WHO’S MY MIRROR

Stephen Jones_00011/You were a model before becoming a photographer do you think that the energy of a model can impact and influence a photographer?

Making pictures with people involves a certain projection of oneself. I try to recognise something of myself in someone I photograph. I also need to understand the energy, but by that I don’t mean their forcefulness or vitality, it’s rather ‘what makes them tick?’ because models come in all configurations. If the sitter isn’t compliant, I try to tweak them to a place where we are both in agreement.

2/Is it the photographer who influences the picture more than the model. Who leaves the most feeling or is it a fine balance?

The idea is that many decisions have been made before the person sits in front of the camera, there is some kind of (physical) situation or decor there for the sitter to interpret. I need to be receptive to their interpretation, but I want to guide the sitter so that they look right. I’m looking for an unknown area, ideally to try to transcend the images that we might have already seen of that person.

3/Did you consequently feel like an object of art while being

photographed or as a photographer do you find that you are the

influence?

No. I influence in that I have an idea that I’m trying to share. It’s not terribly complicated, you just have to find a space where the sitter relates to the proposed situation, that’s the idea.

4/Is a models personality relevant in an image or it is the

photographer’s personality that creates the image…

See 2) above. I really don’t care for the ‘Who’s who’ part of picture making. If I did, it would mean I wasn’t thinking for myself.
Models really are put in uncomfortable situations, and many don’t complain at all! I’m too conscious of that, and I think that when we are absolutely set on reproducing a theoretical idea, we tend to forget that to be human is also to be spontaneous, and to see what happens when…

5/Do you think that working with different artists as a model and having to adapt to their strong perception is a danger for ones perception of ones self?

When people know you’re a model by profession, and have a physique that can be used to conjure up ideas and sell things, they feel at liberty to comment on it. Let’s remember that standing in front of a camera/being on a catwalk is one small part of life though! I don’t remember being affected by the experience, but I remember at the time constantly thinking “what would my life be after this?” I knew it wouldn’t last long, although it turned out to last I lot longer than I imagined, when in more recent times I was rather flattered when Martin Margiela asked me out of the blue to model for him, so in that respect it was a positive thing. What is more problematic is the kind of images young people are looking at, we need to be really watchful of imposed ideals.

6/Would you call a photographer a different mirror each time, or is

the job of a model to be so strong that she is the drive of the

photo session?

More than a mirror really. The dictates of the fashion industry pay a large part in the final result. The model may have been selected because she corresponds to a certain look. But that may be very exciting, too, it may give her/him great confidence to know that they are desired and chosen, because it is hard work to photograph somebody who doesn’t want to be there or has very different ambitions.

7/Would you say that this is what defines a good model as opposed

to one that melts into the decor and world of the artist photographer

or even painter?

Are we talking about celebrity models? I think it’s a different kind of photography. With photographs of celebrities I’ve always been amused by totally unexpected roles, When I assisted Michael Roberts, he took some brilliant pictures of Kylie Minogue who was a soap star at the time and put her in a sort of very elegant Hoyningen Huene situation, which we had never seen before; and the picture of Vivienne Westwood as Margaret Thatcher is legendary.
In order to understand the picture, we need to know who the personality is. Models are known for their capacity to adapt, so the effect is less surprising. Personally I find it interesting working with the same person a lot, so we start to get the point of each other.

8/Does the interpretation and reflection of your physique affect who

you truly are?

It’s part of it, like any work you do, if you analyse and debrief after you’ve done it, it gives you a better understanding of what you’re doing. As a photograph or video is a visual trace, it perhaps more immediate. But frankly, even at my grand old age, I still don’t really know what I project, and I’m often shocked by other people’s interpretations.

9/Would you be a different person if you had never questioned your physique?
– Yes, ever so slightly.

10/Do you consequently wonder what people see when you walk

into a room?

Well, when I get ready to go out, I would like people to think ‘Ooh she cuts a fine figure!’ However when I am in teaching or photography mode, there’s not much that is further from my thoughts. In that role I have to be completely receptive to others..
I’ll just say that going grey is incredibly empowering! I’m afraid to say if looks were the only concern, perhaps it means there’s not too much else going on, and I suppose it would be a recipe for anxiety.

11/You come across as quite shy, so do you think that you would be different had you not been a model since being aware of the way

you look would possibly make you question your reflection into others…ie different people different mirrors?

Interesting question.. I suppose I am quite discrete. Maybe that’s more noticeable because I’m quite tall, or maybe because I’m intense and don’t wish to come on strong, I’ve spent a lot of time doing sport, particularly competitive swimming which changes your body a lot, so I think it’s more complex than that.. but I don’t think that being a model changed any of that, the time spent on a shoot is too short to make too much impact. I should mention that much of the time I was doing something else, I was at college or working by helping to produce photos when I was asked to model, and so often working with people who I knew very well.

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