Photographers I Love: Nick Knight

Photographers I Love: Nick Knight

Nick Knight may well be the most creative fashion image-maker there is. There’s something very British about his work – it mixes both punk and old-world elegance. He’s the Alexander McQueen of photography (or maybe Alexander McQueen was the Nick Knight of fashion?).

His style and mediums vary through the years, but his creativity remains constant. He keeps on reinventing himself and his work. I’m really in awe of his boundless imagination and his technical mastery.

Nick Knight was born in 1958 in London (UK). He studied photography in college and published his first book, “Skinhead,” when he was still a student. It got him noticed by none other than i-D, the famed British magazine, which hired him to shoot portraits. His i-D images really put him on the map and he was soon shooting for major fashion companies.

Besides working for Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano or Alexander McQueen, Nick Knight also directed music videos for Bjork, Massive Attack, Lady Gaga or Kanye West. In 201, he was even commissioned to shoot Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles’ official portraits for the Queen’s 90th birthday. Quite a long way from the skinheads and punks of his youth!

His endless creativity and curiosity make him a ground-breaking force. His images are striking and arresting, no matter the subject, from supermodels to flowers. His work is rooted in classical arts while being resolutely avant-garde. Nick Knight knows his classics, and he’s not afraid to reinvent them.

He’s also not afraid of exploring controversial subjects like ageism, fatism or body mutilations-slash-enhancements. His work challenges conventional ideals of beauty and shows us the endless ways one can choose to be. He pushes the envelope of what we expect from a fashion image, filling them with hybrid creatures, half-cyborg half-human. For Nick Knight, the future is already here.

This is especially true in his recent NFT series, “Ikon-1,” with gender-bending model Jazelle Zanaughtti. Nick Knight found her on Instagram through her performance art and endless self-reinvention. They worked together during covid to create images where Jazzelle appears in surreal digital fashion designs and bespoke IRL hairstyles and nail designs. The different elements were either scanned or created in CGI, and then superimposed onto Jazzelle’s avatar.

A model wearing a CGI-created outlandish fashion
Woman cloaked in a large black coat and hood, smelling a flower and wearing mysterious embellished graphics on her face
Model Shalom Harlow walking, wearing a light dress

Nick Knight’s embrace of AI and new technology is no surprise as he has always been at the forefront of what comes next. He was an early adopter of 3-D scanning, live-streaming and AR (augmented reality), using these new tools when no one else did. He recently recalled, “When I first started 3-D scanning in 1998, it launched a whole new vision of what image-making was about.” The same is true for today’s AI and metaverse.

In 2000, Nick Knight launched SHOWStudio, a film studio and creative lab. The company pioneered online fashion films and created unforgettable AR videos and live-streamed fashion shows. The studio is a well of new ideas and new talents, always pushing boundaries and continually reinventing what a fashion image can be.

Model Shalom Harlow walking, wearing a light dress
Model wearing a futuristic outfit surrounded by lights movements

In 2010, for his services to the arts, he received an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), one of Britain’s highest recognitions. His work is in museums, including Tate Modern, Victoria & Albert Museum, and MoMA, while major art galleries represent him. In 2016, his photograph for the fashion designer Jill Sander broke all records at auction at Philips Hong Kong, selling for HKD 2,360,000 (US$ 301,665 in today’s exchange rate).

With all these developments, can we even talk about Nik Knight as a photographer? He certainly doesn’t see himself that way, recently saying, “For the last 20 years, I’ve been saying I’m not a photographer. What I do now isn’t really photography anymore, because it’s just way outside of that.” To drive the point further he added sculptures to his creative repertoire, using alabaster, titanium, wax or even ice cream.

His interest in fashion stemmed from his interest in self-expression. The new technologies and mediums are only bringing us new ways to exist. While some fear this brave new world, Nick Knight is forging his own unique way ahead.

Deserted research facility building, half fallen in ruins

© Nick Knight

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Nick Knight. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Nadav Kander

Photographers I Love: Nadav Kander

Working with Nadav Kander has long been a dream of mine as a producer. And although it will remain just that, a dream, I’m OK with it because I still get to enjoy his images!

I remember vividly when I first saw Nadav Kander’s work: I was a fresh-of-the-boat art buyer intern at BBDO New York and Bill Stockland, his agent in the US, came to show us books. Bill was a great agent – I’m sure he could have sold snow to Eskimos – but Kander’s photographs didn’t need any selling.

I love their stillness and intimacy. His soft color palette lures you into the images. I read that he reworks them in post-production to achieve the desired color effect. For Nadav Kander, an image is not finished until he gave it a treatment. Post-production is an integral part of his creative process, not just an addition.

