For more than 30 years now, Nick Knight has been reinventing photography, reshaping imagery and pushing the technical and creative boundaries of photography. This multi-talented artist offered to the world, and especially to the world of fashion, a multitude of some of the most stunning images and brought a wave of innovation with him. Beyond any notion of aesthetic, he explores the countless facets of humanity, disability, ageism, anthropomorphism, fanaticism, racism... His photos are unusual, highly aesthetic, strange or ordinary, surreal or trivial and are meant to make the viewer reconsider the common conceptions of what is considered beautiful or ugly. From his first concepts for the stylist Yamamoto to his still lifes, from Kate Moss to the Queen of England, Nick Knight learned to challenge diktats and preconceptions.
Nick Knight is one of the most influent and visionary photographers of his generation. Born in 1958, he studied photography in Bournemouth and at Poole's College of Art and Design. In 1982, he published Skinheads, his first photo book. At the time, Terry Jones, the managing editor of I-D magazine commisions him with a hundred of portraits for the 5th-anniversary issue of the magazine. Nick Night is then working with famous Japanese stylist and designer Yohji Yamamoto on his 1986 catalog. In 1993, his photo of Linda Evangelista for the cover of British Vogue launches his reputation. In 2000, Knight launches SHOWstudio.com, a live digital network dedicated to fashion pictures. The website includes photographs, films, and performances featuring celebrities, designers, writers, filmmakers and cultural personalities in order to create visionary content meant to explore all the facets of fashion through motion pictures, illustration, photography, and writing. The artist's goal through this website is to “show the entire creative process, from conception to finish.”
In 2001 Nick Knight directs Pagan Poetry, his first music video for Björk. Ten years later, he works on Lady Gaga's Born This Way video and Kanye West's Bound 2. In 2016 he was asked to take the official portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles in honor of her 90th birthday. Nick Night lives in London with his wife and three children. He was awarded the order of the British Empire in 2010 in recognition of his service to art. He his an honorary teacher at University of the Arts London and was awarded an honorary Ph.D. by the same university.
Do you consider yourself a fashion photographer?
I was always fascinated by fashion ever since I was a child. That's why it became my job. But I do not reduce my work to that of photographer and I do not describe myself as a fashion photographer. I have an opinion on everything, and I do not see why something should define me or characterize me. I do not want to be cataloged as a photographer, I do not want it any more. What I do is not photography. The photograph is clearly defined by all the criteria related to Richard Avedon, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eadweard Muybridge and many others. They are all photographers, they all use the same medium. What I have been doing now for the past 30 years is beyond the borders and the perimeter even of these photographers. I edit Photoshop, I use an IPhone to take pictures, I do sculpture, painting, I make movies. And what I do is not in the field of photography. Why do I say that, and with so much conviction? It is a world outside that of photography that is emerging as a new medium, which is at the beginning of his life, not at the embryonic stage but which remains very young. It is a medium made of virtual, artificial intelligence, internet. It is a world outside photography that emerges as a new medium. And it's very exciting, stimulating, I love it! (Laughter). Yesterday, I was on a shooting. At the same time I was doing a 3D printing of the model while setting up the scene. And yet I shot. It's definitely more exciting!
Is your vision of the world ironic?
No. I do not think so. I have a very passionate and very delicate vision of the world. I do not like sarcasm, I do not really like irony. I like pure emotions. I try to understand the true meaning of things. The world in which we are is complex.
Are you faithful to reality?
Photography represents a world that is not ours, and as a spectator, that's what we expect. Artists show you what they have in their mind, they convey their opinion, they show you their heart, their desires, but they will never show you what they really have in front of them. You can go back to the beginnings of photography when it served as a report and witness to the story. The first pictures of the battlefields were pure staged scenes where people reconstructed the story by moving bodies and props. Photography is not a medium that shows the truth, but shows an opinion. An opinion that must be considered the truth. There is no more lies than in painting. And painting is even more subjective! It's a misunderstanding. There are several stages, several levels in the understanding of a photograph. Watch the media and people's reactions. "It's an image retouched with Photoshop" but everything is a matter of point of view. The very way you place yourself as a photographer, the photographic lens you will use, will change everything. Stand over the person and you will see a big head, broad shoulders and a smaller body. Reverse the situation and it's the legs that will seem endless, as in the fashion industry which has, for that matter, understood it very well. And yet it is only a photo lens. So what is real? There is an unrealistic understanding of this medium. People should be free from the idea that photographers present a reality. Just as they understand the reality of a comet in stop motion in front of a Spielberg lm. It's fantasy. We know it. We are happy to be manipulated by the image. The cinema deals with fantasy, photography too. It is the artistic deviation that is the lie.
- Meet Nick Knight in Normal Magazine n°9 -