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.

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

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: Jeanloup Sieff

Photographers I Love: Jeanloup Sieff

I had the incredible opportunity to pose for Jeanloup Sieff… but then never followed up to ask him for a print! I could kick myself!

I was working at BBDO, an ad agency in Paris, as an assistant art buyer (as we were called then) when his agent came to show us some books.

She thought I looked great, took a quick polaroid of me, and next thing I knew, I was meeting the great man himself!

Jeanloup Sieff was looking for nude models for a new book. I was then beyond shy and so ill at ease in my own skin that the idea freaked me out to no end.

But I did it, mostly to prove to myself that I could do it, and also because it was Jeanloup Sieff — the man was a legend in France! How could I say no?

He was nice and attentive, professional and patient. The shoot took place in his loft. I remember it was during summer and Paris was quiet.

A few weeks later, Jeanloup Sieff invited me back to see the contact sheet and choose an image for a print, but we kept on missing each other. I got busy getting ready to move to New York; I got scared and shy again… and I never went and never got my print!

When he passed away, that door closed forever… I don’t have a lot of regrets in my life but that’s definitely one of them!

Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, naked, sitting on leather pouches on the floor
Torso of a woman wearing a tight corset
Woman wearing high heels laying down on a bed

Born in 1933 in Paris, Jeanloup Sieff first dreamed of cinema before switching to photography. He started his career as a photo-reporter working for Elle and Magnum. Although his reportages got his recognition, he eventually moved to fashion and portrait work.

While living in New York in the early 1960s, Sieff shot for Look, Glamour and Esquire, among others. When he came back to Paris, his dramatic and sensuous black-and-white style was fully defined, and he went on to create striking images of the who’s who of that time.

Jeanloup Sieff’s use of dramatic lighting and darkroom printing techniques, like dodging, make his photographs immediately recognizable. From portraits to nudes to landscapes, all his images share the same strong compositional sense and tactile quality.

I could kick myself for not following up and missing the opportunity to have a print of his!

Nade woman laying on a couch

© Jeanloup Sieff

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

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

Meet Fashion Photographer Helena Palazzi

Meet Fashion Photographer Helena Palazzi

Helena Palazzi’s women are self-confident and in full power of their seduction. Her images celebrate femininity and sophistication and perfectly reflect her own dual nature.


Helena Palazzi grew up in Sweden, where equality between men and women is valued. I imagine this helped shape her image of women as strong and independent beings [which we are!].

Her early exposure to movies and fashion magazines fueled her with powerful iconography. It was the 80s, a time of big hair and even bigger shoulder pads, when larger-than-life supermodels reigned supreme.

Helena Palazzi’s interest in art brought her to photography. With a second-hand film camera and a darkroom set up in her family’s garage, she started to experiment, looking to capture fragile moments of beauty.

In her early 20s she moved to Italy, her father’s country. There her Scandinavian roots mixed with the Latin world and she embraced Italy’s sophistication and elegance.

You can see Helena Palazzi’s dual cultures in her work: her women are both strong and seductive, mixing the coolness of the North with the South’s vibrancy.

I love that mix and how beautiful and timeless her images are. The clothes might be right off the runway or from 10 years ago, it doesn’t matter: they are not the focus – the woman is.

Maybe because I also grew up in the supermodels’ area, but Helena’s depiction of women speaks to me. I feel the fashion world (and world at large) can always use more empowering images of women, don’t you?

A woman in fancy lingerie bathing in a milky bath

Helena Palazzi is also the nicest person I ever met in the fashion world! We worked a few times together, most notably for Resource Magazine, a photography magazine I had created with a friend.

For one series, we shot in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. We had a model, a small crew, some basic equipment, and LOTS of fake snow!

Things were hectic leading up to the shoot and I hadn’t had time to ask for a permit (!!). We just went and did our thing, all the while praying no one would catch us – thankfully, no one did and the resulting series was a big hit for the magazine!

PS: While the memory makes me smile, I don’t recommend winging it nowadays. Park officials have gotten a lot more diligent and are quick to shut you down if you don’t have the proper authorization and paperwork! Beware!

Woman in a wheat field

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: Peter Beard

Photographers I Love: Peter Beard

I’ll admit that I have a crush on Peter Beard, but then again, who doesn’t?


I only met Peter Beard once, at one of his openings. He was charming and charismatic, but my crush really stemmed from a documentary I saw about his life. And what a life it was!

Handsome, talented, fearless, both a socialite and an adventurer… Peter Beard was the Hemingway of photography, a character larger than life, with endless stories to tell.

