Born in Shropshire, England, Ogden grew up in London. In his early teens, he picked up a Zenit camera and the rest was history — he knew he was destined to become a photographer. From interviewing The Cash's Joe Strummer and Andy Warhol at Studio 54 to capturing Irish travellers on the road and even pop superstar Adele, the photographer has always been interested in people. His work has been featured in magazines such as Vogue Italia and L’Uomo Vogue and he has shot advertising campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Chloé and Calvin Klein.
"Always think about the moment, what you really want to do, what’s appealing to you and what you’re excited about."
"My photography has always been less is more. Understated and subtle if you like." The legendary creative has also published three photography books: Pony Kids, 7 Reece Mews: Francis Bacon's Studio and Paddy and Liam. He also directed an award-winning documentary called Pavee Lackeen (The Traveller Girl).
"It's really important to research and look at things. By looking at other people's work, be it a fashion designer or a photographer or a painter or a filmmaker — those for me were the sources of inspiration, and magazines of course — but really anything that grabs your attention and captures your eye, explore it, really explore it."
In his Polimoda duets, Perry discusses life-changing moments in his career, crediting his success to hours of research and his passion for fashion photography and magazines. "It's really important to research and look at things. By looking at other people's work, be it a fashion designer or a photographer or a painter or a filmmaker — those for me were the sources of inspiration, and magazines of course — but really anything that grabs your attention and captures your eye, explore it, really explore it."
"Always think about the moment, what you really want to do, what’s appealing to you and what you’re excited about."
Perry Ogden | Polimoda Duets #11
TRANSCRIPT | Duets with Perry Ogden
Ashley McDonnell: Hello, I'm Ashley McDonnell. I'm a technologist within the luxury industry. I've spent the last few years working with groups like LVMH and now I work for Google in a luxury role. I'm super happy to be here today to speak to Perry Ogden. He's a filmmaker, he's a photographer, he has worked all over the world with the biggest names in the industry. I think we're really lucky to be able to ask you the different questions we have today to understand your career and how you got to where you are today. Welcome, Perry.
Perry Ogden: Well, thank you, Ashley. Very happy to be here.
Ashley: Thank you. Can I start with just asking you, how did it all begin for you?
Perry: I think it really began by looking at magazines and looking at pictures, probably initially at music magazines, like New Music Express, Melody Maker Sound back in the '70s when I was still in school. That gave me an interest in popular culture and from there, I started looking at fashion magazines.
Ashley: Great. Okay. I know a little bit from your work that you originally did start your own magazine when you were still in school. Could you tell us a little bit about that? How you had this startup mindset already from a very young age to create something that didn't exist?
Perry: I think that when I was about 13, 14, I probably got my first camera, Zenith-E. For those who know about Russian cameras, that will ring a bell. It's a long story. My mother was the women's page editor of the London Times when I was very young and I was at school across the road from the Times' office and printing house square out of school, go to the City of London. After school I would play football and then be thrown out of the school playground and wander over to my mom's office. She would give me some things to do, drawing or whatever, but she would then get something from the printing works.
At that time all the newspapers were printed on-site. The whole floor of this building would have been dedicated to that. One of the printers would have taken me off and got me to set my name and type or do something like that and then take me to the café to get a cup of tea and a cheese row. I remember that very well. I just started taking interest. I guess that was my original looking at magazines and papers, just being in a paper but it seemed very unconscious at the time.
Later, I went to school at Eton. My mother died when I was 11 and then I got sent away to school. At Eton, we started doing photography, making thin-hole cameras and we were in the dark from processing the film and it brought back the smells of the printing works and the times and memories of my mother. It was a very powerful sense, if you like. Then I started to look at these music magazines and I decided I wanted to be a photographer quite early on. Probably by 14 or 15, I had the sense that that was what I might do.
I started getting holiday jobs with a photographer. Also, my aunt, Brigid Keenan, who is still alive, very much alive, was a fashion journalist. My mother had been born in Rangoon and my aunt, Brigid, had been born in India. I guess they were probably sent to England for school when they got to a certain age. At a very young age, my aunt, Brigid, probably with the help of my mother, became a fashion editor at the Sunday Times in the very late '50s.