His work is infused with melancholy, loneliness and isolation. Besides his muted color palette and love for dark and moody atmospheres, he often photographs lone figures, lost in vast landscapes. Ruins are also a recurring theme in his work – from Roman artifacts to a deserted Chernobyl, Kander explores what is left after time and death. One of is series is in fact titled, “Signs We Exist,” which shows what people leave behind: nail holes in walls where posters were; cigarettes butts buried in the sand on a beach; marks left by long-gone chairs on a floor; peeling wallpaper in abandoned flats…

Nadav Kander’s portraits share the same melancholy and depth. They at times feel like a psychological exploration of his sitter. Through reflections, dark backgrounds, or simple props, Kander offers us a glimpse into his model’s inner life. The images are unmistakably his.

At a certain level, I don’t see separation in my work: a landscape showing the palm print of humanity upon the natural world, the way we exist within our environment, is as much a portrait of a human being as a close-up photograph of a person.” Nadav Kander

Actor Stanley Tucci sitting on a chair in a dark room, holding a glass panel in front of him
A man, standing alone under a large bridge

Israeli-born, London-based photographer Nadav Kander (b. 1961) grew up in South Africa during apartheid, an experience that marked him. As he later recalled, “I grew up with injustice all around me; apartheid was in everyone’s bones.”

Nadav Kander learned about photography and its endless creative possibilities thanks to his father who used to photograph their vacations. His dad’s slideshows remain a vivid memory to this day. He started taking pictures at 13 and was interested in the early masters, like Strand, Stieglitz, Weston and Atget. Studying their work, Kander saw you could explore a range of subjects as long as you remain true to your sensibility and experience. While the subject matter changes and you need to adapt to it technically, your creative intent should remain constant. That freedom stayed with Nadav Kander, who is equally celebrated for his landscapes as he is for his portraits.

During his mandatory military service in South Africa, he managed to be drafted into the Air force and then into a darkroom where he printed aerial pictures for two years. That experience only reinforces his determination to become a photographer. He left for England soon after where his career truly began.

There are poetry and quietness in his world (and, at times, unease). Nadav Kander’s photographs act as a small meditation; looking at them brings in an immediate sense of stillness. I feel better already, don’t you?

Deserted research facility building, half fallen in ruins
Lone person, seen from the back, sitting at a picnic table in a park at night
Lone man on a small boat in a river, under a gigantic overpass

© Nadav Kander

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Nadav Kander. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Meet Photographer Kourosh Sotoodeh

Meet Photographer Kourosh Sotoodeh

Kourosh Sotoodeh had to leave his home country to pursue his photography passion. The road has not always been easy but the journey took him far and is still ongoing!

Originally from Iran, Kourosh Sotoodeh studied Industrial Design and Cinema before focusing on photography. He fell in love with the medium while photographing his friends and family. From there he started experimenting and building his portfolio, although his work was limited by the fundamentalist laws ruling over Iranians’ lives.

Koourosh eventually left his home country when it became clear he would never be able to work as a photographer and express himself as an artist in the Islamic Republic. Although there might not have been laws forbidding fashion photography per se, taking photographs of people (and of people of the opposite sex) falls in a grey area and is left to subjective interpretations.

There have been crackdowns on the Iranian creative class over the years. What is permitted one day is not the next day, the rules are unspoken and ever-changing – an impossible situation for any artist to live and function in!

Female model standing against a wall

Since then Kourosh Sotoodeh has made a name for himself in New York and Los Angeles, where he works on both editorial & commercial assignments for fashion and cosmetic clients.

Being a foreigner in the US myself (I’m originally from Paris), I know firsthand how difficult emigrating can be. You are confronted with a new language, culture, and social code. You’re the new kid on the block, with no support or friends. Everything needs to be built from scratch – it’s no easy feat.

Succeeding then is a testament to your talent and hard work (and just enough luck to make it all work!).

Woman dressed in Indigenous dress, standing on a rock in a desert
Female model wearing a bright red sweater and a bright Dior beret

The images presented here span genres and styles – from hyper-glamourous beauty shots to views of a starry sky. They come from both editorial shoots and personal work. I like the mix it creates.

I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s important for photographers to work on personal projects throughout their careers. If you’re only shooting for jobs (even editorial ones), you’re never free – there are always expectations and requests you need to worry about.

Personal projects allow you to truly express yourself. Which can be daunting for some. It’s equivalent to the fear of the white page for a writer!

I titled Kourosh Sotoodeh’s exhibit “Moments” as the images presented are a mix of past and present works, editorial images and personal projects. Aren’t all photographs moments after all?

Naked female back and buttocks
Portrait of a woman, topless, with wild hair, looking straight in the camera

Meet the Artists Kiritin Beyer and Parris Jaru

Meet the Artists Kiritin Beyer and Parris Jaru

“Reappropriation” is an apt title for this series. Abandoned spaces are reappropriated and turned into private playgrounds, while ancient customs are reinvented.