Born in 1938 as the heir to a railroad fortune, Peter Beard began keeping diaries as a kid and quickly added drawings, collages and his photographs to them.

Peter Beard continued journaling throughout his life and his journals became ever more elaborate and layered, with mementos attached to them, newspaper clippings and obsessive record-keeping of his life… His journals are works of art in and of themselves.

At seventeen Beard went on a life-changing trip to Africa to work on a film documenting rare wildlife. From then on, Africa was an integral part of his life.

After graduating from Yale, he went back to Kenya and became passionate about preserving its wildlife after witnessing (and photographing) the death of thousands of elephants and other animals. This work became the subject of his first book, “The End of the Game.”

Peter Beard bought a ranch in Kenya and started to split his time between America and Africa. On the East Coast, he lived the life of a celebrated artist and socialite, hanging out with Jackie Bouvier and Andy Warhol alike. In East Africa, he lived among nature and befriended local tribes. His love for Kenya, its people and wildlife is reflected in his photographs.

An African man in the jungle, holding a tall elephant tusk
Peter Beard pretending to lay down in the mouth of an alligator

Peter Beard’s death in 2020 was tragic, but there was something grand about it. Suffering from dementia, he wandered into the wild and died alone, out in nature. I found his death both arrowing and fitting as he was not the kind of man to die peacefully in his bed.

I sometimes wonder if I love his images for themselves, or because they are part and parcel of his extraordinary life. I’m not sure I know, but I don’t think it really matters anyway — some artists are inseparable from their art, and Peter Beard was one of them.

© Peter Beard

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

Photographers I Love: Richard Avedon

Photographers I Love: Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon’s portraits stay with you, never to be forgotten.

MoMA had a retrospective of Richard Avedon’s work many years ago; it was the first time I saw his prints and I was struck by their beauty.

I especially remember his portrait of Brigitte Bardot: it looked like she was irradiating light; it was truly magical.

That portrait made me understand how important the printing process is, how much it can add to an image.

Not to say that Richard Avedon’s images need any help: his portraits are incredibly powerful – they are both intimate and epic at the same time.

I’m a huge Marilyn Monroe fan and he captured the sadness behind her smile like no other photographer ever did.

“My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph.” Richard Avedon

Born in New York in 1923, Avedon grew up in a family of fashion retailers. He joined a Camera Club at 12 and started documenting his life, using his younger sister as his model and muse. His father was a self-made man and a strict disciplinarian who had little time for his kids. It seems to me Richard Avedon had both the freedom to pursue photography and the discipline to turn it into a success.

He worked for a while as a photographer for the Merchant Marines, taking ID photos of the crews. Throughout his career, Richard Avedon regularly went back to everyday people as subjects – the most famous example is his portrait series of laborers in the American West.

Actress Brigitte Bardot
Shirtless beekeeper covered in bees
Actress Marilyn Monroe looking downcast

Richard Avedon went on to study photography with legendary creative director Alexey Brodovitch, who recommended him to Harper’s Bazaar. Avedon shot for the magazine where he became known for his distinctive style. While in the 1950s most photographers stayed in studios and models often looked more like mannequins than real, breathing women, Avedon didn’t shy away from shooting on location.

I remember a show at ICP of his fashion work. His images showed glamorous people in beautiful settings having fun. The exhibit’s scenography was striking: some rooms were painted black, with the B&W images seemingly floating in the ether.

In 1962, Richard Avedon started working for Vogue, shooting most of its covers for the following 25+ years. Besides his fashion editorial assignments, he also developed a successful career in advertising, from Versace to mainstream companies like Colgate.

Group of people in evening wear

From iconic movie stars to unknown workers, Richard Avedon’s portraits are powerful and timeless. His setup is minimalist and intimate, with no props to distract us from the person in front of us. He asked his subjects to look straight at the camera and probed them with personal inquiries or controversial discussions… Avedon was not just photographing their face but their personality, and even soul.

The most recent show I saw of his was at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, where gigantic prints of full-length groups of people loomed over us (see the photo from that day at the top of the post)… No matter the setting, Richard Avedon’s images are always powerful and striking.



© Richard Avedon (except the photo of the gallery show, which is mine)

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

Photographers I Love: Jean-Paul Goude

Photographers I Love: Jean-Paul Goude

Although Jean-Paul Goude carries his share of controversy, he still remains one of the photographers I love. In the 80s in France, I saw his work everywhere, from Chanel ads to highly creative commercials on TV.

Growing up in France with an American mother, Jean-Paul Goude had access to both cultures. This multi-nationalism helped shape his vision. His work often mixes a multitude of references and inspiration, rooted in both classical culture and pop culture alike.