Ashley: You had this exposure from a really young age to print, to fashion, to the industry and international experience as well very international, especially for the Times. That led you to having this passion and a vision?
Perry: Definitely. Then I started working for a photographer known as John Timbits. He had worked with Tony Armstrong-Jones who became Lord Snowdon for about five or six years before Snowdon got married and was made to give up photography by royal decree because it was a trade and royals don't do that. John was led out on his own and started doing some of the things that Snowdon had been doing and doing portraits for the Berg and theater things.
When I was working with John initially just making cups of tea and coffee and sweeping the floor, it was a great way to learn because it was like an old fashioned Victorian apprenticeship. John had everything. He had his office, he had the studio, he had a darkroom, they had a retouch and he shared the studio with a photographer called Zoe Dominant. He was kind of the Annie Leibovitz of that day and did a lot of film before I was great friends with Warren Beatty, did all the fixtures for Reds, the film.
I remember sorting all the Kodachromes for, and so it was a great learning curve. John would photograph people like John Gielgud, and Lawrence Olivier, and Barry Humphries, Dame Edna, doing portraits in the studios, so you got to see all this. Then, of course, as I learnt more and John taught me to develop film and to make prints and to use the lights and the cameras and, I guess, he was the first one to let me use the studio, do my own pictures. That was probably just after I'd left school, when I was working for him.
This all led to me doing this magazine Lipstick. In school, in my last year at school, with a group of friends, we got together and we did a one-off magazine. It was loosely inspired by Andy Warhol's interview, and David Baily and David Litchfield's Ritz newspaper. Which in turn had been inspired by an interview. It was a one-off magazine in my last year.
Perry: That girl was my girlfriend at the time, dressed up in school uniform. Then we went to interview Joe Strummer from The Clash.
Perry: I'm sure that was taken on the Edgeware Road. He agreed to meet us in the milk bar.
Ashley: When you were creating this, how did you come up with the ideas? Did you already have the idea of who you were creating it for? Or was it more so, "We want to speak to these people," and creating this magazine was just an opportunity to connect with them?
Perry: I think that we wanted to do something that was different to the college chronicle which was and old fashioned. We wanted to do something that was a little more punk, if you like, because the punk aesthetic at that time for a couple of years, had been massive and was a huge influence. That kind of do-it-yourself, that anybody can do what they like. You don't even need to know three chords to go and play in a band. You can just be good looking like Paul Simonon.
Perry: I went to New York to interview Andy Warhol.
Perry: He took me to Studio 54. That was quite an eye-opener. Also while I was in New York, I photographed and interviewed Diana Vreeland who was the most amazing, most amazing woman and was just incredibly enthusiastic and helpful. She rang up Richard Avedon while I was there to say that he should meet me. I was totally embarrassed, of course. Unfortunately, Avedon was going to China the next day, so it never happened. Avedon's show at the Met had just been on, it just closed. This is probably April '79, but I did get a copy of his amazing book. It was the book from the Met show.
I met David Bailey, who was the other person. Bailey was really my introduction to photography and fashion photography, in that I went to-- He was one of the first photographers whose work I became really aware of probably through Ritz newspaper. I went to seek out Goodbye Baby & Amen, his book from the late '60s.
Later, my aunt, who used to work with Bailey and Shrimpton in the early '60s. The three of them would go on shoots together before you even had hair and makeup. Jean Shrimpton would do her own hair and makeup, and my auntie, Brigid, would provide the clothes and Bailey would take the pictures and do all the direction, no doubt.
She later gave me a copy of Baileys box of pin-ups, which is an amazing collector's item now. He couldn't get rid of them at the time. Yes, that was a big influence. Look, the great thing about this magazine is that Barry was in charge of the advertising as well and we went and got really great advertisers like Olympus. So there was a connection between the advertising, and the editorial and this-- Brigid has done a book called The Women We Wanted to Look Like which had just been published at the time.
Ashley: Absolutely fantastic. It's really like a historic capsule of the time.
