Taking pictures started for me, as it does with everyone, with holiday snaps and hanging out with friends, using a little Olympus point and shoot. I’ve always loved looking at pictures – my mother has made beautiful photo albums over the last fifty years documenting so much: her professional life, her wedding, our childhood, teenage angst, and now her grandchildren. I’ve always poured over these pictures. If I visit friends I love looking at their albums and pictures in frames too. I just find it fascinating. I love looking at the clothes in these photographs, often yearning for a piece someone is wearing forty years ago.
When I was working on Cheap Date magazine, taking pictures became a way of getting things done. I never aspired to be a photographer, it was just about getting what I wanted. When I asked Chloe Sevigny to be a pin-up, we both knew how we wanted the photograph to look, and so we didn’t want someone else coming in to take it. We did it together, and I love it all the more for that reason. I don’t care if the image looks like it was taken by an amateur as I have no interest in the pictures I take looking slick or professional. To me they are often the ones that lack style, imagination or intimacy.
I took a lot of pictures for the magazine, from Karen Elson showing off the best things she had knicked backstage at fashion shoots to thrift stores to photo stories. And because it was about getting the job done I felt completely uninhibited, which made taking pictures a joy.
It was when I was staying with my good friend, the model Stella Tennant, that I mentioned that I’d love to take her picture for Cheap Date, but I said it tentavely as she’s had her picture taken so much, and I didn’t want her to feel any pressure. In true Stella style she put the veggies in the oven, nipped upstairs, and came down naked except for a Celine fur coat. She said ‘let’s go and take some pictures.’ My son Billy (Stella’s godson) couldn’t believe it. He kept saying, ‘Mum, Stella’s got no clothes on!’ Stella lay down in the fritillaries with her whippet, Freud. We had so much fun, just snapping away.
It was after those pictures that my editor at Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, said I could go to Stella’s house and take pictures for the magazine. I wasn’t nervous at all as there was no pressure – I wasn’t technically a photographer at that point. The night I got there it was snowing (it was for the July issue – no snow allowed), and I thought what the fuck am I doing? I can’t pull this off. But we did it together, and we loved it. It was thrilling, having the challenge together to make it good. And as we were styling it too, all the decisions were ours. It was so exciting to see the pictures in the magazine.
I was then asked by Sony to be a part of their project. I could choose what I wanted to take pictures of and I chose to take pictures during London Fashion Week, focusing on a detail of someone’s clothes, hair, or accessories: it could be anything and everything.
I loved Stella Tennant’s studs on the bottom of her shoes – a detail you would never normally see, and her frankness as she sits waiting patiently for me to take her picture post the Louis Vuitton show.
That is also where I took the picture of Grace Coddington with her iconic red hair, and Hamish Bowles with his immaculate bow tie.
At another show Fran Burns, fashion editor at Vogue, had just got back from New York and was wearing this incredible military/Victoriana Marc Jacobs jacket. I was sitting behind her and took pictures of the detail as I admired it.
At the Chiltern Street Firehouse I was having a drink with Poppy Delevingne and looked down and saw her jeans with heels; again I loved that detail.
Same with Laura Bailey wearing a bright stripy Emelia Wickstead dress.
I like not knowing who the people are too. I’m kind of bored of always having to see a face attached to a look and owning it.
I took this of two great friends of mine who were having a natter on the edge of isle saint louis. We were just loving being in Paris looking out across the seine. It was a lovely golden day.
So, for me taking pictures is like using instagram – it’s about sharing what I’m into as opposed to being ‘photographic’, or it being a craft. That’s also why I loved using this new Sony (Alpha 7R, FYI) camera. It’s a snapper, fits in the palm of your hand, and yet it takes beautiful, super-saturated, professional quality photographs – it’s a game-changing camera in fact, which suits me perfectly because my photography is more of an extension of my styling anyway; a way of recording how a detail can make all the difference – and make me buzz!