IN FO­CUS

Fashion Quarterly - - Contents -

Famed pho­tog­ra­pher Kerry Brown on film and fash­ion

Afew months ago at a ware­house in cen­tral Auck­land, New Zealand-born, Lon­don-based pho­tog­ra­pher Kerry Brown shot more than 50 me­dia and fash­ion in­dus­try fig­ures for Work­shop’s win­ter 2016 cam­paign. About a week ear­lier, he’d been hav­ing din­ner with his friends, Work­shop founders, Chris and He­len Cherry, when they pro­posed the idea.

“I thought, why not? I need some new clothes, let’s get the band back to­gether!” It wasn’t the first time that Kerry, Chris and He­len had col­lab­o­rated on this kind of shoot. “In 1991 we did this col­lage, all th­ese peo­ple – friends and whanau, mu­si­cians and artists – all wear­ing Work­shop,” Kerry ex­plains. “And it de­fined the brand in a way, so it was great to bring that back to life.”

Through­out the 80s and 90s, Kerry shot pretty much all of Work­shop’s mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial, as well as cam­paigns for Street Life, the pre­cur­sor to He­len Cherry’s epony­mous la­bel. He also worked with Kiwi brands Standard Is­sue and Zambesi – they had “a dis­tinctly New Zealand flavour”, but this hadn’t been com­ing across com­mer­cially or ed­i­to­ri­ally. Work by Kerry and the likes of Derek Hen­der­son and Re­gan Cameron, changed that. “It was a sub­tle thing. It’s not like we were wav­ing New Zealand flags around, the tone just changed to be more of a re­flec­tion of what was hap­pen­ing here.”

Launched in the early 1980s and helmed by Ngila Dickson (whose cos­tume de­signs for The Lord of the Rings earned her an Acad­emy Award in 2004), lo­cal fash­ion mag­a­zine ChaCha was both an in­sti­ga­tor and a prod­uct of what Kerry calls this “sem­i­nal time in New Zealand fash­ion”. There were al­ready a hand­ful of New Zealand fash­ion pub­li­ca­tions on the mar­ket, in­clud­ing Fash­ion Quar­terly and a do­mes­tic edi­tion of Vogue, “but they al­ways looked very in­ter­na­tional”, says Kerry. “Ngila and Derek and Re­gan and my­self, we just started to do our own thing. We never re­ally sat down and talked about it,” he says. “It just hap­pened nat­u­rally... we looked around at the New Zealand light and the char­ac­ters and faces all around us and it just clicked into place.”

Get­ting New Zealand and Pa­cific Is­land faces in the fash­ion spot­light was a cause close to Kerry’s heart. His then-wife Rosanna Ray­mond played a key role in de­vel­op­ing the Pasi­fika Fes­ti­val in 1993, and he re­mem­bers an event at Auck­land Town Hall where sev­eral in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers were present. “At the

From fash­ion to film and back again, pho­tog­ra­pher Kerry Brown’s ca­reer fo­cus has been be­hind the lens, says Phoebe Watt

cast­ing, Kiwi ac­tor Rene Na­u­fahu and his brother walked in. They had th­ese beau­ti­ful Poly­ne­sian faces and we were like, ‘put them up on the cat­walk!’ It sounds so sim­ple now but back then, it wasn’t the done thing.”

A lack of di­ver­sity within the fash­ion in­dus­try might be less of an is­sue to­day, but in a world where pro­fes­sional mod­els are los­ing ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns and mag­a­zine cov­ers to celebri­ties, Kerry agrees there’s not a lot of work around for ‘real’ peo­ple. “Why are we as a cul­ture so god­damn celebrity ob­sessed?” he asks. He cites “the Brook­lyn Beck­ham thing” as an ex­am­ple of the cult of celebrity gone mad. “The im­age isn’t im­por­tant, what’s im­por­tant is he has seven mil­lion Twit­ter fol­low­ers. That’s how it all works now. It’s about celebrity be­cause celebri­ties tran­scend cul­tural bound­aries. Burberry wants to reach out to the whole world and ‘Beck­ham’ is a name that res­onates ev­ery­where.”

