For 20 years Lionel Cherruault was an accredited photographer at Buckingham Palace, covering the Queen and the royal family and visiting 70 countries with them as they pursued their duties worldwide. According to Lionel, the Queen serves the best G&Ts in the world aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Lionel has been a professional photographer for 40 years, starting with Camera Press in Bloomsbury, which was then the world’s leading photography agency.
It was when Princess Diana arrived on the scene that Lionel decided to specialise in the British Royal Family and his photographs appeared on the covers of Vogue, Life, Time, Paris-Match and Observer magazine.
Lionel was also the royal correspondent for Sipa Press Agency in Paris.
Lionel and the royal family were soon on friendly terms. There was a warm wave from Princess Diana as she took a few moments off duty for a quiet dip in the British Embassy pool in Egypt. Lionel photographed Prince William on the lawn of Government House in Auckland in 1983. His camera caught the slightly apprehensive look that Prince William threw his mother as she took him to his first day at nursery school. He was invited to snap the children’s beach games on Richard Branson’s private Caribbean island, Necker.
Initially Lionel had trained as a portrait photographer and he so enjoyed photographing the royal children (as well as his own) that he and his wife, Claire, a photography graduate of Falmouth College of Arts, decided to focus on developing their skills of photographing children.
Lionel has three daughters, so he knows how to keep children happy in front of the camera and today he works with Claire and two other young female photographers, all good at encouraging moody teenagers or calming little ones.
Lionel has gone from Buckingham Palace’s red carpet to Nousha, a pristine glossy white studio in Clapham Old Town. Nousha is the name of Lionel and Claire’s cat – they know it’s a bit silly but it makes the children laugh, which is what Nousha’s all about – the thoughtful, informal pictures capture movement, joy and unselfconscious fun. ‘It’s all about the children,’ says Lionel. ‘We all experience the noise and madness that surrounds parenthood but I will show you your children as you’ve never seen them before, at their very best.’
So parents are banned, other than being allowed in for a few minutes while the children get used to the studio and the lights. There’s just time for a family group shot after which the parents leave.
‘In our business, we make people very happy,’ says Lionel. ‘Our family pictures will far outlive most of us and they’re things of great beauty. Our success is testament to what we do well and if you value the qualities and complexities that go into creating something of great finesse and perfection then Nousha is the right place for you.’