It's no wonder our 2003 Ben Watts monograph, Big Up>, sold out before it was even released. Watts is internationally known for bringing the frenetic verve of street photography to his diverse body of work. Whether on location for Vanity Fair, Elle, Rolling Stone, or Nike, Watts's camera captures a feeling of barely contained, youthful energy and sucks the raw essence out of his subjects. Watts has an uncanny ability to simultaneously put his subjects at ease and amp up their adrenaline. His working process has as much in common with the call-and-response patterns in hip-hop music as it does with the traditional conventions of photography. He is always ready to swap his professional camera for a Polaroid so that his subjects can see the photos immediately and tag them with shout-outs or trash talk. His photo shoots are like block parties where his subjects drop their guard to reveal an honest sense of self-pride, and love of life.
Lickshot is Ben Watts's highly personalized scrapbook and travel diary. A triumph of lo-fi style, its pages are a delirious pastiche of gritty photographs, wonky Polaroids, and hand-scrawled graffiti, held together by slashes of colored tape. Its contents reflect the incredible variety of Watts's photographic subjects--from high school ice skaters, Brooklyn biker gangs, and lounging sunbathers to world-famous actors, supermodels, and today's hottest musicians. Lickshot includes photos of Heath Ledger, Benicio del Toro, Tobey Maguire, Rachel Weisz, Guy Pearce, Adrien Brody, Bruce Springsteen, Lil Wayne, Lou Reed, Jay-Z, Coldplay, T.I., Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, Andre 3000, B. B. King, Mary J. Blige, and Ben Harper. An interview with Watts by Vanity Fair editor Ingrid Sischy explores Watts's background and creative influences.
Ben Watts is a New York-based photographer who shoots advertising campaigns for Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Miller Lite, Kodak, the Gap, Sony Music, and Apple, and he is a regular contributor to numerous magazines, including the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Interview, Rolling Stone, VIBE, Esquire, Elle, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, and Conde Nast Traveler. Watts has contributed to several group exhibitions and has had a solo exhibition at Milk Gallery in New York City.
Ben Watts Photo Journal, Fashionista:
"Im a big fan of what Ben Watts (yes, hes Naomis brother) does with his photography. He shoots a lot for Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, but his celebrity (and fashion) photos are always a bit more gritty and real than other glossier fare. It always seems like everyone on his shoots is really enjoying the process. So I was psyched to get an advance copy of his new book, Lickshot, coming out in October. This compilation is set up like a scrapbook and a travel diary, so while there are celebrity and model faces in the mix, there are also loads of real, or whatever you want to call them, people. But they are all super interesting skaters, bikers, surfers and all-around unique characters. I especially loved the collage pages with notes from subjects or Ben himself scribbled in the margins of Polaroids and test shots. As Ingrid Sischy says in her interview with Ben which serves as the books introduction: I think the boxing metaphor works for how you approach your pictures. You throw a right here, a left there. You go for a knockout. And youve made a kind of sport out of photographyYour subjects dont just stand there and say cheese I couldnt agree more. Heres a sampling To read the full review on fashionista.com click HERE. "
"Ben WattsEnglish by birth, Australian by education, American by immigrationeschews the clean lines of a typical monograph in his second book, opting for torn photographs, Polaroid collages, words and drawings scrawled over the faces of celebrities and strangers alike.And the book bursts with energy, in part because of Wattss fascination with youth culture: BMX bikers, Jamaican vacationers, tan and tattooed beach bums. Where Watts really shines, though, is in his portraits of more familiar faces, which are stunning in their naturalnesslike Heath Ledger tearing through a skate park, Benicio del Toro smoking against a wall, Lil Wayne whipping his dreadlocks over his face. In Lickshot (Princeton Architectural Press), Watts explosively compiles and remixes a catalogue of the wildness and intensity of youth and fame, all held together by neon tape and tattooed knuckles. Never has there been a better opportunity for vicarious living."
"...a very personalized document of Ben Watts eye to the world: a youthful and vibrant place teeming with excitement and attitude."
