Futurism, Gavin Kemp.
Carnival Magazine talks to photographer Gavin Kemp about his futuristic, bold and vibrant editorial. Gavin worked with MUA Michelle Court on this shoot, who's feature can also be discovered in this issue. We talk film-based inspiration, editorial concept development and the exploration of process and techniques in this insightful interview...
Where are you based?
I'm based in the United Kingdom, I work between London and Nottingham where I have a studio. I am very much a free agent in that respect, I work anywhere and would work abroad at the drop of a hat!
Tell us about yourself.
I have spent most of my working life connected with photography. My first career choice of photography was ruled out because I struggled to draw, the logic at the time being 'you can't draw - so you can't do art' - that was the state of knowledge at the time. Even though at the time I was printing colour at school using all the facilities of a black and white dark room plus 3 chunks of primary coloured glass as filters. It took me until my early 20's to get into the industry, and that was the start of 10 years in photographic laboratories. Even then it was clear in the 90's that digital was coming and there would be wholesale change. I got my first degree and headed into marketing, where I spent 10 years doing everything client side, hiring photographers, working as art director, developing concepts and using images in every way imaginable. I was by choice made redundant and escaped with a cheque and well-rounded education gained over the last 20 year that I started the business in 2006.
As a creative, I think it is vital you find time not to be in the studio or working. I will find myself in a gallery, the wilder parts of Scotland, learning to fence, seeing new bands perform – the list goes on.
Did you study photography or a related course?
In short, yes. In 2009 I completed an MA in Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion - it was a fantastic course! The course director was in his 70's we got the best 'old school' creative education going. I consider myself very fortunate, as it was his last year before moving onto other projects.
Tell us about your work.
My work falls into two distinct areas, client work and personal work. My client work is fashion and my personal work is somewhat of a moving target. I love the fashion side of what I do, the people in the industry are incredible and it's a buzz to work with other creatives in this way. Over the last few years my personal work it has included a lot of model work, film making, plus more recently quite a bit of collage. Collage gives an opportunity to put, what may at first be unrelated things, together to create something new. I've previously taken old news images and their associated stories and recreated them with a current idea, combining the currency of one and the metaphor of the other to get something fresh. It can mean that work is quite highly codified and asks allot from the viewer, but if you are using photography in effect as language that goes with the territory, it can be extremely successful.
What do you love about photography?
Phew, what a question. Photography has been so ingrained in me for so many years, so it is a question I don't even ask anymore. I think what I love most about it is that it gives me the tools to work with ideas as raw material. I used to be hung up on process and equipment, but digital has done away with all that and opened it up and given us access to a wide range of other media too. After that it is entirely up to you, it's not prescriptive and there are no rules.
Which photographers inspire your practice?
This is a very difficult question to answer. In terms of whom I respect, the people who come to mind are Robert Mapplethorpe and David La Chapelle. This is because of their thinking. Mapplethorpe close to his death created a self-portrait that was purely an image of his eyes. The thought process that led to him shooting purely his eyes fascinates me. The number of other things he could have chosen to say was immense but, near to death, he chose to show his eyes. If ever anyone's work says, ‘keep moving and keep thinking’, it's La Chapelle. He always provides a new answer to any question, from his current work to his flowers, and his body of work that is more familiar. I am far more interested in how people are choosing to approach ideas and explore them than anything else. My range of reference work draws far more on a broad range artists and film makers than photographers. I like seeing retrospectives because they provide an insight into the artist.
Are you looking forward to Issue 02 of Carnival Magazine?
In Issue 02, I'm excited to see the 6 new UK photography graduates whose work is being showcased! New talent and new ideas are key to moving forward, be they from artists of any genre.
Tell us about the featured photography, Futurism.
The featured photography took roughly 8 weeks to organise. It was initiated by designer Orlena Chan as part of her course and London College of Fashion. We had a working title of Futurism. For me, when referencing anything futuristic, I quickly turn to the 3 films Terry Gilliam's 'Brazil', Ridley Scott's Blade Runner and, Fritz Lang's Metropolis. These films informed my thinking for discussions with Orlena about locations, and we ended up shooting in Paddington. The strength of colour in the garments stood out stark against the weather on the day. We had everything from sun to heavy rain and that fitted a dystopian narrative. Michelle Court (MUA) did a fantastic job with make-up, adding colour to sit against the strength in the garments. The shapes that Lauren created in the hair were incredible, and even more special considering we were at an outside location with minimal facilities. I knew half the team from previous work too. Michelle and I had met before, Laura and I first shot when she entered and won Miss England 5 years ago. In post-production, the editing was deliberately warm. I did not want to go with the oppressive tones of the reference material in the colours for editing, I wanted to bring a positive approach. In my opinion, warm editing in this way always makes an image approachable adding a little bit of comfort.
Is there any additional information you wish for us to publish?
Currently I am working on new fashion editorial work and more collage work. I am trying to develop ideas around cubism and I also want to find a route further into futurism. I am playing with ideas that look at today as a previous generations futurism, and also the future being a bland form of an advertising perfectionism. I think that what is to come is very exciting, and I would also like to say thank you for the opportunity to have my work featured in Carnival Magazine.
PHOTOGRAPHY / Gavin Kemp
FASHION DESIGNER / Anoosh Naghibi
FASHION STYLING / Orlena Chan
MODELS / Laura Coleman
HAIR STYLING / Lauren Nicholls
MUA / Michelle Court
See more of Gavin's work in Carnival Magazine Issue 02 and on his portfolio website.