Perry: And Veruschka, those were the ones we chose. Andy Warhol gave us some images that we could use. There was a sports area, sadly not the originals. The chromes. Then we did an article about Biba, they did the makeup for the cover.
Ashley: Absolutely beautiful.
Perry: Biba was started by a woman called Barbara Hulanicki. She had an amazing store in High Street Kensington at that time. I guess one of the early fashion emporiums, and then, of course, they did makeup. Then there were other some things about eating sticks and stones of Eton, and some other things that mixed in with it. That was my first experience of putting together a magazine. It was done for the 4th of June holiday, so we went out and sold them on the day. We had already made a profit before we even sold the copy.
I think the rule was you could make £25 from it. Then anything up that, you had to go to a local charity which was perfect. No problem, we were up for that. Myself and-- I'm just looking back at the few-- Myself and Roy Phillips were the co-editors contributing-- There's Justin Adams, Hugo. Justin's now a guitarist for Robert Plant's band. That's what he always wanted to do [crosstalk].
Ashley: Incredible. I imagine at the time, this was a highly innovative really modern, perhaps even controversial creation at the time?
Perry: I guess so, but when you're doing these things, you never think about that. You're just thinking about what you want to do. Yes, you're breaking with tradition and you want to do something that's a bit more exciting than what's on hand than what's been done to date. It's a bit like the panic is much later.
You don't think about it at the time that it could still have a life in 20 years later, it's important at that moment. I think that's what's crucial about doing things, never think about the posterity, always think about the moment and what you really want to do, and what's appealing to you, and what you're excited about.
Ashley: Absolutely. Probably just to go back to something that you said about when you were in the creation process, when you were in the darkroom it's like memories really came back to you because of the smell around print, around these traditional methods of actually creating. Today, that's something that we don't really have in a digital world. Tell me a little bit about how you feel about that and how you transitioned into this more digitalized era.
Perry: Yes, digital has been a big revolution. I probably started doing digital a little later than many people because I just loved them. Even though at that stage, let's say this is probably the early to mid, let's say, probably mid-noughties before I started really doing-- 2005, 2006, probably the earliest digital images I was doing.
I remember doing something in the States for a store there, and they wanted it on digital. The shoot was in LA, and we got some people there who were at the cutting edge of doing it. That was really useful. My printer, Brian Darling from BDI has been doing all my work for about 25 years, maybe longer now. We've always worked together.
Before digital, I would always go over from Ireland or from wherever I was to be in London for a day or two with him while he was printing because even though I wasn't in the darkroom with him, there was a magic because an image would come out and maybe Brian had missed something in the darkroom, but it came out beautifully, unexpectedly and we would go with that. It was important to be there.
Then later, when it became clear that we'd have to do some digital commercially for clients, then I would shoot some film, get a few frames of each shot on film, process that, do a print with that the normal way. Then say, "Okay, once we get the digital file to that point, we'll see what else we can do." For me, it became more about trying to match film rather than going off into the digital world.
The problem with digital, it's too sharp, it's too hard edged, it's too everything. It was all about bringing it down and bringing it back. For me, my photography has always been less is more and understated and subtle, if you like, in terms of the color pallets and ideas and the way it's done. That was my approach to digital. Of course, it has revolutionized in some very good ways and that we can go out and at a moment's notice, you can film things and take pictures.
I think what it's done in the world of fashion, it's slightly diluted everything and I think if the fashion and images that I looked at as a kid and when I was starting out, yes, sure, fashion and fashion magazines were ephemeral, but there were images within that and photographers working within that to artists and whose images still stand up today. Bailey, for example, Thoma Neudson, some of these people's photographs sold for hundreds of thousands at auction including fashion pictures.
I think that now, there's some really great work, there's definitely good work and really strong work, but I think there's a lot of junk. I think that people's attention spans are much less, they say it's seven seconds now looking at social media, a lot of research has been done on that and so we move on very quickly. The work doesn't have to sustain you for very long to have an impact.
