How did you become an art director?
I started working in New York as a strategic planner at an advertising agency but I realized very fast that it only made sense to work in advertising if you were in the core of it ie if you were on the creative side. So I enrolled in a night time creative program at SVA and within 6 months I was a junior art director working on Volvo cars and traveling all around the USA shooting with the best photographers and directors.
What are key characteristics an art director needs to succeed?
First and foremost, the right taste level, and right is not good or bad but you need to possess the taste level readers will want at that moment. Then and not in order : to have a library of images in your head, hundreds and hundreds of key visuals in your brain. To think visually , your eyes are everything. To understand and work with your client (and not against). To be emotional with your images but emotionless with everyone around you because everyone has an opinion and as the art director you need to stick to your vision and not be influenced by all opinions and egos around you.
Can you tell me an iconic image maker whose work you got very fascinated by? — What did you feel when looking at their images/films?
There are a few…
Without any hesitation, Peter Lindbergh with his 1998 book “photographs”. Discovering his photographs of women was a visual electrochoc to me, no one before him had photographed women in such a delicate yet powerful way. He invented a new way to photograph women bringing so much emotion and sensuality , the models became women.
Deborah Turbeville for the poetry of her images.
And I would add all the iconic US Vogue covers that I always have in mind for reference. My absolute favorite is the John Rawling 1947 Summer Living Vogue. The model is lying face down in a blue swisssuit. This image is perfection.
Do you think the “male gaze" is a myth?
Not at all, no myth without a certain reality but it has lost its strength and relevance fortunately.
What was the first shoot you ever art directed?
I think Volvo cars at a big warehouse in Burbank California, with a stilllife photographer. Creative directors tend to give stillife shoots first to their junior.. I always loved shooting stilllife and still do. I love how light hits objects and how objects become alive.
What do you love most about this Industry?
The beauty to create a powerful image that creates an emotion and tells a story.
What do you hate most about this Industry?
Hate is very strong…I would say the competition to stay relevant.
If you would start out now what would you be doing, how would you go about it// who would you work with and where would you be aiming?
I still think that starting at an advertising agency is the best way to learn because it is hard there : clients are very demanding to their agencies and top managers at the ad agency very demanding to junior art directors. It hurts , it is tough, but you learn.
Is there just no qualified female image makers out there?
Of course there are extremely talented women fashion photographers out there but not enough !!! the industry needs more women.
What would need to change in your opinion to get more women shooting the big money jobs?
I honestly think it is changing and that brands want to bring women photographers, again the choice is quite limited. If you look at a photo agency roster you have a high percentage of men.
What do you think about the claim that creative authority on set is more often found in men?
I may have felt that earlier in my career but not in the last 10 years. I don’t feel any male authority on sets nowadays. Each set is a family for a day and there is a great level of respect and camaraderie between us all regardless of gender.
One says it takes 10’000 hours to become a master of a craft, how long in hours/days/years did it take you to make a living?
I have completed my 10 000 hours long ago... I was able to make a living right away
Who is your female fashion image maker icon and who is your the one to watch?
Icon: Deborah Turbeville
Who is your female fashion designer icon and who is your the one to watch?
What do you look for in an image maker?
An emotion, femininity, poetry
Since #metoo has there been a noticeable shift of behavior on sets? If so how?
Yes obviously everyone is aware and it is a good thing but it is not discussed on set ( as far as I am concerned ). Conversations on set have shifted to engagements in human or environmental causes and I am so impressed how the models use their social media popularity to communicate on the cause they defend. It is very inspiring.
What do you say about the charge that all fashion imagery is predominantly sexist?
I don’t think so . The codes have changed, readers do not want to look at sexist images, brands do not want to promote sexist images either. We are looking for a message, femininity, authenticity originality vision poetry .
There is a big surge of feminism at the moment - do you think that will affect Fashion and Beauty Imagery?
Yes without a doubt, we are always on the search to reinvent beauty and what a beautiful woman should look like. We have moved away for excessive retouching of images, we have moved away from the perfect commercial look and body but embracing diversity with models and the quest for a message. We are now in the era of fashion intelligence : using fashion and beauty to spread a message. I love for instance how Anna Rosa Krau defines herself as a sustainable photographer.
What was your relation to fashion & beauty prior to working in this industry? Has it changed?
I knew nothing about fashion and beauty prior to falling into it through advertising clients. I grew up in a family where beauty and fashion did not exist . So I had no opinion on it until I was asked for an opinion and now you cant stop me !
What is the most valuable piece of advice you were ever given and what advice would you have wished for earlier on in your career?
It came from my first creative director Joy Kilpatrick, I adored her she taught me everything. The first time she sent me alone on a shoot she told me : “Never leave the photographer alone ! “ and still today, once we start shooting, I am always there, eyes on him/her.
What is your next big project or goal for your career?
Spend more time working in Paris, back to my roots. You know the French poem “Heureux qui comme Ulysse”
Is there anything in particular you'd like to accomplish?
Yes, in my dreams art directing “Le Monde d'Hermes” if Pierre-Alexis Dumas reads this!