He choreographed the 1989 celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution, for which he dreamed up hundreds of costumes and characters. The parade is a “best of” from his creative universe and shows his unbridled imagination.

Jean-Paul Goude was once named “the best photographer in the world” by Andy Warhol. Like the Pop Art icon, he started his career as an illustrator and art director.

Marked by the work of George Lois for Esquire, Jean-Paul Goude moved to New York to work for the magazine in the 70s. His design work there mixed photography and illustration, often with surrealist results.

You can see his background in his photographs as he uses his design skills to create truly original images. He often elongates and redraws the human body to obtain an idealized version of it.

Collage of fashion designer Azzedine Alaia and model Farida
Grace Jones posing as a statue

Jean-Paul Goude’s idealization verge at times on fetishization and exoticization, especially of black women. Some of his most famous work came from his collaboration with then-girlfriend Grace Jones. Through his photographs, he emphasized her blackness, her “otherness,” and showed her as a hypersexual object. His 1982 photo book, billed as a celebration of black women and titled Jungle Fever (sic), shows Jones naked in a cage on its cover. When NPR asked Jones if she worried how these images might be perceived now, Jones, in true Grace Jones fashion, answered, “I don’t care.” She added, “Some people feel uncomfortable with certain types of art, but it’s an art form for me.”

Jean-Paul Goude’s images are confrontational and unapologetic. He’s flipping the bird to conventions and propriety. In Grace Jones, he found the perfect muse – someone as unafraid as he was, with a larger-than-life personality to match.

There’s no denying Goude fetishes black women; they are a recurring motif in his work (and life). The obsessional objectification can cause discomfort or anger in some viewers. It can also “break the Internet” – for Paper Magazine, Goude redrew Kim Kardashian’s formidable figure, emphasizing her already imposing derriere and curvature. It was the latest iteration of a life-long obsession. 

For me, Jean-Paul Goude poses the same question Helmut Newton does: yes, some images are cringe-worthy (or worse), but I also recognize them as coming from a different time and place. Goude and Newton were most active in the 70s and 80s, a moment of great creative and sexual freedom. Since then, AIDS dampened sex, and society started to reckon with the damage the (white) male gaze can create.

Perhaps naively, perhaps for nostalgia reasons, I’ll continue to love Jean-Paul Goude for how creative and unique he is.




© Jean-Paul Goude

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


Portrait of model Farida, with handwritten Arabic calligraphy written on top of the image

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: Lillian Bassman

Photographers I Love: Lillian Bassman

Lillian Bassman has been called “The Keen of the Darkroom”, and she deserves that title!

What fascinates me about Lillian Bassman is that she reinvented her images over and over again, working on them for hours in her darkroom, experimenting with dodging, burning and masking, and creating a completely new work in the process.

Although her images start fairly straightforward (albeit beautifully composed and with already rich B&W contrasts), her editing work pushes them further and further into abstraction.

As time passes and she revisits her work again and again, her women become ethereal ghosts, their surrounding just a faint mirage.

Lillian Bassman studied painting and you can see that influence in how she uses the darkroom techniques to create her images — they have an incredible painterly and texture to them.

“The women who intrigued me [as models] had the most beautiful necks and the most responsive hand movements.” Lillian Bassman

Lillian Bassman was born in 1917 and grew up in Brooklyn and Greenwich Village, New York. She studied art and started as a photo editor before taking up a camera (a bold move for a woman at that time!). She worked for Harper’s Bazaar until the mid-60s, capturing the glamour and opulence of the couture world.

By the 70s, her style was out of favor and she decided to pursue personal projects and get rid of her archives. She unsentimentally threw away 40 years’ worth of prints and negatives! (Can you imagine? Most photographers can’t bring themselves to delete one single image! Actually, I can’t either… and I’m not a professional photographer!)

A lone bag survived and was rediscovered in the 90s, leading to a reappreciation of Lillian Bassman’s incredible talent and technical skills. Books were published, prints were made, and her images came back to the world. What a loss it would have been if that bag hadn’t escaped destruction!

Silhouette of a woman in a long black evening gown
Profile of a woman, laughing, with sunglasses and lots of necklaces
Woman seen from the back, with a large hat

Lillian Bassman made me understand and appreciate the importance and beauty of post-production and printing. Her foray into painting bears an influence on how she uses darkroom techniques to create her images. I love her work, what do you think?


© Lillian Bassman

Disclaimer: Aurelie’s Gallery does not represent Lillian Bassman. 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: 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.