The photographs are a collaborative effort between Kiritin Beyer, a French & Danish photographer, and Parris Jaru, a Jamaica-born painter.

I met Kiritin a long time ago. When you both work in photography in New York AND are both French, you’re bound to cross paths! We moved in similar circles and worked a few times together. She has a very calm energy about her and you can feel some of it in her work. Her images are powerful but not “loud.”

I particularly love this series. Kiritin Beyer had shot an earlier series in an abandoned penal colony in French Guinea (West Africa). The place might have been empty, but she could feel the ghosts of its past.

A mysterious figure in a traditional African costume and mask dancing in a forest

This led her to the idea of “summoning” a character to stand guard in other deserted locations. Working with Parris Jaru and drawing on African, Indigenous and Caribbean rituals, Kiritin Beyer created costumes and searched for masks. They studied traditional dances and looked for forgotten places.

The resulting images are striking and filled with unanswered questions. A mysterious character inhabits a no man’s land of empty buildings that have been reclaimed by nature. He changes appearances and his face is always hidden by a mask.

We know nothing of him or where he is; he simply stands before us, caught in the middle of rituals and dances he alone knows the meaning of.

I love art that makes you wonder and takes you on a journey.

A mysterious figure in an African costume and mask lies down on the floor of an abandoned building

Photographers I Love: Javier Vallhonrat

Photographers I Love: Javier Vallhonrat

I’m not sure how well know Vallhonrat is in the US, but his work was famous in France back in the 1980s and 90s, and he’s this week’s “Photographer I Love”!

His work is moody and mysterious. Nothing is clearly shown, a lot is left to the imagination. The images invite us in and let us wander. They’re not didactic or straightforward; they evoke more a feeling than tell a story or show us something clear and precise.

Born in 1953 in Spain, Javier Vallhonrat got interested in photography early on as his father was a passionate amateur photographer. At 18, while studying Fine Arts, Vallhonrat started assisting a fashion photographer.

Fashion would become his focus. After making a name for himself in Spain, he broadened his reach and became a successful and sought-after photographer for magazines and advertisers alike.

I especially love Javier Vallhonrat’s approach to color and lighting. The way he uses them creates a sort of photographic painting (or painterly photograph!).

Javier Vallhonrat’s experimentations result in striking images. They remind me of Impressionism. And to think it is all done on film, not digital! That’s magic!



© Javier Vallhonrat

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Javier Vallhonrat. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Portrait of a woman
A female model sitting on the floor in a photo studio
Fashion model throwing a scarf up in the air

Photographers I Love: Nan Goldin

Photographers I Love: Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin’s photographs are not always easy to face. They show hardship, violence and pain. But they also, and more importantly, show life – the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.

Nan Goldin grew up near Boston in the 1950s. The Norman Rockwell image of suburban middle-class life imploded when her older sister committed suicide when Goldin was 11. Her sister wanted to live freely, but the loosening of social mores and the sexual revolution the pill introduced in the 60s hadn’t happened yet. Nan Goldin is a product of the liberation her sister never saw.

She started documenting her friends as a teenager, capturing unfiltered moments of intimacy and vulnerability. She befriended people in the LGBTQ+ community and ended up, a few years later, documenting the desolation the AIDS crisis brought to her friends.

Most recently, while documenting the opioid crisis that has been ravaging the US, Nan Golding became a vocal opponent to the Sackler family and their company, Purdue, which produced and pushed Oxycontin.

She targeted museums and universities that accepted their money and shed light on the ugly side of philanthropy. Nan Goldin’s activism bore fruit: in December 2021, the Met Museum in New York removed the Sackler name from its exhibition halls.

Glass table in a living room, covered with drug paraphernalia
A man dragging on a cigarette while his girlfriend watches him

Her interest in people on the fringe stemmed from her teenage rebellion and the cultural environment of the time. She saw junkies as romantic figures but eventually cut through the haze and saw them for what they were – tragic figures, people lost to forces stronger and darker than themselves.

Nan Goldin often explained that her photographs are like her own private diary, just one made public. They are her way to celebrate and remember her friends when so many of them have passed away or were never recognized by society. Her work is about memory, first and foremost.

Nan Goldin doesn’t shy away from the pain that sometimes comes with being alive. I remember her show at MoMA and seeing her (in)famous self-portrait where you see her with a black eye after an argument with her boyfriend. I find the image difficult to look at – the idea of getting punched in the face by the person I love is pretty terrifying for me – but there she stood, upright and strong, flaunting expectations of decorum or victimhood.

Her photographs are very intimate and raise at time question about voyeurism. I don’t think anyone can accuse Nan Goldin of being a voyeur – these are her people, her friends, her tribe. She shares these moments with them, lives their pain and joy.

But what about the people looking at these private moments? What about us, looking at these photographs hanging on a wall of a gallery or museum? Aren’t we voyeurs?

