NOTE: The interview of Mr Sonny Vandevelde is part of the 6th issue of ISTEROGRAFO magazine dedicated to fashion, coming out tomorrow February 1st 2010 in Cyprus as a supplement of Phileleftheros Newspaper . All photographs by Sonny Vandevelde
Dear iDEALS, Aussie Sonny Vandevelde’s works and fashionable nerve are no secret. As soon as any of the big fashion weeks begin, make sure that you are fast enough to see him running around with his camera. And that stands for all the major defiles, because Sonny is always there, faster than a ray of light. Here is what he told me during Summer SS2010 Paris Fashion week presentations..
Sonny you are a fashion photographer, yet what made you famous is your ability of getting the real pulse of things with your backstage photographs, season after season. What’s so thrilling about fashion’s backstage?
That it is constant, it is always changing, the collection, the hair the make up , the models at some shows the designers for the house etc... It is like a constant continuous evolution, and I'm there, and it is so exciting and exciting and privilege to be there to be not really a part of it, but to be able to document it.
Wowwww, many-many years, but if we talk just backstage from the Paris collections, it started after I started commuting between Australia and Belgium more frequently, and it was one week I was trying to book a model and this make up artist for a shoot (I think it was Peter Philips) but they were not available, as a lot of the other make up artist and models, so after a few "nope , she's booked out as well.
I was like” what's going on, why is nobody available?? "Paris fashion week, darrrling " . So then I thought, well I do the shows in Australia all the time for Harper's Bazaar, why not take the week off and go check out Paris?
Cut a long story short, after hanging out backstage with some of the models and make up artists I knew, and taking shots, Marie Claire got to see them while we had a production meeting about an up coming editorial shoot, and they bought the whole lot, and that is how it started.
As I said, it’s always changing, but then you also see things coming back again, but in a re -interpretation, and yes, I get a little proud /happy feeling sometimes, when I followed the career of some of the Antwerp graduates, who's graduation show I photographed in Antwerp and to then see them hold their own during London Fashion Week and see articles written about their collection in the fashion magazines, that's pretty awesome.
We are almost out of the “crisis”. How did it reflect on the collections?
Well, at first I feared that we would have a very demure collection, with a lot of designers opting for safe and or black, but we have seen some of the best collections from a lot of designers.
Galliano for sure, and then Bruno Pieters, Rick Owens, Haider Ackerman and as always Ann Demeulemeester
I have seen how you work and it is really (really) impressive. You are as fast as a ray of light. What are the rules you follow and how hard it is to be invisible backstage in terms of not causing any trouble with your presence?
Well , there is no real rules, or "guide book to backstage photography", it comes down to being respectful of the people around you trying to do their job, to the make up artist doing a touch up of the lips in the line up, or a seamstress noticing a loose button and quickly putting in an extra stitch.
You have to be mindful of these people around you who are there to do a job and make sure it is smooth/perfect runway show, and then I weave around these people to try and get my shot, a lot of times I don't get the shot I want or see, because somebody was in the way, but c'est la vie, and move onto trying to find/get the next good shot
Food, drinks ( and plenty of food and drinks ) and PR and production staff who know what they are doing , so they do not run around "stressing out "and then in turn bringing the mood down backstage. Good casting..
Recently you exhibited your years of covering hundreds of fashion shows, supported by HINT magazine in New York. Could you add more details on how the exhibition idea came up until the day when your work was presented to people?
I am not sure how the answer this question completely , but the idea came up a long time ago when they used to have a tent set up in the Carpark of the Soho Grand, and would have shows for Preen, Karen Walker, ThreeasFour etc.... in this tent.
Tommy Saleh, who is the creative director from Soho Grand and Tribeca Grand, seemed like a really nice guy, so I told him we should do an exhibition of my photos in the hotel, and it grew from that. So this was the first one, and already we plan to do it again next year, as it was a success.
There is a lot more work involved in actually putting up an exhibition than I first thought, but now that I know this, the next one will be a bit easier to produce.
That it is constantly evolving. And how it excites so many people, almost like a drug.
What are the difficulties of your profession? SonnyVandevelde: People not understanding the role I play and the benefit the designers get from having me there, and photos being published of their collection. The hectic schedule and therefore the lack of eating and me losing weight.
The age of digital making everything so immediate, which means no after-parties or dinners for me when the shows are finished as I am sitting in the hotel room eating room service and processing all the days worth of photos (is there anybody out there want to work for free and sit in my hotel room processing photos, so I can go out to dinner??)
You are also a neat surfer back home Australia… SonnyVandevelde: Yes I am!! Surfing is my yoga, and my outlet, when the waves are gentle and calm it is relaxing, and when they get bigger, it is a good physical and mental exercise.
With the advent of internet, I have become more known, but only for my backstage pictures, it is time again, people get to know my editorial work as well. But then I need some good stylists to collaborate with.