Hav­ing been im­mersed in the film in­dus­try for the last two decades, Kerry is well versed in celebrity cul­ture. While his roots are in fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy, he has since worked pre­dom­i­nantly in film and be­come one of the world’s most highly re­garded film-still pho­tog­ra­phers. He re­cently spent four months in Tai­wan on the set of Martin Scors­ese’s im­mi­nent re­lease, Si­lence. Prior to that he worked on the crit­i­cally ac­claimed Brook­lyn.

The pho­tog­ra­pher doesn’t muck around with false mod­esty. “I’ve shot ad­ver­tis­ing, I’ve shot fash­ion, I’ve done mu­sic videos, I’ve directed tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials, and when I pick up a cam­era I’m in­formed by all of those things. Dis­trib­u­tors love me be­cause I give them what they need,” he says. “I know what they need to sell a film. I know how to find that im­age. And if it’s a tense day on set and if ev­ery­one’s on edge, I’m con­fi­dent enough to say ‘I’ll leave you alone com­pletely, but what I need is the shot where you turn around and look over there’ be­cause I know that’s the frame that’ll end up be­ing used.”

As im­mersed as Kerry is in the film world, be­ing back in New Zealand and “shoot­ing frock again” had him pon­der­ing a re­turn to fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phy. He’s not con­cerned about be­ing out of the loop. “That’s prob­a­bly a re­ally good place to shoot fash­ion from,” he says. But he’s also a re­al­ist. “To get into any area of pho­tog­ra­phy in Lon­don you’ve got to put a stake in the ground and work for 10 years to get to the door to knock on it. It’s not as sim­ple as me go­ing back next week and say­ing ‘okay, I might shoot some fash­ion now’.”

Pho­tog­ra­phy has changed dra­mat­i­cally since Kerry started out. “Ev­ery­one’s a pho­tog­ra­pher now,” he says, re­fer­ring to the de­vel­op­ment of smart­phones and their high megapixel cam­eras. “You take a photo on your phone and it looks great, then you put it through one of those lit­tle pro­ces­sors and it looks even bet­ter. And if it doesn’t, some­one else can fix it.” He thinks it’s fan­tas­tic that tech­nol­ogy has en­abled more peo­ple to ex­plore the craft, but he points out that with ev­ery­one hav­ing ac­cess to the same tools, it’s dif­fi­cult to stand out. “It has never been eas­ier to take a great im­age; it has never been harder to make a liv­ing out of it,” he says.

It wasn’t so much nos­tal­gia for the old days that saw Kerry agree to the Work­shop gig, al­though the day brought up plenty of mem­o­ries. More than any­thing, Kerry will al­ways have time for Work­shop be­cause their aes­thetic is, much like his own, more grounded in “por­trai­ture and real stuff”, than fash­ion. “I look around and I see what stim­u­lates me and I pho­to­graph it. That’s why I loved that shoot – I was just pho­tograph­ing a whole lot of great peo­ple and con­nect­ing with them.” And work­ing with the Cher­rys again? “I’ve got a lot of love for Chris and He­len and what they do… the mad­ness of work­ing with Chris Cherry,” he laughs. “You have no idea!”

“Why are we so god­damn celebrity ob­sessed?” Kerry cites “the Brook­lyn Beck­ham thing” as an ex­am­ple of the cult of celebrity

gone mad

Pho­tog­ra­pher

Kerry Brown shot Work­shop’s win­ter 2016 cam­paign. Be­low: An early Work­shop cam­paign by Kerry.

Chris and He­len Cherry with a col­lage of images from the 1991 cam­paign that Kerry shot for their

brand, Work­shop.

Kerry shoots He­len and Chris Cherry more than 20 years af­ter his first cam­paign for Work­shop. Be­low right: FQ edi­tor Sally-Ann Mullin wears Work­shop denim for the win­ter cam­paign.

A stills shot from the set of Brook­lyn, star­ring Saoirse Ro­nan as Eilis and Emory Co­hen as Tony.

Be­low: Liam Nee­son in Si­lence.

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