Elias Wessel Interview
September 28, 2010
We set our resident photographer Rosie Foster the task of interviewing our favourite photographer of all time, Elias Wessel. As usual Elias didn’t disappoint with a no holds barred, uncompromised interview whose answers show why he is so far above the rest of the pack. Rosie managed to corner Elias to really find out what makes this outstanding photographer tick. From advice for young fashion photographers, a circus of pink elephants, and girls running around naked. Your next 10 minutes is about to get damn interesting….
RF: For those who may have not heard of the Elias Wessel name, explain what you do in five words?
I do what I love.
RF: Tell us about your latest project and how it came about? Were there any particular challenges within the project?
We just created a color exploding dreamy rainbow like eye candy of grandiose surrealism with supermodel Lydia Hearst. A coverstory for Norwegians most glamourous art, music, and fashion magazine Vixen. The story was shot in a penthouse of the breathtaking Ansonia building on the upper west side in New York. It was a perfect fairytale atmosphere in one of the towers of the building. Cherry blossoms, huge rounded windows facing Broadway and we had 10 superexcited black cats all over the place. My shoots are all about creating a mood I want to breathe into my photographs and that only works when everyone on set absolutely feels what we do. We all felt as if we were on a rainbow in a modern Hansel and Gretel witch house surrounded by pink cotton candy clouds after a never-ending partynight where nobody came. So obviously we created a very twisted story inspired by the glamour of the movie “Stepford Wifes”, combined this with a lot of personal and religious elements and let the absolutely adorable Lydia come alive in this wonderland.
RF: Do you have any advice for young fashion photographers trying to break into the industry? For example, how would you suggest they approach modeling agencies or magazines?
The best way to break into the industry is to break into hearts. However you make this happen. People have to fall in love with you and your work and so do you. Or why the hell should they want to work and spend their time with you? In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different. So I believe it’s like everything in life. We are all responsible for anything we do. Walking down the street, meeting the love of your life or selling a picture. We can do all three in a wonderful, sweet and elegant fashion, or we can fuck it up. It’s all up to us.
RF: I really love how you capture light and use it as if it belongs to you, as if it’s a piece of your kit which creates a dream like feel to your images. Is this all down to your own imagination or do you take inspiration from anywhere else?
Wonderful! I like dreaming. Just not when I dream about loosing a tooth. Someone very lovely told me it means you loose someone in life! Actually I get inspired by life. Everywhere. When I’m dreaming, when I look out the window, a hotel room, a museum, music, emotions, the grapevine, things which surprise me or even looking at a blank paper thinking of what could be on there can be inspiring. Anything that evokes memories and gives me goosebumps. Anything or anyone I like to look at and listen to over and over again. A wonderful song I hear 3 days in a row. A painting which tickles me pink. The very lovely person who told me about the meaning of the tooth dream.
RF: In London, personally I have seen a rise of otherwise talented fashion photographers selling themselves short by photographing their friends in clubs and sending them to big publications such as ‘Vice’ in order to try and get their name seen, is this something you would have ever thought of doing when you were starting out?
No. I did not became a photographer to get my name out there. I always was just interested in experiencing a feeling which goes into bowels and create transcendency so that this feeling also reaches the viewer. I want to do what I love. I want to do what I’m interested in, what I am attracted to. For me every shot has a reason. It’s never random. Or do girls dress for boys? No. They dress for themselves, and of course for each other. If girls dressed for boys they would just run around naked at all times.
RF: If you could create a series of images where budget was no object, what would you do?
I would like to have the budget to let a whole circus with pink elephants, clowns, acrobats, penguins and magicians ride down Broadway. They all will be ridden by hundreds of celebrities, politicians, fashion icons, supermodels and all my friends. The streets are flooded with milk, the empire state building is peppered with diamonds and it is raining tears from a star. With this Budget I would shoot a project I do not want to talk about because I am seriously going to work on it in the future.
RF: If you could work with anyone either of past generation or living today who would it be and why?
Virgin Mary. I like to work with everyone who is interesting.
RF: In the last decade fashion photographers themselves all seemed to not care about image consciousness, now in 2010 there is a whole new approach of photographers that are young, trendy and hot, the British public seem to be more fascinated by them than the actual work they produce, do you think this is something which will last or is it just a fad?
I believe that personality is the only essence that can make someone different and irreplaceable. Look at all the big photographers and artists. In general their work is about them. Not about a ‘for any reason’ constructed picture which shows some fashion but rather their own personality. So no matter what the public admires. In a way it’s always going to be about the person who creates the photographs.
RF: I’ve noticed you’ve done a lot of exhibitions, do you prefer them to magazine work?
I love magazines because they are like pop songs. I love exhibitions because they make me think and inspire me by meeting interested and interesting people.
RF: And finally, what does the future hold for your work, in a sense what is in the pipeline for the near future?
I don’t like to talk about future projects. Not out of secrecy but because discussing them extensively robs me of the desire to actually do them. However too much is not enough.