Speaking to Perou, the man who has photographed Marilyn Manson for 21 years

Perou shares the stories behind some of their best shoots together

In 1998, British photographer Perou walked into a magazine cover shoot that would change his life forever. The cover star was Marilyn Manson, and the experience would kick-start a 21-year-long – and counting – collaboration.

In homage to this visual partnership, Perou recently released Manson + Perou: 21 Years In Hell, taking fans on a journey from the late 90s to today – minus a four-year hiatus due to a photo shoot which went wayward and “chocolate covered peanut-gate”. Alongside photographs of Manson at home, on the toilet, on stage, in his dressing room, in the streets, and on roof tops, transcripts of Perou and Manson’s conversations offer intimate and eye-opening insights of their time together – or lack thereof when they were too blacked out to remember.

Below, we catch up with the photographer over email to fill in some of the gaps.

“I have almost definitely got that man laid: he looks as good as he can in my photos” – Perou

When you and Marilyn met in 1998, do you remember what your first impression of him was? And did you ever imagine this collaboration would take up a great chunk of your life?

Perou: i knew, from the first moment I saw him looking at me in that way, we would be together for years. It was the sparkle in his eye: there was chemistry: a palpable electrical charge

AND I’ve paid him SO much money over the years, to guarantee my place at this table, it couldn’t be any other way.
a life of chunk.

The myth of Marilyn Manson is so great, but the chat you both have throughout the book really humanises him. What’s your version of Marilyn?

Perou: There is no version: There is only Marilyn Manson. 

although he is a performer, he is not a performance piece.

He doesn’t wear a costume that he takes off to become someone else more pedestrian when no-one is looking.

I guess the lack of access to him makes him more mythological.

I know he favours the ‘less is more’ approach to anti-social media.

he is careful with what information is released to the ether.

you don’t see him doing ‘normal’ things, so you think he doesn’t do them?

but he IS human.

unlike Kim Jong Un, he does toilet.

I think there’s a picture in the book to prove it.

You both didn’t speak for four years – I know in one of the photographs you both allude to it being because of a shoot and some chocolate peanuts. What happened?

Perou: chocolate covered peanut-gate was the catalyst for the end of part 1 of our association.

we had a spectacularly bad shoot, not that the pictures were bad.

one of us wasn’t in a good place at that time (although we were both standing in the same gallery in east Hollywood)
‘you can’t reason with nutty’ I was saying,

but it didn’t matter what I said that night, we just couldn’t connect and I was sad to see my friend spiralling down: it started bad and ended worse.

we didn’t speak for four years because manson HATED the pictures we shot.

and I guess he wanted to work with anyone EXCEPT me during that time.

four years later, manson was in a different place.

when we shot again after that interlude, it was like no time had passed.

manson, now says those same photos are some of his favourite we have done together.

the photos didn’t change.

How have you seen Marilyn change in the time you’ve been shooting him? He speaks occasionally in your interviews about growing up, or losing it, going through a divorce, etc, and I’m sure you’ve been there through almost all of it.

Perou: I met Marilyn Manson the year I met my wife lucy

22yrs now: it feels like a shockingly long time, but it passed real fast.

it’s true: i’ve been loitering for over two decades and watched (sometimes right there and sometimes from a safe distance) and photographed as seasons, band members, personal assistants, girlfriends, a wife and life has changed.
we’re all growing up: maturing: improving with age

(only older people say ‘you improve with age’ to make ourselves feel better about not being young, skinny and athletic anymore)

After 21 years, how do you stay fresh when approaching shoots?

Perou: fortunately for me, manson is always evolving creatively and so we never repeat ourselves: we’re always moving forward.

I would HATE to repeat myself it would be pointless creatively.

although we discuss in the book, themes and colour-schemes that have unconsciously reappeared.

black and blue

white suits

the swimming pool

I don’t often photograph people more than once but photographing Marilyn Manson is like photographing someone new every time.

I found this interesting when you said (in the book): ‘I used to tell people that I just press a button, but, in fact, anybody could take a good photograph of you because you do it all. In some ways, I think the difference between a good photographer and a bad photographer is that a good photographer lets you be you: the performer. They don’t need to impose their sort of thing on you.’ What’s your process of working together and how has it changed over the years?

Perou: Marilyn Manson is great to photograph, but not easy.

lots of photographers have a creative vision to impose on someone.

I do not.

which MIGHT endear me to someone who does not need to be told what to do.

I am an enabler: I facilitate great photos.

He does Manson, I press the button.

with Manson, I’m better at saying, ‘I don’t like that’ than ‘do this’

What was the most controversial photograph you shot of Marilyn Manson?

Perou: no idea, dear.

none of them seem controversial to me.

I’m not aware of any controversies?

we talk in the book about people being potentially offended by the early, roadkill costumes

some people MIGHT be offended by the motif of guns, but that’s like thinking manson is PRO guns when he sings songs that are ANTI-gun.

You said sometimes you were too fucked to even take photos, and would just stand by the side of the stage unable to move. Did you miss capturing anything you regret?

Perou: I can’t remember: I was ‘too fucked to photo’

I could have had a sign round my neck

no regrets, ever.

in the old days, I shot on a 35mm manual focus, a manual everything, Nikon.

manson would strike a pose, I’d try and take a picture and he’d say, ‘too slow’ and move on: me cursing in the background.

auto focus cameras are wonderful.