Ashley: Absolutely, and I think what's interesting as well is digital, it has somewhat democratized a lot of different industries plus, it's also brought down the barriers to entry, which means we do have a huge flood of content which we didn't have before because it's much easier to create and to share. It also makes things sometimes easier, it brings a lot of opportunities for people to launch themselves where it may not have been possible otherwise. I know that for you, for example, you created your magazine at the beginning, that would have been incredibly hard for quite a lot of people to do, but today, anyone can launch a digital magazine, for example, on their own.
I think there are good things that come from it, but then also, perhaps we're getting further away from the original craft, whether it's photography or whether it's film making. I know you still work in darkrooms and you've gone back to that a little recently, maybe you could tell us a little bit more about that.
Perry: I think it's just become a different craft. It's the very early stages of digital. In some ways, you could say that photography and digital are two different things and some people might even say that digital isn't photography. There's a long discussion that you could have there that could go on for many, many years.
I found myself, I'm currently working on a book of my pictures from over the years at a filmmaker here in Ireland.Kieran McCormick has just made a film about me and my work. It premiered at the Dublin Film festival in March just before the lockdown and, hopefully, it'll be up again in September festivals and we'll then get a release. I'm working on a book that will go alongside that.
Of course, she went back to the very beginning and looking at how I started and the early work and later work and Vogue Italia and l’Uomo Vogue and all sorts of different things. Recently, I was going through the archive quite extensively, still, I am. I'm trying to find things and no bags and bags with negatives that are all here at my studio and I just said, "You know what, I just want to go into the darkroom and start looking at some of these again." I could get someone to digitize them but I obviously want to go in and be in the dark.
It was probably the first time in 20 years that I had been in the darkroom printing. It was wonderful. The first day, it was just wonderful and brought back a lot of memories. It's just a completely different experience being in there in the dark, shining the light on the paper, an image appearing slowly in the developer.
It makes you think about image-making in a different way because you have and whatever else you can go out and just immediately get some pictures and you're making pictures that I find that a lot of these pictures are great if you look at them on a phone, but if you blow them up bigger and look at them in more detail, they don't really hold up.
Ashley: Absolutely. I think it comes down to, again, the idea of attention span and the format that we look at content in. If people are creating content to be consumed for six seconds on a mobile phone, it doesn't have the same objective as when you do a full shoot and you're thinking, this is going to be on a billboard, this is going to be in a magazine. As you said, perhaps it's actually different craft now from what it was before.
Perry: I think it isn't. We won't know really about the images for some years, because it'll be interesting to see which images from the last decade, hold up in 20, 30 years' time, in the same way that we can look back at '80s, '90s and have a sense of what stands out and go back further '60s and '70s. There are certain things that stand out and then we discover somebody new that hadn't been so well-known at the time. This is always exciting. Who knows in 20 years, 30 years, what images will stand out from today?
Ashley: Exactly. Maybe you'll be releasing a digital book with all of your digitally created content over the last 20 years.
Perry: We'll see.
Ashley: Perry, I wanted to ask you a little bit about your travels. I know you've traveled all over the world, you've also lived in some of the creative capitals. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about how that has impacted you and your creative process.
Perry: In the early days, I went to New York, as I said, for the magazine. Then I went back to New York once I started up as a photographer a few times for jobs. I just found it very exciting. At the time, I remember going to stay with Keith Haring and his boyfriend Juan Dubose who was a DJ in the Nightclub area. My girlfriend's sister, Sam, she'd been in art school with Keith and shared a flat. I needed a place to stay for a week and so she said, "Oh, come stay with me, you can stay in my room."
That was brilliant on Broome Street, lower east side, the building is still there. I saw it the last January when I walked by. That experience in New York at that time was very exciting in the early '80s. In '84, I thought, "I'd rather be in New York, that's the center of photography," which it was at that time. I wanted to be there and see if I can get some work there and have the experience of living there. Essentially, I based myself in New York from about '84 to '87. I was back and forward to London and doing things for The Face magazine, and various others. It was an inspirational time. It was just a great city to have that experience of living in.
