Together with Juergen Teller, stylist-turned-photographer Venetia Scott spearheaded the “anti-fashion” movement in the 90s, challenging pre-conceptions in fashion photography by putting the narrative – rather than the clothes – centre stage. With Jigsaw among her clients at the time, she talks to us about how the industry has changed since the heyday of the 90s.
Among the brands you worked with in the 90s was Jigsaw. Tell us about that experience.
I worked together with Juergen (Teller) on a few Jigsaw campaigns in the mid 90s. The idea, as ever, started with the casting and then the locations. We had some great trips: Palermo, Prague and Berlin. We started with a concept, which evolves during the shoot. The places you scout on the recce day, the weather and the girl all contribute to shaping the images when you get there.
If you were to shoot a new season campaign for Jigsaw in 2016, how would you approach it?
I think defining the girl and boy and then setting them in the relevant environment are the key starting points.
You’ve described the 14 years spent working with Juergen Teller as “extraordinary; an exciting time in fashion”. What’s the first thing you think of when you look back to that time? How does it make you feel?
I feel very lucky to have had that long collaboration. When I look back it seems like an experimental, fun, vibrant and exhilarating time. We went all over the world. It was exciting, maybe that’s called hindsight.
Does fashion still excite you today?
Yes, I am still excited by fashion and image making, and I’m happy to be behind the camera now.
What prompted the move from stylist to photographer?
I thought I was probably better at interpreting my thought process than someone else. I still enjoy the styling aspect of image making and I find by marrying the styling and photography side, it helps to tie everything together.
What makes a great photograph?
An image that commands your attention and sticks with you.
Which photographers do you think best encapsulate the current mood in fashion? Who is doing – in terms of innovation and change – what you and Juergen and co did in the 90s?
I don’t think it’s a moment of innovation and change but I like Jamie Hawkesworth’s and Harley Weir’s pictures.
How has the fashion industry changed since the 90s?
The industry was less restricted in the 90s. Less mood boards were requested during the run up to the shoots, which meant there was more room for improvisation and creativity. I think digital opens the shoot up for too many people to have their say.
And what about technology in general? What impact has that had on your work?
Technology has made it easier to research for shoots – whether it’s bizarre imagery, locations, casting, access to all designers. It has also meant people have more access to my images even if they didn’t buy the magazine. Digital has made shooting safer for the photographer and client but I still like the unknown element of shooting on film.
Has it been easy to stay true to your handwriting, where the narrative comes before the clothes? Or are magazines more dictated to by brands and advertisers?
Being freelance makes it easier not to conform because you can move about between magazines and clients. The control advertisers have over editorial is detrimental to pushing ideas forward but it’s an integral part of the process now and you have to work with it.
When you were 13, you met a friend of your mother’s who worked at Vogue and you knew then that you wanted to work there. What was it exactly that drew you to Vogue?
Everything. The building – ‘Vogue House’ – the people who worked there and even the letter heading. In the 80s it felt like the summit of style.
And if you were 13 today, which magazine would cast that same spell on you? Or would it not be a magazine?
Difficult to say. I’m not sure that magazines are the most exciting things for teenagers now.
When you did begin your career at Vogue, you said you were inspired by strong women like Beatrix Miller and Grace Coddington. What was it about them that inspired you?
I started at Vogue in 1984. The women that worked there were my role models.
What inspires you today?
Taking pictures, projects, collaborations, reading, movies, the sea, walking, changing landscapes. I usually work with Poppy Kain, Alister Mackie and Beth Fenton on editorials. They inspire me.
You also loved the “uniform” at Vogue: Azzedine Alaia and lunches at Cecconi’s. Do you still wear Alaia? Who are your favourite designers? And where’s the best place for lunch?
I wear more Prada now. My favourites are Prada, Celine, Marc Jacobs and Roksanda Ilincic. I like going to the Wolseley.
Interview by Ana Santi