© Nan Goldin

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Nan Goldin. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Young man sitting by a pool
A young man laying on the trunck of a convertible car watching a movie at a drive-in, while his friends sit in the car

Photographers I Love: Tyler Mitchell

Photographers I Love: Tyler Mitchell

Tyler Mitchell became the first African American to shoot the cover of Vogue US in 2018. He was also the youngest photographer to ever do so (he was 23 at the time!). The attention is deserved as he possesses both talent and vision.




Tyler Mitchell cites Larry Clark as an early influence, and I can see the connection. His subjects are the descendants of the 1990s cool kids Clark documented, just with a more elaborate fashion sense and more diverse backgrounds!

Growing up in Georgia, Mitchell purchased a Canon camera as a teen to shoot skateboarding videos of his friends. Inspired by Spike Jonze, he learned video editing on his own, through YouTube tutorials.

His subjects, be they models or everyday people, are effortlessly cool, like only cool 19-year-olds know how to be. They play with gender roles at times (a guy wearing a metal chain bra, a girl posing tough..), but there’s no activism beyond the images.

The freedom of being whoever they want to be is a fait accompli — that itself is activism! That lack of care of how people judge them shows their utter freedom from society’s expectations.

This freedom goes beyond gender roles; Tyler Mitchell brings the same casualness to his portrayal of Black America. His models are unrestricted by racial stereotypes. They are who they are, free of compromises and fear. Tyler Mitchell shows us images we rarely see, moments when being young and alive is all that matters.

2 androgynous black youth

Before attending Tisch Art School in New York, Tyler Mitchell self-published a book of his photographs of skaters and youth culture in Havana, Cuba. He graduated in 2017; after shooting a few series and portraits for Vogue Teen, he was picked in 2018 to photograph Beyonce for Vogue US’ prestigious September cover.

The fact that it took 128 years for the magazine to hire a Black photographer for its cover is both heartbreaking and infuriating. The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery later acquired a portrait from this series – an acknowledgment of its historical significance.

Tyler Mitchell was later the center of a controversy about Kamala Harris’ Vogue cover in 2021. Many people judged it too casual, if not downright disrespectful toward the Vice-President. I have no interest in what I felt was a gratuitous controversy (my two cents: people who only knew Vogue took offense, people who knew Mitchell’s work did not) — what interests me is how free Tyler Mitchell’s images are.

I love how he captures the youth of today and celebrates the Black experience. I cannot wait to see what he does next!

“I aim to visualize what a Black utopia looks like or could look like. People say utopia is never achievable, but I love the possibility that photography brings. It allows me to dream and make that dream become very real.” Tyler Mitchell

© Tyler Mitchell

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Tyler Mitchell. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

A young Black man standing in a flowery garden
Beyonce sitting against a sheet in the middle of a lush green garden

Photographers I Love: Tim Walker

Photographers I Love: Tim Walker

Tim Walker’s images are magical. I feel like Alice in Wonderland when looking at them!

His boundless imagination, his wit and sense of magic set him aside. You immediately know you’re looking at a Walker’s image when you see it. I find his work also eminently British, referencing old-world grandeur and fairytales. I think the world can use more of those, don’t you?

His images tell a story, and I happen to love stories. They are imaginative and witty, steeped in fairytales and childish wonder.

The models look like porcelain dolls or princesses, the world around them is both precious and fun, with unexpected details here and there (I give props to his prop stylists!). 

Tim Walker also experiments with distortion and weird perspectives. These images make me feel like I’m on an acid trip, hanging out with Tilda Swinton, a frequent muse of his (which, come to think of it, seems like a really fun way to spend the time).

Born in England in 1970, Tim Walker studied photography and worked for a while on Cecil Beaton’s archives, another great British photographer.

He moved to New York in 1994 (same year as me!) to become Richard Avedon’s assistant (not like me – I went less famously to work in an ad agency).

Woman in a spiralling staircase wearing an evening dress with a long train
Supermodel Karen Elson in a beautiful living room, playing the piano with a lion sitting next to her

He later confided working for Avedon was like going into the army for fashion photography: “There was a hierarchical, old-fashioned way of working, and I learned a lot.”

While Richard Avedon thrived on tension (and cultivated it), Walker keeps his sets light and fun. I feel you can sense that when looking at his work. I doubt he would get the same magic if his crew and talent were tense and freaked out (but then again, some people love drama!).

Tim Walker is old school and aims to capture as much as possible his vision on camera. He wants his models to truly interact and live in the fantasy he creates – even if for only a few minutes and only from a specific angle. There’s no CGI in his images, just old-fashioned pins, gaffer’s tape, set building and papier maché!

Although Walker shoots for commercial clients, he candidly admits not enjoying the process as, when working for someone else, you always have to compromise and too often end up giving in to the people who brought the check.

