during a traditional “Durbar”. This remarkable equine spectacle was a sight to behold and I documented it as best I could, but at moments like this it’s important to just take the time to look around and soak up some of the atmosphere around you

No doubt, this Saturday will be incredible: the excitement, the crowds and the sense of the day’s significance. But above all it will be a happy occasion. The Royal stories we tell almost always have a feel-good factor. It feels quite a privilege to be part of their telling.

As told to Rosa Silverman