Sep. 5, 2013 at 10:52 AM ET
He's the photographer the British royalty loved to hate.
Since the early 1950s, Ray Bellisario has captured candid moments rarely seen by the public of Queen Elizabeth and members of her family “to show royalty as ordinary folk,” he said in a TODAY segment that aired Thursday.
Among his photographs are those of a young Prince Charles in a wet suit, and another of him in swim trunks waterskiing on a chair.
Other pictures show the royalty in casual poses, smoking, resting and dancing. He also has pictures of children frolicking on palace grounds.
While the public devoured the images, the royals detested being caught in common, and sometimes unflattering, awkward moments, such as when he captured Princess Anne falling off her horse.
“She said, ‘That’s never going to happen, you'll never get that!’” Bellisario recounted.
He got the moment after spending years attending Anne’s equestrian events, just waiting for such a moment to happen.
Bellisario said he was troubled that his work infuriated the royals, who felt he crossed the line of their privacy.
“And yet I felt that I was beckoned to that line,” he admitted.
For instance, he once captured Queen Elizabeth meeting with her estranged uncle, the Duke of Windsor, who years earlier abdicated the throne to her father.
The palace denied such a meeting took place, yet Bellisario watched it unfold from a 19th floor room he rented in a hotel room three blocks away from the palace gardens.
Photos like those prompted the royals to view him as a nuisance, a terror, and probably worse.
“I think they had other names for me actually,” he joked.
“It was a love-hate relationship, I think.”
Bellisario will soon auction off thousands of his images for charity this fall. The photos are estimated to raise nearly $1 million.