Monday December 1st, 2014 by Alexandra Beckers
Ben Evans, also known as The English Photographer, was one of the official photographer’s at the Fresh Faces 2014 Grand Finals. He is specialised in Fine Art Photography, Photography Coaching to HNW Clients and Portrait, Editorial, Commercial and Street Photography in Barcelona and London. However, for the Fresh Faces Grand Finals he stepped into Fashion photography and achieved – like in 2013- to impress us with his final result. In contrary to last year, this time he has been one of the main photographer for the photo shoots which took place at DHUB and ModaFad.
Read on to know about Ben’s experience as a photographer at the Fresh Faces Grand Finals!
ModelManagement: Last year you captured behind the scenes moments and this year you were one of the official photographers who shot Fresh Faces 2014 finalists at DHUB & ModaFad! What was different and how did you enjoy this experience? Which job was more fun to you and why?
Ben Evans: I started photography as a passive observer and have become more of an active director. I’m comfortable with a documentary style but I had more fun this year because I learned more.
BE: We had a great team, with Patrica Mullen (a.k.a. Making Faces) doing hair and make-up, Katie Donoghue (a.k.a. Kiss and Makeup) doing hair, makeup and styling and Laia Encinas and Richea Iulia doing styling. They’re excellent and work really well together. I had a couple of vague ideas about photographing a gap-year traveller/ boho theme and a superyacht lifestyle theme. Both require very different looks and we only had a few days to get everything ready. They rose to the challenge and put in some crazy hours to get everything together. The team fully fleshed out the concepts and brought them to life with recognisable brands but also eclectic one-off vintage pieces too. Then, Patricia and Katie were an invaluable help with the castings, choosing the right models to suit the looks.
And of course there wasn’t much time to shoot two such different looks either, so they really worked magic to pull it all together. Iulia and Laia had iconic input into the styling. Patricia and Katie really understand how to do make-up specifically for photography too which really helped the final looks.Also want to say a big thanks to Michau Breet and Hiromi Torres for their invaluable assistance with the photography and lighting – couldn’t have done it without them!
MM: Did you like to work with fresh aspiring models? What kind of tips do you give to models that are still getting used to being in front of a camera?
BE: Sure, compared to more experienced models, fresh models generally aren’t as good at posing so there’s always an element of serendipity present. It is important to learn how to pose properly and how to present yourself to best fit the shoot’s intended look. But don’t think you need to know anything in order to create great photographs. Look at the photographer’s portfolio and if you like it, trust that they will make you look good if you relax and listen to their advice. It’s helpful to get un-stifled before the shoot; the trick is to learn how to change how you feel using your body, not your mind.
MM: Do you have any advice for aspiring models? What makes a world-class model, for you?
BE: Many people get into modelling because someone tells them they look good. Looks are important, but good genetics are only a fraction of what it takes to really stand out. The secret is looking and feeling your best. Your body is the main product so it makes sense to invest in it; a clean macrobiotic diet with yoga will really help. I’m always amazed by how early top models go to sleep and how hard they work to look their best. No one is the same so have a nutritionist find what’s right for you. Basic philosophy; eat (unprocessed) food, not too much, mostly plants.
You also have to hustle. Make sure as many people as possible know you’re available for modelling work. Use ModelManagement, Instagram and Facebook of course, but also build a close relationship with your agency if you have one, or reach out to the best in your city if you’re not signed yet. And master your craft. Marie Ange Schmitt-Lebreton is an inspiration because she really understands how to move elegantly, and projects a positive, upbeat energy. Xin Jie Liu really stood out because she is comfortable with the camera and has obviously practised posing.
My favourite quality in a model is a sense of irreverence. Fashion is great, enormously creative and attracts some really amazing people who are fun to collaborate with. But it exists in the most part to sell products; it’s not essential, as Shakespeare said hundreds of years ago about fashion;
‘If only to go warm were gorgeous,
Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear’st,
Which scarcely keeps thee warm’
Fashion is both an expression of identity and an armour. A study by Sivanathan and Pettit indicated that ‘when one’s “ego” is threatened, people are more inclined to buy high-status goods’. People buy based on emotion, so it’s no surprise that the industry has an unhealthy side too. Models who are able to understand their role in selling fashion tend to have an irreverence about them that actually makes the photographs more authentic, and thus more engaging.
Models are often encouraged not to smile for many reasons. Psychologically, not smiling can indicate higher status, though less friendliness, and enable elite brands to sell at a premium. Ketelaar found that ‘the non-smiling faces of the higher status brands are not trying to make the consumer feel bad; they are simply attempting to display the signals that are associated with higher status.’ But this marketing tactic can lead impressionable teens to think that being gloomy is somehow desirable.
Sometimes, the model is told to keep a blank expression; this is to keep the attention on the clothes. To stand out, your personality needs to shine through. A world-class model becomes a brand in their own right. Study marketing to discover how to position yourself if you want to stand out and be able to charge higher fees.