His heart is clearly in editorial where he doesn’t have to water down (too much) his vision. Walker often shoots for UK and Italian Vogue, which give him the freedom to turn his fantasies into reality. As he explained, “If you don’t compromise it will make a better picture.” Truer words were never spoken… Too bad most clients don’t / can’t / won’t hear them!

“Fashion is the only photography that allows fantasy, and I’m a fantasist.Tim Walker

Supermodel Stella Tenant in a long ballgown and large hat against a dark backdrop and surrounded by flowers
Woman sitting on the floor dressed in a white ballgown, next to a white peacock


© Tim Walker

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Tim Walker. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Photographers I Love: Philip-Lorca diCorcia

I first discovered Philip-Lorca diCorcia through his fashion editorial for W Magazine. His images stood out among the glossy pages of the magazine. They had a distinctive melancholy and look cinematic, hinting at a broader narrative we were not privy to.

The productions were lavish as the magazine commissioned Philp-Lorca diCorcia to travel to exotic places to shoot high fashion with the supermodels of the days. Cuba, Russia, Brazil, Dior, Chanel, Balenciaga, amazing crews… the producer that I was then was envious (and in awe of the resulting images).

His fashion series lead me to his fine-art work, which only deepened my love for him. I’ve since bought pretty much every one of his books (and he has quite a few!).

Model in a bar seen from the street

Born in 1951 in Connecticut in a prominent Italian-American family (his father was a successful architect), Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s first photographs were of relatives and friends, taken in their homes.

While the situations are rooted in everyday banality (as in the photograph of a man looking into an open fridge), his use of light and the stillness of his subjects bring mystery to the images.

Why is this man peering so forlornly into his fridge? Why does he look so transfixed by it, as if hypnotized?

Man looking intently inside his fridge

Philip-Lorca DiCorcia’s work mixes documentation and fabrication: he favors real-life subjects but bathes them in mystery.

One of his most famous series is the “Hustlers” project, which consists of formal portraits of male hustlers in Los Angeles. (One of the images opened this article.)

Philip-Lorca diCorcia carefully planned every detail of the shoot, from the locations to the lighting and poses. The resulting images are infused with melancholy; his subjects become tragic figures, lost souls who stood just long enough in front of a camera before disappearing back into the shadows.

Male hustler standing in a door frame in a motel room

For “Streetwork” and “Heads,” Philip-Lorca diCorcia chose a completely opposite approach: he set up a camera on a tripod in Times Square, New York, attached lights to scaffolding across the street and took pictures of unsuspecting strangers. Although nothing is controlled, his lighting and cropping create a narrative around these solen moments. Time is suspended, and his subjects appear alone, even when they are in a crowd.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia was later sued by one of the pedestrians he photographed. Erno Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Jew, argued that his privacy and religious rights had been violated by both the taking and publishing of his photograph, which happened without his consent. Because prints were later sold in a gallery, he felt the image was commercial (for which subjects need to give their consent), not artistic.

The judge dismissed the lawsuit as she found the project was indeed art and therefore protected by the First Amendment. Selling limited edition prints does not negate the artistic character of a work – the case was an important one for American photographers.

Model sitting in a dark bar, with a man in the foreground, barely visible

No matter the setting or subject, from downtrodden denizens of the street to anonymous pedestrians in a crowd to glamourous fashion models, Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s images have all a haunting quality that stays with you.


© Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Philip-Lorca diCorcia. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Prince Gyasi

Photographers I Love: Prince Gyasi

I have to thank the mystery of Google’s algorithm for making me discover Prince Gyasi.

While researching photographers to feature, I stumbled upon his website. His images stopped me dead in my track, their beauty and power not to be ignored.

Prince Gyasi’s colors are vivid and, at times, hallucinatory. Their vibrancy borders on psychotic. His subjects are at the heart of his compositions; few props or outside elements are used — it’s all about the person in the shot.

The darkness of their skin is unapologetically beautiful. It sometimes is so dark that you can’t see features or details, and the subject becomes a black silhouette against an aggressively colorful background.

People’s faces are often hidden, an artifice that helps transform individuals into representations. Here’s a woman, to represent all women; here’s a child, to represent all children…


3 African men holding blue blankets against an orange background

Prince Gyasi lives in Accra, Ghana’s capital. I don’t know how he got “discovered” by the western art world, but the Nil Gallery in Paris signed him in 2018. Since then, he rose to superstar status, shooting major campaigns for Apple, collaborating with fashion brand Off-White, and photographing supermodel Naomi Campbell.

What I love is that, despite his international success, he stays anchored in Africa and most of his recent high-profile projects have been made there.

Two black men in white tshirts, their head covered with white fabric, standing in front of a blue wall

Prince Gyasi is barely 30 and shoots with a cell phone (!!), proof yet again that talent has nothing to do with experience or equipment.