It's a city I love very much. It's changed quite a bit since, but I still get a buzz when I go back there on that journey and from the airport. When you see the skyline of Manhattan, and I still get a buzz. I'm just excited to be here, and what am I going to do. On my last trip, I did a podcast with Grace Coddington for the National Gallery here in Ireland.
Grace is somebody whose work I've looked at since I started looking at magazines in the, let's say, mid-70s when she was one of the fashion actors there. All those great shoots with people like Norman Parkinson, and then you think of her life. She was modeling from the very late '50s and has worked behind and in front of the cameras.
Most of the great, great photographers like Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton. Up until more recently with Steven Meisel, who I think is probably a great fashion photographer for the last 30 years or so. That was exciting. There's always something new to explore. In other cities, I lived in Paris for a while, but I wasn't really taking pictures then.
That was in the early '90s. I was living between Connemara in the west of Ireland and Paris. I was learning to draw and paint, going to different ateliers. I suddenly got a call out of the blue, two people called me, an editor called Isabella Stanhope. She wanted to do a shoot for Elle magazine, that she was now an editor in Connemara. She knew Elena Christensen.
We got Elena to come to Connemara and be a circus girl. I got a couple of my actor friends to be extras and we set them up in an Irish traveler silver caravan, Italian caravan as they were living out in the middle of nowhere and going about their life. That was a very exciting shoot to do. Then I did a shoot for the W-mega scene when it was relaunched under a creative director, Dennis Freedman. Dennis wanted to do something in Ireland and what I did, I wasn't really doing photos, but these were things that I jumped at. We did a shoot in Connemara with Cecilia Chancellor. That became quite an iconic shoot. It was a time of deconstructed fashion, if you like, so it worked.
This is really important when you're taking fashion pictures, that the clothes work and the situation with the girl or the guy or the kids or whoever you're photographing them on. For me, it's important that it always looks natural, that they adjust themselves and it's a little supernatural in a way, if you like, because you're just upping it a little bit. We did a shoot for W Magazine and the next thing we were going to report from Ralph Lauren, very interested to do some work. Did I have any pictures? Could I send them my portfolio? Really, I didn't have any pictures. I don't think the L pictures had even come out.
The only picture I had was a project I was doing in Connemara for myself which was photographing all my neighbors who were digging the bog and piling up the peat. It was a series that it hadn't been published. I was doing it and then a friend of mine in Japan, Mikey Fujimoto, a creative director and photographer who I worked with a bit in London said, "Am I doing anything?" He's doing this little book, Four Photographers. These pictures I gave to him. This was back in Connemara not sure how well you can see them here. A sense of the image.
Ashley: These were your neighbors in Connemara?
Perry: These were my neighbors in Connemara. I was just living in a little cottage that didn't even have a road to it. I wrote a little piece a little poem and this is what I sent. I had the prints of these, I just packaged them up in a plastic folder, and sent them off to Ralph. Those were just a few to Ralph Lauren.
Ralph himself went mad about these pictures and the clothes and the way they were being worn. Some of it was Comme des Garcons outfits in away. The next thing I knew I was doing a big campaign in Ireland for Ralph Lauren. My photography career started again, and I hadn't thought I'd be doing photographs again for magazines and commercials.
I had that three-year period in Paris of painting and studying and being a student. I think that was quite fruitful in that I hadn't done that before I'd gone straight from school into working. It was a time to re-examine and to look at things and to learn a bit more about color and form that became invaluable because then, everything just took off again.
Ashley: Fantastic. I think it's great to hear about these journeys where you weren't necessarily going in with a specific objective but as things went along, different opportunities arose. You went in for it and you were ready. You had the courage to share these images with Ralph Lauren, from the Bulgan, Connemara, which is absolutely brilliant.
If you go back to your connection with Ireland, I think it's important for me to highlight as well, you put Ireland on the scene in terms of fashion and photography, especially with your images from your books such as Pony Kids, Paddy & Liam. Could you tell us a little bit about that because you've worked a lot with the traveling community and you have quite a beautiful focus on Irish football as well and these images? It'd be great to understand more about your connection with this.
