Another interview with Albert Watson


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First of all I’d like to thank you for letting us use your monkey hand on the cover of GUP issue 10 [the Photo Books issue]. We still think it’s one of our better covers. I remember seeing that cover. It’s pretty good! I like your magazine and I am very honoured a young and cosmopolitan looking magazine like GUP is publishing an interview with some photos of mine. I must thank you.

Well, you’re more then welcome! We’re doing a fashion themed issue and first off we’d like to know how you got involved in Fashion photography? I studied graphic design for four years and after that I went to the film school in London. When I finished I thought it would be interesting to do some photography as well. In the beginning I hardly took any fashion photos, but when I moved to Los Angeles in the 70’s to be a professional photographer, I found out that fashion photography could make me a great deal of money. So gave it a try and well... here I am now.

Has a lot changed since?
Oh yes, there used to be much more editorial then it is now. It was much freer. The division of advertising and editorial was much clearer. Nowadays it can sometimes be hard to see the difference. In the old days fashion photographers in general had more knowledge of fabrics and beauty. Nowadays it’s more driven by the photographer instead of the fabrics, model etc he needs to be working with.

So what makes a fashion photo a good fashion photo?
Hair, fabrics, make-up, styling, the model, the lighting, the location and, of course, the clothes. They are all very important in a good fashion photo. But nowadays it seems to be more and more about the location or the model only. A lot of photographers don’t pay much attention to make-up, styling or hair anymore. You have to know about it all to make the photo complete. The lighting is especially important, a lot of the fashion photography I see nowadays is boring because the photographer hasn’t been creative with the lighting. The lighting is the same in almost every photo within a series. That’s boring. The old-school fashion reportage photography is also gone. Almost everything is done in studios nowadays.

Who is your favourite fashion photographer?
I must say Steven Meisel keeps impressing me. He has done so for the past 10 years. He’s quintessential, the absolute. He really loves fashion. And although he isn’t with us anymore, I am still a big fan of Richard Avedon’s work... he knew it all.

What would you say the main difference between European and American fashion photography is? The difference is more production wise. In the states people are more professional. For example; if I a shoot in Paris, Milan or wherever in Europe and the schedule states we start at 9 o’clock in the morning, I would be surprised if I see anybody before 09.30h. It’s very casual and in general Europeans are always late. This actually doesn’t say better photos are produced in The States. The problem here [New York] is that the schedules are often so tight that there’s hardly any room for creativity or improvisation. It makes the pictures look plain. In Europe there’s a lot more possibilities to work more freely.

What’s the big thing that has changed fashion photography recently?
In general fashion doesn’t change. It ‘s always the same - it just goes retro. Paris designers are tricky. For example, the basic dresses have been the same for years and years, the only things that change are the accessories. The changes are only made on the outside, not on the basic designs. Today’s fashion is more about styling. And in the end nothing has changed, the majority of people still walk around in T-shirts and jeans. The GAP killed everything.

And photography wise?
Photography wise the budgets decreased and the influence of advertisers increased. Today’s Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue are dead. The only survivor in the US is W. W still know how to publish a good fashion magazine with good fashion shoots by great fashion photographers.

For the latest interview with Albert Waton click here.


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