I’m blown away by this work. What do you think?


© Prince Gyasi

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Prince Gyasi. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: William Eggleston

Photographers I Love: William Eggleston

William Eggleston is credited with making color photography a legitimate art form. To understand this, we need to put him back in his historical context, the late 1960s.

Back then, most of the art world was struggling with accepting photography itself as art. Unlike traditional mediums like paintings or sculptures, photographs can be reproduced, which made them less “valuable” to traditionalists.

Even when people considered photography an art form, they would often draw the line at color photography, which was seen as too commercial and pedestrian to be taken seriously.

William Eggleston changed all that.

Nothing in his upbringing marked him as a revolutionary… but you always have to watch out for the quiet ones!

Born in 1939, Eggleston grew up in the South in an affluent family. While he attended a series of private schools, he never graduated from any of them. He was interested in arts and when a friend gave him a camera, he latched on to it.

William Eggleston started to experiment with black and white before moving to color in the mid-60s. His early influences were Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank and Walker Evans, all remarkable photographers with an uncanny talent to capture beauty in the most mundane settings. Eggleston also focused his lens on everyday moments. His sense of composition and color brings an unexpected power to his seemingly simple images.

His choice to shoot in color was a natural one for him. Developing on his own as an artist far from the art world, he approached color photography with no preconceived notion that it was not a “proper” medium. Color film was easily attainable and captured the world the way he saw it – that was enough for him. As he later remarked, “Not intending to make any particular comment about whether it was good or bad or whether I liked it or not. It was just there, and I was interested in it.”

Line cook on a wall phone in a hallway
Cracked red ceiling with a bare bulb in the middle of it

In the early 70s, William Eggleston discovered dye-transfer printing, which was only used for commercial photography, or by everyday people snapping away during their vacations. It quickly became his favored printing method as it gave his prints saturated and vibrant colors.

The most famous example of this is his 1973 image titled, The Red Ceiling. William Eggleston later noted that only dye-transfer printing truly represented his vision. Any other printing lacked depth and intensity. He said, “The Red Ceiling is so powerful, that in fact I’ve never seen it reproduced on the page to my satisfaction. When you look at the dye [print] it is like red blood that’s wet on the wall.”

Parked car against a brick wall

In 1976, MoMA in New York gave him a show. Although it was not the first time the museum had exhibited color photographs, Eggleston’s show created quite a stir. The venerable Ansel Adams, one of the (grand) fathers of photography, notably expressed his distress at seeing MoMA celebrating this kind of work.

The show created such a stir that it is still viewed to this day as a watershed moment. William Eggleston broke open the door and brought color photography to one of the most influential art institutions in the world. Despite the controversy, the exhibit was a success and color photography was never looked down again.

© William Eggleston

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent William Eggleston. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Helmut Newton

Photographers I Love: Helmut Newton

I have to confess that I had a hard time with some of Newton’s images for a long time. The nudity doesn’t bother me (I grew up in France in the 70s, where seeing a topless woman on the beach was par for the course!), but his seeming misogyny and the underlying S&M tones in some of his work made me uneasy. 

I later came to understand sexuality comes in a gazillion flavors (the LGBTQ+ rainbow is an apt symbol!) and what doesn’t work for me is what someone else enjoys.

I now love Helmut Newton’s work—I love how strong and fierce his women are no matter what situation they find themselves in. His images are sexy, and with just enough aggression to make them feel dangerous and transgressive.

Helmut Newton had quite an adventurous life: born in 1920 in Berlin, he fled the country in 1938 because of the increasingly anti-Jewish violence his family faced. His parents made their way to Argentina, while Newton ended in Australia, after a short sting living in Singapore. During these troubled times, he often faced suspicion as a German citizen and was interned on and off, before finally being able to settle in Australia and becoming a British subject.

“My women are always victorious.” Helmut Newton

Woman in a one-piece bathing suit and bunny ears on the terrace of a building
Woman in a tuxedo standing in a street at night, smoking a cigarette

Having worked as a photographer along the way, Helmut Newton opened a studio in Melbourne where he quickly made a name for himself. In 1957, when he landed a contract with British Vogue (quite the coup!), he moved to London.

I guess the climate didn’t suit him as he quickly left for Paris. It was after all *the* fashion capital at the time. I would also venture a guess that the French’s more laissez-faire attitude towards sex also played a role!

Helmut Newton worked for major magazines, toying in his images with eroticism and even S&M or fetishistic undertone (and, in some cases, overtones). His work is unabashedly about sex and doesn’t shy away from the fact that sex at times plays with power dynamics and domination/ submission roles. Newton was often vilified from his depiction of women—a lot of women objected to his objectification of his models, of him putting them in aggressively sexual scenarios, while others found his images to be empowering and reflecting the power of female sexuality.