Perry: I think I've always had an interest in the travel community because when I first came to Ireland, Marina Guinness, who was my initial guide, and became my girlfriend and mother of my eldest daughter, Vada. She took me to meet circus people and travelers. Some of the first pictures I took in Ireland were of travelers, so to speak, on Courtney's Circus. Obviously, I heard the story about them and the discrimination against them. I just thought, "Wow, these people are actually truly fascinating because they're living a different kind of life to the rest of us and a life that's more rooted in the earth, if you like." I'd always had an interest.
Then I think it was in the early to mid-'90s, a friend of mine, James, his mother is from America, was in Dublin and he said, "Have you been to the Horse Fair? It's only around the corner from your studio." I said, "No. I've never been to this fair." At that time, there was a big horse fair right in the middle of Dublin. I started going to it, taking some pictures and I thought well, "How would I capture-- I'd like to find a way to capture this, but in a different way to just taking pictures of kids in the Horseback in that background."
Although I did take some of those pictures while I was considering what I could do, in the end, I came up with this idea of just setting up a studio in the Horseback and pulling people out of the crowd to make portraits of them, some with their horses, some on their own, some with their pigeons, whatever it might be, their rabbits.
I just started whenever I was in Dublin on the first Sunday of the month because it happens once a month. I would go early in the morning with my assistants and friends, and we'd set up a studio and start taking portraits. By about mid-day, you'd have to leave because you were swarmed with people and kids would be coming back saying, "Mister, mister, get me on this one," and bring up another horse they wanted to show off. It just became too much, and of course, the horse that they were looking at the background, they can go a bit nuts as well. So we'd always prepare out quite early in the day, but having got some good pictures.
After a couple of years of doing this, this idea, I came up to have an exhibition in Smithfield itself. We blew up all these pictures on a photocopy I had with some of the money I'd got from Ralph Lauren, doing a few campaigns for them, I'd bought this very expensive color photocopier, but it was an amazing machine, you could put out a 12-by-16 print in, and it would eject a 16, it would blow it up, so you got 16 pieces that you could then piece together and make quite a large print. We made the prints that way. We had a big team, gluing them together, and mounting them onto a board, and then putting some clear plastic on top.
We screwed them into the wall in Smithfield and President Mary Robinson came to open the exhibition. I guess, it was about being in solidarity with the kids and their horses and the horse owners, that was a big thing at the time. A lot of these kids were coming either from the traveler background or from the satellite suburbs of Dublin. They were infested with heroin. To me, this was a great positive thing for them to be with horses. I know there were complications, how has it been, never looked at the positive, in case you try to wipe it out.
I think too, it was fascination of travelers who were being settled, particularly on the outskirts of Dublin encouraged to settle, forced settlement in some cases, at the coming together of their culture, with the urban kids who were all above Adidas and Nike and then their hair cuts, that pony-kid haircut. That was fascinating.
Ashley: There were two people in particular that you worked with over, I think a 10-year period, Paddy and Liam, could you tell us a little bit about how that came about, how you worked with them, and maybe, what are they doing today?
Perry: Yes, Paddyand Liam. Paddy, and on the back cover, Liam. He wanted to be on the front cover but hey.
Ashley: Did you flip a coin or how was that decided?
Perry: We couldn't have everything. What happened was that the magazine asked me to do just some pictures in Ireland and I knew Paddy and Liam because it was Vada's mother, Marina, who was my guide and one-time girlfriend, I'd met the parents, Patty and Liam. They'd lived up the road from her and she had gone past and seen a car that she wanted to buy or something like that. One day, there was a terrible accident at the crossroads where they were living and one of their young cousins got knocked down by a car and killed, everybody wanted to flee the scene.
The extended family, they were there, Tommy and Mary, Patty and Liam's parents just came up to Marina's house and told her what had happened. They didn't want to move from the area because they were on the housing list, if they moved out of the county, they would be very quickly taken off the housing list. Marina said, "Well, pull up your caravan in the garden there and you can live there for the time being." She was incredibly generous.
