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French pho­tog­ra­pher and all round fash­ion­ista, SO­NIA SI­EFF lays bare her early life in­flu­ences and every­day fash­ion sta­ples as the #leg­end team jets off to Mar­rakech to cel­e­brate the 50th an­niver­sary of Van Cleef & Ar­pels’ Al­ham­bra col­lec­tion

#Legend - - CONTENTS / JULY | AUGUST -

So­nia Si­eff and Ni­cholas Foulkes on the 50th an­niver­sary of Van Cleef & Ar­pels Al­ham­bra col­lec­tion

SO­NIA SI­EFF IS, quite truly, pho­to­graphic roy­alty. The daugh­ter of Jean­loup Si­eff, it's ar­guable that she was des­tined to fol­low in his iconic foot­steps, per­haps even born with a pho­to­graphic eye. From ini­tially want­ing to become a writer, Si­eff reveals that her pho­tog­ra­phy ca­reer be­gan at the age of 17 and has since de­vel­oped into her much-cel­e­brated nat­u­ral por­trait style. From her fam­ily to her Van Cleef favourites, Si­eff shares it all.

How would you de­scribe your unique brand of pho­tog­ra­phy?

I would say it's not too so­phis­ti­cated and more nat­u­ral. I want women to feel com­fort­able and to feel true to the cam­era – I want to keep them the way they are.

Is one born with a pho­to­graphic eye or does one de­velop such a thing?

This is a very dif­fi­cult ques­tion, as I was born into a pho­tog­ra­phy fam­ily. It wouldn't be fair for me to say that I just learned it, be­cause my en­tire youth and the way I was raised was through pho­tog­ra­phy. But of course I think pho­tog­ra­phy is a lot of work. I mean, ev­ery job you do re­quires this, but it's a mix of both – you're gifted, born with an eye and com­po­si­tion, but you have to work on it.

How old were you when you de­cided you wanted to become a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher?

Well, I started pho­tog­ra­phy when I was 17 years old and my par­ents were both pho­tog­ra­phers, so I fol­lowed their path. Of course, I have de­vel­oped my own style, as I do colour whereas my dad was do­ing black-and-white. But I think we do the same top­ics and share the same in­ter­ests – we love women, trav­el­ling, fash­ion, por­traits.

Would you say your in­flu­ence has come pri­mar­ily from your fa­ther’s side? Or is there any­body else that in­flu­enced you?

I don't think I was in­flu­enced by any­one. I was raised with taste and a point of view, but I re­ally de­vel­oped my own way of tak­ing pic­tures. I have been a pho­tog­ra­pher for 20 years now and I love some pho­tog­ra­phers' styles, but I don't fol­low them… I don't copy. It's like read­ing a good book – some writ­ers have a great style, but you aren't go­ing to try to do the same thing.

Is there a mantra or a say­ing that has shaped your work?

Richard Ave­don once said: “A por­trait is not a like­ness; it is an opin­ion.” And I be­lieve he's right, be­cause tak­ing a good pic­ture is show­ing some­thing that can be un­pleas­ant, but also truth­ful.

What’s your jewellery taste like? What do you wear on a typ­i­cal day?

My jewellery taste is, nat­u­rally, Van Cleef & Ar­pels Al­ham­bra and has been for more than 10 years. I have been wear­ing this neck­lace for­ever, even be­fore know­ing the fam­ily. Dur­ing the day, I like to wear sim­ple jewellery, but at night I like big, ex­trav­a­gant and over the top.

You’ve shot many prom­i­nent women. Of them all, which one most sur­prised you in terms of your per­cep­tion of her from a dis­tance com­pared to the re­al­ity of ac­tu­ally shoot­ing with her?

I was im­pressed by all the mod­els in the book [ Les Françaises], be­cause they never re­vealed them­selves in the way I thought they would. Some I ex­pected to be very nat­u­ral and shy, when in fact in front of the cam­era they be­came very strong, pow­er­ful and con­fi­dent. This hap­pened with Élodie [Bouchez]. I thought she would be very dis­creet, but she re­vealed her­self in an ex­tremely fem­i­nine way, play­ing with the cam­era… I could tell she was lov­ing what was happening. I could also feel a strong con­nec­tion dur­ing the shoot. Some­times I would spend 45 min­utes on a shoot and take some of the best pic­tures in the book, and some­times I would spend a whole week­end. So, ev­ery model, ev­ery woman has a story and I re­ally don't have any pref­er­ence… they all be­long to the same story and project.

How would you ap­proach a self-por­trait?

This is dif­fi­cult be­cause firstly, I'm not a model – I like be­ing be­hind the cam­era. Be­ing in front of the cam­era for me is a game. I like it be­cause I like dress­ing up, but this is not my world. My world is be­hind the cam­era – de­cid­ing, con­trol­ling and hav­ing an over­view of ev­ery­thing. So for me, it's a game. I try to have fun with it and I think that's what you can feel through the pic­tures in the book.

Are there any pho­tog­ra­phers you’ve wanted to shoot?

Well, I mean, I'm very clas­si­cal; I like many young and old pho­tog­ra­phers. I like Paolo Roversi, I like Peter Lind­bergh, and I also like Annie Lei­bovitz when she's work­ing very sim­ply and is very straight to the point. But yes, I would love to shoot any good pho­tog­ra­pher, young or old.

Who is your leg­end?

I would say I ad­mire dif­fer­ent peo­ple for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Alexan­dra David-Néel, be­cause she was one of the first fe­male trav­ellers to ex­plore the world. I'm im­pressed by what she has done. Also, my dad is my per­sonal leg­end; my mother is my per­sonal leg­end. I don't have just one.

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