What do you think? Is his work sexy or sexist?

Two women dancing on top of a hill

© Helmut Newton

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Helmut Newton. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Guy Bourdin

Photographers I Love: Guy Bourdin

Guy Bourdin defined fashion imagery in the 70s and 80s. His images’ bold colors and unbridled sexiness celebrated the hedonism of the area.

Growing up in Paris, Guy Bourdin wanted to be an artist early on, experimenting with drawing and painting. He learned the rudiments of photography during his mandatory military service in the Air Force. When he came back to Paris, he ingrained himself in the artistic scene and had his drawings and paintings shown in a gallery.

He eventually switched to photography and started to shoot for Paris Vogue in 1955. In the 70s, he reached prominence with images that embodied the exuberance of the time: the makeup is loud, the hair permed, the clothes sexy. The colors are saturated and the mood is unapologetically hedonistic. The photographs are vibrant and fun, highly stylized and at times surreal, owing to his early interest in surrealism and dadaism.

These were the days when magazines had budgets and gave carte blanche to their photographers. This freedom allowed Guy Bourdin to indulge in ever so abstract mise en scene. Clothes or shoes were not the main focus of his images – concepts and ideas were.

This held true even for his advertising work, for which he constructed elaborate setups.

His most celebrated collaboration was with Charles Jourdan, a shoe company. He shot their campaigns for almost 15 years – that kind of long-term partnership is a rarity in the ad world, even back then!

Guy Bourdin’s mise en scenes are elaborate while poking fun at themselves. The campaigns are conceptually brilliant and often play openly with sexuality or dark humor (or both!). One image, in particular, is graved in my mind: you see a car and the chalk silhouette of a woman, the only thing left of hers is a lone shoe. I was in a car accident as a kid so the image makes me uneasy, but I cannot deny how smart it is.

Guy Bourdin’s “in your face” style and irreverent humor left their mark in fashion photography. He influenced many but remains in a league of his own. While his images reflect a specific time and place, their boldness and graphic quality still speak to us today.


Outside of a car, we see a woman's feet up in the window while a plane flies overhead
Womanhalf hidden with just her legs showing
Woman in an empty pool

© Guy Bourdin

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Guy Bourdin. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Irving Penn

Photographers I Love: Irving Penn

I love how Penn’s images capture the inherent fragility of his subjects.

A wrist twists while an ankle turns; an eyebrow arches; a body contorts itself to fit in a narrow space, the result is elegant and controlled. He built in his studio a set of upright walls to form a narrow angle and posed his subject there. It makes for awkward positions but powerful compositions! It is a testament to his art that he was able to convince the biggest stars and politicians of his days to submit to his rigorous setting.

When traveling, Irving Penn used a portable studio in a tent, which isolated the subject from their surroundings, turning them into iconic figures and emphasizing the formality of the portrait-taking process.

Irving Penn’s still life images also celebrate the very frailty of their compositions, with objects surgically placed together. The balancing act is fragile and often unexpected. The photographs often remind me of vanitas, the classical paintings that mix luscious flowers and food with symbols of death like rotting plants, flies, or a human skull.

I remember a show at MoMA in New York of his nude studies. The images had been deemed too scandalous when he took them in the 50s and were shelved for decades. They are a striking departure from his iconic photographs of fashion models and movie stars. The bodies are not conventionally beautiful, their curves and round bellies reminiscent of 18th-century paintings.

“I can get obsessed by anything if I look at it long enough. That’s the curse of being a photographer.” Irving Penn

Writer Truman Capote in the angled corner of Penn's portrait studio
Ingredients to make a salad posed on a marble tabletop, seen from above
Assortiment of fruits on a table

Irving Penn is inextricably linked to American Vogue. We can’t talk about one without talking about the other!

Penn started working as an assistant art director at Harper’s Bazaar and then Vogue back in the 1930s, while dreaming of being a painter. He went to Mexico in 1941 to paint and took photographs along the way. Disappointed by the paintings, he destroyed them – his photographs thankfully didn’t share the same fate! Alexander Liberman, Vogue’s legendary creative director, saw them and encouraged Penn to pursue photography.

Irving Penn’s first photograph to be published in the magazine appeared in 1943. He would go on to shoot for the magazine for 60 years (!!), capturing fashion images as well as portraits and still life. When I first arrived in the US, I used to get American Vogue – it felt like a necessary step to better understand my new home. One of my favorite features was Penn’s still life; using simple objects, he crafted striking images time and time again. He was an integral part of Vogue, and his departure in the early 2000s was earth-shattering news.

Actress Marlene Dietrich turning her head to look at the camera
Fashion model with a large featherly hat

Before rental studios, most photographers had their own space – a luxury few if any can afford nowadays. True to form, Irving Penn had a studio in Manhattan where he shot editorial and advertising assignments. A story runs in New York photography circles that one day an eager new hire took upon himself to wash the skylight. Penn was livid. The years of city dirt gave his studio a beautiful filtered light!