Coffee Table Toppers , PopMatters:
"Doesnt the Old English typeface say it all? Loaded with pictures of pistols, Lickshot just screams bad ass. Lickshot, New-York based photographer Ben Watts photo scrapbook and travel diary, is an ideal stocking stuffer for the provocative-at-heart, not least your kid who just graduated from art school. Watts dynamic, renegade photography captures the primal in his subjects; a street theater of gang bangers, skate punks, metal heads, and entertainers including Heath Ledger, Benicio Del Toro, Guy Pearce, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg. The book also features an interview with Watts by Vanity Fair editor Ingrid Sischy that delves into Watts biography. These gun photos are in-your-face intense. "
— Eleanore Catolico
"British-born and Australian-raised, the photographer has made New York City his home now for the past 12 years capturing the essence of street and lifestyle culture. He is a notable force within the entertainment industry, providing his eye for detail and beauty for company giants that include Nike, Apple, Polo Ralph Lauren, Sony Music, GQ, Rolling Stone, New York Times Magazine, VIBE, Elle, Vanity Fair and Harpers Bazaar just to to name a few. Lickshot is a personable scrapbook collection of photographs and Polaroids that ventures into the world of high profile celebrities and youth driven counterculture. With a fervor for life, Watts has the uncanny ability to capture any subjects most intimate moments and raw spirit by putting them instantly at ease in any given setting. To read the full review on rawthentix.com click HERE. "
— Peter S. Zebak
Culture Flash, elle:
"I try to go for a combination punch, whether it be with color or with the attitude of the person, Ben Watts (brother of Naomi) tells Ingrid Sischy in the interview that begins Lickshot: A Photo Scrapbook, which hits stores today. (The pugilistic metaphor is fitting; in the same conversation Watts also reveals that he boxed in college.) The new book, the follow-up to his 2003 monograph Big Up, sees the celebrated street photographer focusing his lens on an eclectic assortment of subjectsamong them, skaters, bikers, models, and a heady roster of celebs that includes Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Alicia Keys, Heath Ledger, Adrien Brody, and Mary J. Blige with equally engaging results. Here are some highlights. To read the full review on fashion.elle.com click HERE. "
— Erin Clements
"This Englishman doesn't take pictures. He tries to catch lightning in a bottle and then take a flick of that. With his second book, he's coming close to pulling it off."
GQ Must Read, QG UK:
"Approaching every shoot with what he describes as fearless enthusiasm, British-born, Australian-raised GQ contributor Ben Watts has created a sprawling, stunning portfolio. I want pictures with impact, pictures that are in your face, he says. An engrossing collage of Polaroids, graffiti art and prints, subjects range from unguarded shots of celebrities (a gun-toting Heath Ledger, tattooed rapper Lil Wayne) to his glimpse into the world of subcultures (from NY biker gangs to high-school ballerinas.)"
"Ben Watts is internationally known for bringing the frenetic verve of street photography to his diverse body of work. Whether on location for Vanity Fair, Elle, Rolling Stone, or Nike, Watts's camera captures a feeling of barely contained, youthful energy and sucks the raw essence out of his subjects. To read the full review on theprestigeworld.blogspot.com click HERE. "
Photo Realism: Ben Watts Captures Jay-Z, Bruce, Fergie, Alicia and more in Lickshot, Teen Vogue:
"Time for a little MusicBlogger book club. Last week, photographer Ben Watts' excellent photo scrapbook Lickshot hit stores. The 200+ page hardcover is a mish-mash compilation of images, polaroids, contact sheets and graffiti scrawlings that combine to show the depth of work Watts (brother of actress Naomi) has done over the last decade.An impressive group of music industry luminaries--Bruce Springsteen, Lil Wayne, Alicia Keys, Coldplay, the Black Eyed Peas, Ben Harper and Jay-Z (just to name a few)--are captured in Watts' inimitable rough-and-real style alongside stars from Hollywood and sports in the pages of the book. To read the full review on teenvogue.com click HERE. "
— Leigh Belz
Ben Watts Celebrates Book Release in NYC, Spin:
"Famed fashion photographer and frequent SPIN contributor Ben Watts welcomed friends, fans, and a certain famous sister named Naomi to New York Citys Hudson Bar at the Hudson Hotel Wednesday night to toast the release of his latest book, Lickshot, with complimentary Moet et Chandon champagne.One part scrapbook, one part travel diary, Lickshot gives readers an inside look at many familiar faces, including the late Heath Ledger, Lenny Kravitz, and Lou Reed. Interpol front man Paul Banks, also featured in the book, took a break from his newest side project, Julian Plenti, to play DJ and give guests at the event a listen to his favorite tracks. To read the full review on spin.com click HERE. "
Now Reading | Ben Watts, Up Close and Personable, The Moment:
"Lickshot, a new scrapbook by the photographer Ben Watts, arrived in bookstores today. Like Wattss 2004 effort, Big Up, this is a relaxed photo diary in which movie stars, bikers and bikinied plain janes convey a curious in-your-face approachability. Watts makes use of handwritten annotations in Magic Marker and lots of two-dimensional ephemera airline boarding passes, masking tape, thumbtacks, receipts and concert tickets to lend lo-fi cred to his photo collages. To read the full review on themoment.blogs.nytimes.org click HERE. "
— Stephen Heyman
Ben Watts gets personal with the stars, Queer Sighted:
"British-born photographer Ben Watts, brother of King Kong actress Naomi Watts, returns with Lickshot, his informal photo diary filled with scribbled notes and boarding passes.Ben Watts takes us on a photographic journey and by times reveals a more private side of the stars we love. From Black Eyed Peas to Lance Armstrong, Bruce Springsteen to Outkast's Andre 3000. They all pass in front of Ben's camera."
