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News & Insight

Learn What Made The Great Photographers Great Off The Lips Of Their Legendary Subjects (NSFW)

By Kishore Sawh on December 27th 2015

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The videos themselves are visually nothing to speak of. It’s clear the notion here is to dispense with frivolity and pretense in favor of candor and frankness. There’s little fuss, no slider movement nor transitions to entertain nor distract. It’s very plain, actually, but poignant in the same way you get a viewer to fully focus on the subject by dropping them in front of a simple background.  And the subjects of these videos? The answer is two-fold, as it’s both the ultra-models being interviewed and the photographers who they are being interviewed about.

I’ve always found it somewhat incredible, or maybe inconceivable, that photographers who want to learn about and shoot like the pros focus so much on the mechanical technique and so little on their subjects and the finer interaction of the two. It’s always seemed apparent to me that the best source of information about the photographers would come from their subjects who can give the real insight, albeit anecdotal. If we understand that all the working pros are solid in technical proficiency then it should be obvious that it’s the little nuances of behavior, and so forth that separate them from the rest, and the models they shoot are poised perfectly to dish on what those nuances are.

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In this series of ShowStudio, dubbed ‘Subjective’, various models speak about the work and working with the legendary names of fashion photography: The Avedons, the Lindberghs, the Webers, and the Testinos. And the models? Legends in their own rights; Kate Moss, Lily Cole, Erin O’Connor, and Naomi Campbell, and the list goes on, all orchestrated and interviewed by venerable fashion photographer Nick Knight, who does a brilliant job of getting the interviewees to talk, and then getting out of the way. The whole series is a strange example of humility in an industry not generally associated with the virtue.

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If you have even a passing interest in fashion photography, or portraiture, or any photography at all that deals with humans as the subjects, the bits of information woven into these conversations I think is invaluable. I haven’t seen it as easily accessible elsewhere. If you want to learn how to execute the technical look of the photographers mentioned here, crack open any blog, and you’ll find it, but just as interesting if not more so, is getting to peek behind the Versace net-curtains, to get an idea of how they actually operated. What did they do that made them special? What did the models love about them? Did they all require massive pristine studios? How did they speak to their models, and how did they incite them to deliver the best they never knew they had? How did they develop a rapport of trust?

These are the pieces of information that are harder to come by, and some of what you’ll pick up here if you listen. And if you’ll listen, you’ll begin, too, to understand not just the photographer, but the models themselves. You’ll learn a few things they hate, things that make them comfortable, why some don’t want to see the images as you shoot, despite how against the grain of the popular sentiment that may be.

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The irony, of course, is there, and it isn’t lost on the sagacious viewer that the subject at hand delivered in this transparent way is the realm of fashion and fashion photography – something that’s all at once more fleeting than seasonal, yet still eternal, and generally associated with excess. And this could be largely why this series just works.

[REWIND: A PRO FASHION SHOOTER’S FAVORITE CAMERA | WHY SIZE & SOFTNESS ARE GOOD]

It’s really a brilliant set of about 50 short videos, and I think a truly unusual resource on learning the sides of a professional photographer you won’t pick up from a textbook. The model insights call to mind an excerpt from Cindy Crawford’s ‘Becoming’, where she speaks about what it was like working with certain photographers and what they taught her,

While Victor Skrebneski taught me how to be a mannequin and Richard Avedon taught me to have thought behind my eyes, Arthur Elgort taught me to throw it all away. What does that mean to a model? It means to almost forget the camera is there. To trust that somewhere in all the shots Arthur would take he would capture something beautiful.

That’s the kind of paragraph echoed through the series, for fear of romanticizing it, that can really help you reframe what you do and reinforce that we’re in the people business, and that can make a world of difference.

Check out the series here at this link. Below are two sample videos and you can see the full offerings from ShowStudio.com here.

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Irene Lingenfelter

    how interesting to hear these insights. Look forward to seeing the rest of them

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  2. Joseph Prusa

    Great article

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