MM: What about learning photography? More and more models want to do both. What should we know?
BE: The best bet is just to get a camera and start shooting. Don’t get a film one! Some people turn up on my one-to-one Holistic Photography Essentials course in Barcelona with a film camera because they’re trendy. My advice is to start with digital because learning is making mistakes, and with a digital camera, making mistakes is free. They encourage innovation. Go wild, try everything.
But then imagine if a Kalahari bushmen, who’d never driven before, found a car in the desert. Even if the keys were in it, they’d probably not be able to go anywhere. Why not? No training. It would take years to discover the ‘bite point’ on the clutch and give just enough acceleration to get started without stalling.
A five minute lesson and they’d be great, and able to learn the rest through trial and error. It’s the same with photography. People don’t expect to drive a car or play a piano without lessons but too many people flounder about for years taking worthless pictures because they don’t get coaching. Photography is so easy; but you do need a bit of training. It literally will cut years, often decades off your learning time. Have a look at the Dunning-Kruger effect. The best way to learn is in person, one on one. Find someone whose photos you love and reach out to them.
I’m learning more advanced techniques in retouching at the moment, always having relied upon simple contrast adjustments and a bit of tidying up. Now, two incredibly talented artists, Julia Hernandez and Nastya Kazakova (who did all the retouching for the group shot) are sharing their expertise with me. There’s always more to learn.
MM: How did you come to fashion photography? Is this something you like to work on further and why (not)?
BE: I’ve been interested in fashion since I was young. Probably because I was shy when I was younger and it was a way to express myself. But then I also just like the colours and textures. My favourite piece is a pair of trousers I had made in Sierra Leone. I found a crazy black and yellow material in a textile market and a local tailor in Freetown made them to measure.
I’m very inspired by the traditional English fashions. Gentlemen would have a suit made on Savile Row and then wear it for twenty years. Compare that with modern mass fashion that’s disposable, and produced at a large environmental and human cost. Some brands such as Schwanen retain these practices, and I admire them for it. Jeremy Hackett created a successful business by focussing on quality English heritage clothing while the prevailing fashion at the time was an upheaval against the same. They’ve been able to innovate while staying true to their core philosophy. I’ve not worked with them yet, but I’d very much like to.
For me, fashion photography is being able to create a fantasy world that’s believable enough to buy into. I want things lived in and used. I want the models to at least resemble real people in real scenarios. I used to be the photographer for the HAC polo team, the oldest regiment in the British Army; Hackett sponsored polo – it would be amazing to photograph a shoot based around this. I’m trying out ‘plastic’ styles because there’s a demand for it, but the signs indicate that it’s increasingly commercially viable to focus on ‘real beauty’. It needn’t be real; but it should be believable. I’d like to continue working with brands who embody these ideals; who understand that it can be very profitable if done right.
MM: What kind of shootings are you usually involved in? And what was your greatest experience during your career?
BE: Photography allows you to do and see things that would be very tricky if you didn’t have a camera, and also to bring back the proof that they happened! I thoroughly enjoyed a shoot with James Wardell, a truly fearless and independent war/ commercial/ people photographer, in Cancun, Mexico photographing 3,500 people. They were housed in 5 star hotels for the weekend with free drinks and a few A-list stars in attendance. I took 5,000 photos in 2 days and still have a scar on my finger from shooting so much. Afterwards, we travelled down to Belize where, after avoiding the gun crime and gang violence, we ended up staying with a Mennonite family in the middle of the jungle. It was quite a contrast.
I teach more often than I photograph for clients now. It’s more rewarding because you can see an evolution and really change how someone sees the world by focussing on ‘unknown unknowns’. My clients are generally exceptional people from all walks of life so I learn a great deal from them, too. I accept photography commissions that are interesting and that will expand my knowledge and experience. Because I teach, I’ve not had to specialise, so I’ve studied and practiced enough to photograph across a wide range of genres from fashion editorial, to jewellery, to street to portraiture to commercial. I love it.
MM: What advantages do you find in a site such as ModelManagement.com?
BE: The site is good because it’s helped commoditise the market by consolidating agency models with the mass of undiscovered talent. This database has been helpful, but interface is crucial and the future is mobile. The new Model Search app has revolutionised the modelling industry; and many people haven’t realised yet. ModelMayhem doesn’t cater to professionals in the same way the ModelManagement/ Production Paradise team do; Andreas Von Estorff’ background and industry contacts have given the company an edge. It’s always rewarding to work with people who share a compelling vision and are actively, realistically looking to the future.
Thank you Ben for the interview and the insight you gave us into your experiences made during the Grand Finals Fresh Faces 2014. I think especially our aspiring models cannot wait to work and learn from your advice! Find the latest work from Ben Evans on his profile and website!
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