— Anthony Van Hoe
Images that Inspire, Self:
"Youll adore Lickshot, SELF Lensman Ben Wattss new book of his favorite work."
Mode Books, Vogue Magazine:
"Demonstrating that fashion is anything if not inclusive, there is a clutch of delicious fashion books out just in time for Christmas. Indulge in the delightful stories behind one womans incredible couture collection in Dreaming of Dior by Charlotte Smith ($35) or get rough and ready with photographer Ben Watts in Licksot ($95), an insightful view through one mans lens."
Add some edge to your interior design by grabbing inspiration from these 5 unique books., Style at Home:
"Ben Watts is an internationally renowned photog whose images have appeared in Vanity Fair, Elle, Rolling Stone and other trendsetting magazines. His edgy, street-inflected style of photography is presented here in scrapbook form, complete with hand-scrawled notes, coloured tape and Polaroid test shots. Images are black-and-white and full-colour, encompassing subject matter ranging from urban landscapes to the beach, surfers to supermodels, Brooklyn biker gangs to break dancers -- oh, and stars like Heath Ledger, Coldplay and Lance Armstrong, too. The perfect book for cutting-edge coffee tables."
— Yuki Hayashi
They Called it What?, Cindy Whitehead Sports Stylist:
"Love this new book LICKSHOT by Ben Watts (Naomi's brother). Lots of cool images Ben has taken on shoots and behind the scenes over the years. Kind of a scrapbook view into his career."
— Cindy Whitehead
Photographer Ben Watts Takes a Lickshot at Conventional Shooting, Black Book:
"Today's street style photographers might come a dime a dozen on the web, but before this style of photography became in vogue, photographer Ben Watts was roaming New York in the 90s in search of eclectic personalities to shoot. Unlike many photographers who turn their lenses to stylish pedestrians wearing ultra-styled looks, Watts street subjects were raw, authentic, and the antithesis of high fashion. In his latest book, Lickshot, Watts revisits his passion for diverse subcultures with a collage of images taken over the years of skaters, hip-hop heads and surfers. To read the full review on blackbookmag.com click HERE. "
— Alexander Phanor-Faury
The Big Fashion Sale!:
"Inspiring, fascinating, empowering, educational. Lickshot: A Photo Scrapbook is a definite must buy."
Shooting Stars, Entertainment Weekly:
"London-born Ben Watts (brother of actress Naomi Watts) infuses every frame with palpable energy. Unlike many of his peers, he never treats his famous subjects like still-life fruit; the result is a collection that resembles a personal scrapbook."
— Michele Romero
The Worlds Best Ever:
"Lickshot is Ben Watts photo scrapbook and travel diary, converted into hardcover. We were first turned onto Watts photography through his monograph, Big Up, that featured photographs overlayed with blasts of primary colors. With Lickshot, Watts lets the reader into his own world, complete with celebrity, exotic locations and pure grit. A definite addition to any library, and for your pleasure a sampling above and fresh promo video after the jump. To read the full review on theworldsbestever.com click HERE. "
Ben Watts Celebrates Lickshot With Friends, Family, And Mot, Guest of a Guest:
"New York City socials couldnt wait to get their hands on celebrated photographer Ben Watts new book Lickshot as guests including his sister Naomi Watts with Liev Schreiber, Andrew Saffir, Daniel Benedict and many more partied the night away alongside the guest of honor. The party, hosted by Moet & Chandon kicked off Wednesday at the Hudson Hotel where Watts signed copies of Lickshot, a scrapbook full of his signature, gritty street photographywith subjects including skaters, bikers, musicians, models, and the familiar faces of Heath Ledger, Bruce Springsteen, Tobey Maguire, Rachel Weisz, Guy Pearce, Adrien Brody, Lou Reed, Alicia Keys, Benicio del Toro, and many more. To read the full review on guestofaguest.com click HERE. "
— Kendra Seay
Picture Perfect: The Best New Art Books, Elle Magazine:
"Ben Watts photographic scrapbook and travel diary is as bold and in-your-face as it can be chock-full of his signature gritty, energetic snapshots, some of which are cut, pasted, and sutured with brightly colored tape. The book showcases the wide range of subject matter that finds its way in front of Watts lens, from Heath Ledger (who Watts shot for ELLE in 2005) and other A-list celebs such as Benicio del Toro, Tobey Maguire, and Rachel Weisz to a rich street mix of musicians, teenage hipsters and hip-hopsters, and Brooklyn biker gangs."
— Jacqueline Bates and Ben Dickinson
T: The New York Times Magazine:
"The Blairs can probably live without Ben Watts's "Lickshot" (Princeton Architectural Press), a mashup of test strips, tape and scribbles. Known for enshrining an especially kinetic strain of urban youth culture and street life, Watts seemed surprised that Park Avenue ladies scrap. "If the most important thing about the painting is the frame," he said over tea at New York's SoHo House. "My own albums are purely functional.""