I'm not sure maybe, I think Liam is the eldest, about a year between them. Maybe when Liam had been born, Paddy had not, they were very, very young at that point. I was around a bed and just got to see them grow up, when they were about eight, nine, I thought
it'd be great to document these guys, they're now settled, they were living in the house in Celbridge just outside Dublin. I thought I do a few days in their life. There was a big fanfare that had come into Celbridge, so we did some pictures there and then going fishing, hanging out by the river, not sure exactly how much fishing they got done, but different things. I spent some time with them. It was a good story. Then I did a follow up with them a few years later and then I went out, for the first time, they were just wearing their clothes that I had selected, wear this, wear that or that's too bright or whatever.
The second time, I got a great star stylist to come and actually style them. They wore fashion if you like, and then after that I thought, it'd be great to do, especially the idea of books, I wanted to do a book. We were talking about going back and doing a book of, from day one, that I've collected pictures, but I wanted to do something new, initially, I wanted to do something new. Having spent a month or two never had a moment looking back in the archive and going, "Oh, crikey, this is a lot of work, there's a lot of stuff to look at." I'd actually rather do something else.
I spoke to Tara and just thought, maybe we could go off on a road trip with Paddy and Liam, and do some new pictures, and then we put them all together, we could make a book, that was their story, if you like. At this time they're going through adolescence and about to become adults and how is Ireland changed in that time and what kind of an Ireland are they going to become adults in? Tara brought over some clothes, obviously, she knew them and was able to give them signatures to what they were wearing. We went on a great five-day road trip around Ireland, including Knock and various places. There's Paddy and Knock. As each time that we went out to photograph over the years, I would interview them, because I thought it would be really important that they both are still in Knock,on a rainy day in Knock.
Ashley: Brilliant, that's my fashion there. Did they like wearing these clothes, was it a really exciting experience for them? Did they have their own vision?
Perry: They would tell you that they don't like being dressed up and prefer to wear their own clothes. There's a landscaper from Knock as well. They'd tell you that, but had a great time, we all had a great time. We did landscapes as well, just a sense of Ireland and there they are in the wild west on the bog. For me, that was really, and this was one of the classic in front of that thing. This is the second time we went out, we went to Ballinasloe Horse Fair.
Ashley: Ballinasloe, I know it well. I always went there myself.
Perry: Which was a great place to shoot and gave it a kind of context and when they were younger. Here they are, breaking one of the horses. They'd have this great opportunity to look at marinas and to have horses and all that experience. Then at the fair.
Ashley: Getting some chips, perhaps.
Perry: Getting some chips. I like making stories. There was a little bit like with pony kids when I went off and interviewed all the kids, as many as I could find, when we decided to do a book. Because somebody asked to do a book and I thought, that would be wonderful, but it needs to be more than just the pictures, I want to hear the kids' voices. I went off and found all the kids and interviewed them and then edited the texts and created a little bit of a narrative about how they'd come interview with horses and their experience.
Of course, at that time, when we were doing the pictures, it was all being closed down by the authorities and they were coming up pounding horses, so there was a great story to be told and I wanted to hear it from the kids, firsthand accounts. Likewise, with Paddy and Liam, it was the story of them growing up and becoming adults. When we were in the west, we went to this course race in Mayo that takes place on the beach one day of the year, and they met a girl in the ice cream van who was selling ice creams and they wanted to get on Snapchat with her, they got her address, later, they found out that she was about three hours away from them and it was much too far to travel and they forget it. I liked the idea of the modern traveler who is really traveling from his couch.
Ashley: They'll travel, but not too far.
Perry: Yes, and I know in the summer, their father would try to take them out, the whole family off on the road for a couple of weeks, and of course, the guards would come, the police would come quite soon and check what they're doing and, "Can you move on from this site, it's not a campsite or whatever," and the mother would always say, "Yes, please tell him to take us, I don't want to be out here any longer." [audio cut] you don't get sent home and it will be happy, except the father told me.
Ashley: Going back to what you said about Snapchat, and you know, this newer generation Paddy, I mean, they're young adults now, what do you think is the future for media and for fashion, especially today, there's a microscope on the creative industries, because of COVID, because of the current context, where do you see things evolving?