I shoot digital always now because I am not a hipster cunt.

early on manson would say ‘why don’t you shoot digital?’

and now he says, ‘to the man who said he’d never shoot digital, why don’t you shoot film anymore?’

How do you think you’ve both influenced each other over the past 21 years?

Perou: I have almost definitely got that man laid: he looks as good as he can in my photos.

I’ve probably contributed to him selling a few records too.
we’ve done a LOT of pictures over the years.

and for me, without him, I’d just be standing in an empty room without anything or anybody to photograph.

This feels like a book end, but will you continue working together?

Perou: It IS a book, but this is not the end

it’s the conclusion of volume one

we’ve already shot again twice since the book was finished.

while we continue to do new and exciting photos together, I guess we’ll keep going.

if either of us start to repeat ourselves, it’s OVER.

LOS ANGELES, 2017

We shot this on the roof of manson’s manager’s house in the Hollywood hills.

we’d just let rip with these black smoke grenades and an LAPD helicopter was swiftly dispatched to see what was going on.

we hid the machine guns and waved like there was nothing to see.

burnt toast.

guns are a powerful motif that we have revisited many times.

it’s now looping back on itself after columbine and all the school shootings in America.

MM press session. LA 2017

HOLLYWOOD HILLS, 2000

shot for some old rag called, ‘dazed and confused’

I had to fight to get this shoot

and we had to fight about it after it too.

I wanted this to be the cover (it was not)

shot in manson’s swimming pool

my rental lights blew the power to his home recording studio (the old pool house) and y’all almost didn’t get to hear that version of the ‘holywood’ album at all.

the great, chris campion wrote the words.

neither of us (Perou or Chris Campion) worked for dazed again.

MM in his swimming pool. Hollywood Hills. For Dazed and Confused 2000

HOLLYWOOD HILLS, 2017

shot In manson’s self decorated bathroom at his home in the Hollywood hills

no matter what they tell you, I am NOT illuminati

it’s not my fault dame helen mirren, jay Z, ian brown and Marilyn Manson keep throwing one-eyed, triangles in my direction

MM press session in his hand painted bathroom. 2017

AMSTERDAM, SOMETIME BETWEEN 1999–2001

the book is deliberately out of chronological order because my memories are too.

we were in amerstam for a press session though.

manson is wearing my friends, whitaker and malem’s ‘planet of the apes’ jacket

because manson has been happy to experiment with clothes, he has evolved.

the latest shoot we’ve just done is totally new and another version of Manson once again.

I saw a terribly boring photobook on ‘noel Gallagher and his highfalutin birds’ the other day.

it was many pages of noel wearing different versions of the same clothes over and over again.

This book of ours is the opposite of that: 21 years of exciting and wild costume changes and adventures

Marilyn Manson wearing Whitaker Malem. Press session in Amsterdam (sometime between 1999-2001 – can’t remember)

LOS ANGELES, 2010

shot in manson’s old apartment above a liquor store on melrose

it was SO dark in that place: as you came in, an assistant would give you a torch so you could navigate your way through the boxes of stuff on the floor.

this was our comeback shoot after some gap years: the start of the second part.

this was lit with lights from home depot (like American B&Q)

it’s the same session the cover of the book is from too.

that apartment kind of had a moat and drawbridge, from recollection.

Manson at home in his apartment above a liquor store on Melrose avenue. LA 2010

CALIFORNIAN DESERT, 2003

on the m(obscene) video shoot

shortly after manson avoided ‘death by elephant’.

some people think manson is unnaturally tall but I am 6’4” and he says this is the only time he’s been taller than me.
I’m wearing MM crew attire: a black flight suit.

only mine has a giant PEROU printed on the back and an ‘I like to watch’ patch on the front.

could have had a ‘too fucked to photo’ patch

MM and Perou, On set of m(obscene) video. Californian desert 2003

LOS ANGELES, 2017

I’d just flown into LA after breaking my knee skiing

I think manson is watching me inject anti-clotting drugs into my stomach here.

I stupidly left a needle in the studio toilets and a rumour circulated after that manson was doing drugs in there.

I had to fess up it was me.

manson did his own makeup on this shoot: he often does

I love this session: he looks dirty and fucked but cool as fuck.

MM press session. LA Feb 2017

RUSSIA’S RED SQUARE, SOMETIME BETWEEN 1999-2001

the only time I’ve been in Russia was on tour with manson

we’d flown in together but his tour equipment had been delayed in snow driving in so the show went on a day late and my visa ran out a day early.

I had to bribe my way OUT and refuse to go back

although I’m told it’s got better

this was one night in red square

we’d sometimes just go out for a photo-safari on our own, in whatever city, and take photos in cool places.

had the most surreal night in Russia: with Marilyn manson, hans solo / Harrison ford and the band, in an obscenely opulent club with naked girls hanging in baskets feeding each other fruit and then having a snow ball fight outside in dirty Moscow snow after.

sometimes moments become unclear and almost dreamlike in my memories

just as well I have the pictures to remind me.

Mother Russian Marilyn Manson in Red Square approx. 2001

Manson + Perou: 21 Years In Hell is available now. While Reel Art Press is currently sold out, copies are available in bookstores and online stores

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