People often mention your background as a fashion photographer. One thing about this statement though is that your first series of photos to be published in a major fashion magazine [Dutch #36, 2001, 'the ponnies'] were not really fashion photos at all. They were images of young people, friends and family, from your village in rural Germany. What then, if it was not an object or apparatus of the fashion industry, gave this series of photographs its connection to 'fashion'?
I never cared too much about the categories of high and low culture. I have nothing against a quality, popular, magazine. My fascination with photography had to do with the fact that it is a relatively banal medium. It has very few social barriers. It is an easy medium to 'achieve', both in production and reception. During my studies in photography I was not interested in the art-photography nexus, I did not think of myself as an artist or about how to fit into the different categories for being a photographer. Perhaps it was quite naïve, but I just had a way of looking at what I experienced.
The second part of the answer is quite different. Youth and sexuality in a pure or unmade way is very attractive for the fashion industry. Youth and sexuality are building blocks of identity. This material is recycled as a marketing image. It is something that fashion photography is always utilizing. When a model is styled by a stylist they wear clothes differently to how people wear clothes when they choose this for themselves. In the 1990s there was a very strong moment for photography that was about 'authenticity'. It was something photo-artists in a way had brought into connection with fashion, something which is already no longer conceivable. Today, not just in fashion, it is much more about the recycling of visual codes. Therefore, the question of authenticity no longer persists.
Still, fashion has certainly been more than a casual interest for you. Till this day you work from time to time as a fashion photographer, regardless of what guise or which role. Fashion in a more expanded sense is a key subject in all of your photography. Your interest in clothes, style, personality, the individual subject and the apparatus with which we channel these ideas of selfhood and personal identity are all part of the 'discourse' of fashion. What is the connection here?
Whether you believe it or not, fashion interests me very little. I may well have a feeling for who should wear what and how. But I find it always a little silly this excessive interest in designer collections. For me, it is everything around the clothes that, from the very first moment, I find captivating. An authentic person, place or situation should ideally make many layers of reflection from the artifice of fashion. People either create their own self-interpretations or they are interpreted. That representation is put there by people. To make this reference from a particular label is a very conventional approach. All clothes are full of the codes of cultural history. Through clothing a restricted area of life can be expanded. This is also true in the reverse: clothing can change a context and consequently broaden fields of association. For this, you need to have an assured sense of "style" to convince. People have to know what piece of clothing actually makes a connection with a person, a place or a situation and how it is or is not comprehended. Therefore, at least for me, the concept of authenticity is still relevant.
You articulate here an interesting idea of authenticity, a situation where the authentic is that which convinces or what people agree to believe. From your perspective then, is style and fashion a game of collective fictions or is it still possible to connect it to lived experiences and true desires?
Can we make such a clear separation? I don't think so. Collective fictions are, whether we are conscious of it or not, part of lived and living experience. There is no facet of life that is not influenced by fiction. This is a continuous process of displacement. It is expedient to take this as a subject in itself. For this reason, fiction requires its opposite, the so- called real. Maybe it is too much to demand that the topic of fashion be treated like this. But when it happens, fashion is truly fascinating.
(Rob McKenzie, 2008)