By Wendy Vogel
A riot of color, texture and larger-than-life personalities, photographer Landon Nordeman’s new book, “Out of Fashion” (Damiani), captures the glamour and the aftermath of runway shows. The New York-based artist, who started his career as a photojournalist, has covered everything from cat shows to the 2016 Presidential campaign. In 2013 he was tapped by New York magazine’s The Cut to cover Fall Fashion Week, and has found in high fashion an ongoing font of inspiration for his dramatic, humorous and stunning snaps.
You started your career as a documentary photographer. What led you to fashion?
My series of photographs on dog shows, called Canine Kingdom (2002–14), caught the eye of Stella Bugbee, the editorial director of The Cut at New York magazine. She had a hunch that I would thrive at Fashion Week. She was correct!
This book is called “Out of Fashion,” implying that it’s either unfashionable or evolving from fashion to...something else.
The title allows the audience to interpret it as they wish. It’s true that I began as an outsider to fashion, and it’s also true that the book evolved from fashion—but I would not call it unfashionable. It’s purely my own perspective, or interpretation, of the world of fashion—it’s what I saw.
Who are your artistic influences?
There are so many artists whose work I love, but photographically speaking, Garry Winogrand and Guy Bourdin are my favorites.
What has been your favorite photographic subject to date?
It’s impossible to choose a favorite. I love this quote from Victor Hugo: ‘All the corners of the earth are exactly the same. And anywhere one can dream is good, providing the place is obscure and the horizon is vast.’ For the last four years, fashion week has provided one place for me to dream.
Have Instagram and other social media platforms changed the way you photograph?
Yes, Instagram has changed the way I shoot because it provides community. The community in turn provides inspiration and encouragement. That’s the hardest part of being a photographer—self-motivation. The work I see and the feedback I receive motivates me and encourages me. That is a powerful force.
Do you see a difference between art and fashion photography? Where does your work fall within those categories?
In academic terms, yes, there’s a difference, but I prefer not to make distinctions about what constitutes art or fashion photography. Often the line between them blurs. The questions I ask myself when judging a photograph are: Does it intrigue me? Does it surprise me?
Your book has a lot of incredible candid shots of fashion icons. Did you have any difficulty securing access to your subjects?
Access is a challenge at Fashion Week all of the time—I always want to get close, and I always want to be able to move. I believe in making the most out of what you have at the time. I believe that pictures can happen anywhere.
The question of nature versus artifice comes through in your compositions, and also your attention to details such as patterning. I’m thinking about the photograph of makeup brushes in a case patterned with grass. Can you tell me more about that?
Yes, I love juxtapositions, and I love moments or details that are beautiful but strange to me—or better said: that look strange when photographed. Fashion Week is filled with those moments if you’re looking closely. I believe in the idea of looking for questions in a photograph instead of answers.
The candid images in this book are often less than glamorous: the rows of photographers in suits designed to protect their clothes from wet paint, the Louvre reflected in the warped mirrored Dior building constructed for a fashion show, a hair extension on a table after a show. Did you begin this book as a critique of image-making?
No. This book is not at all a critique of image-making, or of fashion. I never set out with preconceived notions of a subject or of a photograph. I photograph in an instinctual way, responding to what is in front of me. I have an idea of what I am looking for—color, humor, gesture, beauty, mystery—but I never know exactly what it is until I see it. I have found that the most interesting images often reside within the edges of an event—and from before or after the spectacle has occurred.
Is the fashion world able to laugh at itself?
Yes, it certainly is. I experienced many examples of that. However, when the show is about to start, and careers, reputations and dollars are on the line, it is no laughing matter.