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An interview with Nick Knight, OBE, British fashion photographer

Nick Knight has been responsible for some of the most progressive and visually arresting imagery of the Nineties. Now he’s focusing his eyes on the internet and proving that the mouse is as mighty as the magazine. Knight explains to Tamara Rothbart why he’s joined the dot.com crusade.

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War, Big Magazine, 1997. © Nick Knight

Nick Knight has always been a crusader against ageism, body fascism and bigotry. His recent work includes a portrayal of people with physical disabilities in Dazed and Confused, a Levi’s campaign featuring models in their 80s and a celebration of the curvaceous outsized model, Sara Morrison, in Vogue.

For over a decade he’s battled from within the system to broaden our one-track belief in ‘beauty ’, but with the internet Knight has found a sanction free, no-rules platform from which to broadcast his ideas. ‘The internet is a totally democratic medium’ muses Knight ‘For the first time in the history of our species an individual can decide what he or she wants to say within the scope of global communications. And they don’t need permission to say it. It’s incredibly empowering, revolutionary’.

Enter showstudio.com created and co-curated by Knight and graphic artist, Peter Saville. Among the gallery of ideas exhibited on Show are a film of the dragster racing circuit and another of a car being crushed; an erotic interview with Kate Moss relating the story of a diamond necklace given to her by ex-lover Johnny Depp; the reconstruction of catwalk collection favourites out of sweet wrappings, and an abstract soundtrack of children talking about colour.

Nick Knight, “Blade of Light” 2004 and “Alexander McQueen” 2009 in “Nick Knight & Alexander McQueen” at SHOWStudio Shop, 2015

 

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Photograph by Nick Knight, taken from the cover of Issue 54 of 10 Magazine

 

TR: Do you see the webzine eventually taking the place of the magazine?
NK: Magazines function well as objects. They’re portable and easily accessible and I have no intention of single-handedly ‘doing them in’. I also have a very human relationship with my print media clients. But take a picture of a dress for example. In print you see it from one angle only. On the internet you’re able to show it from all angles; you can capture the movement of the dress; you can ask the model how it makes her feel… you can even add a voice over of the designer.

Nick Knight
Image: Nick Knight;  is among the world’s most influential and visionary photographers, and founder and director of award-winning fashion website SHOWstudio.com

Taking it one step further you can manipulate the viewers entire perception. For example I am commissioned to create ten images. In a magazine they are laid out in an unmovable order. The reader looks at each image for as long as it takes him or her to decode the information. Take the same ten images on a computer screen: By pulsing the images I can control how long the viewer has to study each visual.

Say I flash the first picture for five seconds, the second for two seconds the third for a quarter of a second and so on. Then the series of images work much like a Rorschach test: They become latent impressions and memories. And once you have time you can add sound which is even more emotive. In short, the transition from print to computer can be compared to the evolution of radio to television.

TR: Who is the targeted audience?
NK: Whoever wants to look. There’s no common denominator. The site has not been shaped by a commercial imperative. Peter and I are trying to do something not controlled by marketing the way most of the media is – which is why we have so far raised all the funds ourselves. At a later stage, if sponsors do come on board it will be without terms and conditions. But the site has been born free and will grow organically.

TR: So you see the internet as an opportunity to circumvent ideals dictated by magazines?
NK: Magazines are not the villains. There’s no one ‘guilty’ group or person responsible for dictating aesthetics. The problem is that we don’t have a system based on anything other than one aesthetic. It’s the non-comprehension of that fact that I’m concerned with. We think that if we look a certain way, if we have a certain amount of money, drive a certain car we will be happy.

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Nick Knight, “Kate” 2008 at Christie’s Kate Moss Sale, October, 2013

This is as true of the person who sells newspapers as it is of a person marketing a magazine, the casting agent in Hollywood or the person fixing your plumbing. We are always looking for single solutions to things that don’t even need solving. I am attempting to propose a different way of understanding the concept of beauty and of ourselves as humans. I didn’t fall in love with my wife because she has symmetrical nostrils.

Tamara Rothbart

Tamara Rothbart

Owner at The Press Lab
Tamara Rothbart is an award-winning magazine writer. She was voted Sanlam Fashion Journalist of the year in 2007 and again in 2008. In 2010 she was shortlisted for the Arise Africa Fashion Journalism Award. She began her writing career as an editorial assistant with the launch of Marie Claire in South Africa in 1996. Since then she has worked as a features editor and health editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, as Features Director at Elle magazine and as co-editor for the launch of Woolworths’ W magazine. She has freelanced for most of the country’s leading lifestyle magazines. In her spare time she works as a corporate copywriter for two major retail chains and as a freelance writer for boutique businesses. Tamara holds a BA Hons. in Film Theory and Practice from the University of Cape Town. Her interests include documentary film-making and biographical non-fiction.
Tamara Rothbart

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Written by Tamara Rothbart

Tamara Rothbart

Tamara Rothbart is an award-winning magazine writer. She was voted Sanlam Fashion Journalist of the year in 2007 and again in 2008. In 2010 she was shortlisted for the Arise Africa Fashion Journalism Award. She began her writing career as an editorial assistant with the launch of Marie Claire in South Africa in 1996. Since then she has worked as a features editor and health editor at Cosmopolitan magazine, as Features Director at Elle magazine and as co-editor for the launch of Woolworths’ W magazine. She has freelanced for most of the country’s leading lifestyle magazines. In her spare time she works as a corporate copywriter for two major retail chains and as a freelance writer for boutique businesses. Tamara holds a BA Hons. in Film Theory and Practice from the University of Cape Town. Her interests include documentary film-making and biographical non-fiction.

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