It’s easy to forget how technically challenging film photography could be. Not only shooting with film but also processing, developing and printing all had their tricks and secrets. Penn enjoyed diving into the process and developed and printed his images himself, reviving old techniques and thinking of new ways to secure his vision onto paper.

“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.” Irving Penn

“Passage” was one of the first photo books I got (its cover is this brilliant still life of two ginkgo leaves).

I bought it in Paris and it followed me when I moved to New York. I still have and love it to this day.

What about you? What was the first photo book you got?


© Irving Penn

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Irving Penn. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.


Two ginkgo leaves, one green, one yellow

Photographers I Love: Andreas Gursky

Photographers I Love: Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky ushered in the giant photographic prints area (with stratospheric price tags).

I remember going to MoMA in 2001 to see Andreas Gursky’s exhibit. The sheer scale of the prints and of the scenes he captured was mind-blowing. The size might have been gigantic, but every detail was there. It might be a crowd scene, but you could make out every single person in it (that is, if you were able to get close enough to the print with a loupe!).

People are dwarfed in his images – if they are present at all! People are dots on the image, no bigger than ants at times. Gursky’s subject is what people have built, not people. The few human figures in his photographs seem insignificant compared to where they stand.

Andreas Gursky often prefers an empty stage: the environment is man-made, but man is nowhere to be seen. His work is a reminder that the gigantic structures we built are all that will be left of us after we’re gone. We are confronted by miles and miles of supermarket aisles, of buildings or hotel floors… all empty and lifeless.

Inside view of a large discount store

Born in Germany in 1955, Andreas Gursky studied photography under Hilda and Bernd Bechner who are famous for their “clinical” photographs of industrial structures. This experience led him to favor strong lines and strict geometry. Other influences were John Davies, who photographed landscapes and cityscapes from a high vantage point, something we often see in Gursky’s compositions. 

His colors are poppy and vibrant, adding to the sensory overload one experiences when in front of his images. Most of his prints are gigantic – some of them up to six feet high by ten feet long! The image overwhelms and engulfs you. It’s a disorienting experience as you feel simultaneously far from the scene and part of it.

While he started in the film days, he was an early adopter of digital cameras and computers. The new technology allowed him to go ever bigger, stitching multiple images to create his panoramic work.

Inside courtyard view of a multi-floor gigantic hotel
A soccer field seen from high above during a game

I recently read that the 1990s German photography school doesn’t sell as well as it used to (except for Gursky, who shattered records when his Rhein II print sold for US$4,338,500 at Christie’s in 2011). Some explained the slump by the fact that most prints were so large that neither museums nor private collectors had the physical space to display them! I’m not sure it’s that simple… but it is a bit ironic to think what made the works famous, their scale, might be what limits their success in the end.


© Andreas Gursky

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Andreas Gursky. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.

Photographers I Love: Sarah Moon

Photographers I Love: Sarah Moon

I thought it would be fun to write a series about some of my favorite photographers. I am starting with the one who introduced me to photography in the first place: Sarah Moon.


In the 70s my mom worked in an ad agency in Paris that handled Cacharel, a fashion line. Sarah Moon shot their campaigns in her dreamy, ethereal style. My childhood bedroom was covered with Cacharel posters. When researching images for this post, I found some ads I distinctly remember having on my wall… and I’m pretty sure the posters are still somewhere at my parents!

Since these early days, I have loved Moon’s work. I love the tactile quality of her images, her sense of color, the romanticism of her women, and the quietness of the world she creates. Most of her work is on film, sometimes on polaroid, which only adds depth and layers to her images. Although nostalgia and the loss of a bygone era infuse her work, I feel her images transcend time. Her women may be long gone, but their beauty and mystery endure…

“I create situations that do not exist, I seek the truth from fiction.” Sarah Moon

Woman in profile
Woman wearing a black dress and hat, standing against a muted yellow background
Woman wearing a black dress and hat, standing against a green background

She was born in France in 1941 but grew up in England. There she became a model and changed her name to Sarah Moon. It didn’t take long for her to decide she preferred being behind the camera, and she became a photographer. She eventually crossed back the Channel to live in Paris where she worked for the biggest names in fashion.

She even ventured into motion (I still remember the TV spot she did for Cacharel’s Loulou perfume in the late 80s) and did a couple of feature-length movies. I would be curious to find them — moving from single still images to building a narrative is often difficult for photographers who venture into motion.

But then again, Sarah Moon’s still work is often very cinematographic, full of ambiance and untold stories.

Surreal photograph of a woman sitting on a chair with tall wild grass around here

© Sarah Moon

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Sarah Moon. My “Photographers I love” series is purely for inspiration and to encourage discussion.