Perry: I think there's going to be a massive change, people talk about going back to normal, but I think within fashion, there aren't going to be too many survivals, I wouldn't think in terms of the retail, there are the big companies like LVMH, obviously, enormously successful businesses that will be fine, I would imagine, but I think a lot of other people, as we've seen already, particularly in the States with J Crew and even markets, various big companies that couldn't survive without cash flow for a couple of months, it shows what a knife-edge, it was already on before COVID, and going through the COVID experience, I think it'll wipe out a lot of people.
People have been talking for years and years about magazines closing down and there won't be any magazines, but of course, what we saw actually is the opposite, but a lot of them may be published once or twice a year, but they've been kept going because of the advertising, the big advertisers, Chanel, Prada and all the big companies that will go and make deals, it's probably not very expensive to them, but it's enough to keep the magazine going.
How much of that is still going to be viable when we returned to normal. It's very hard to know. How many photographers and stylists and people can survive this, what we're going through at the moment, what we've been going through? We've got the other thing that we won't be able to go back to work in that same way until this is resolved in some way, a lot of work is going to be local, I would imagine.
Ashley: Exactly. I know in the past you've had shoots all over the world, you would even go there in advance to recce location, did you pre-production work? Can you tell us a little bit about the way it was before because things are most likely going to be changing and perhaps the way things were done before, it won't be like that anymore, it'd be great to hear how you did it and perhaps how you think how it's going to...
Perry: I would say that the first big change was the big economic recession with the downturn in 2008/2009. I didn't really notice that hitting fashion badly until maybe the early teams or at least, my work continued in a way till about 2013/2014, it felt like there was still reasonable budgets to do things. Now, this was going hand-in-hand with digital, obviously, people were keen to shoot on digital and have that immediacy, which I feel a little bit, we're at a point now where people aren't investing quite so much of themselves in making imagery, it's a bit of a tick-box situation.
If you go back to, let's say, the late 90s, and early 90s, that I would have been doing work for Italian Vogue and L'Uomo Vogue and many other magazines, I already would have had that approach where I would go off and recce locate, you'd have an idea, and that could work with a stylist very closely, and you talk about an idea. For example, just one shoot I did for Italian Vogue which was inspired by a photographer called Clarence John Laughlin, who was an American photographer from the South, who in the '40s and '50s documented all the derelict and plantation houses. We were looking at the fashion of the time which was all very skimpy, light, the slightly ghost-like outfits. Some of the things we just thought, "Yes, that will be great. We could do a family who are left over in one of these houses. Living this rather dream life."
We could take my daughter and a friend, and a couple of models, and yes, this could be really great. I'll go and do a recce on the Mississippi. Drive down the Mississippi and see if I can find any of those houses, and good locations. I went for a week and did that. Then came back, looked at all the pictures, refine the story a bit more, refine the casting. Kathy Kasterine was doing styling. Kathy can look at the fashion a bit more, and then we all set off again a few weeks later, and go and do the shoot.
We used to do a lot of shoots like that. Now, with Italian Vogue, I think they would give you $5,000 for the shoot, but you were happy to invest your own money into the project because you knew at that time, that if you had a story in Italian Vogue, you would get a campaign, or some commercial work from it, so you were happy to do that. That's the way it worked then, and I think now, it doesn't matter what magazine you're in, there's no guarantee of getting a commercial job from it.
Perry: I don't think it works that way anymore. That's the kind of preparation you would put into a shoot. Whether it was in Ireland, or Scotland, or Zanzibar, or Mississippi, or another time on a L'Uomo Vogue shoot went to Navajo Reservation in Arizona. With the style of Simon Kennedy, we just had this idea that the clothes worked with the people, and wouldn't this be a great thing to do. For me, it's always been great to show other people. From very early on, I would just find people on the street and photograph them.
Sometimes alongside models, sometimes on their own, but I've always tried to find a different look, if you like, aside from the standard idea of beauty. We went to the Navajo Reservation. Myself and my producer, Dana, we went for five days a week just to look around and to meet people. You have such great experiences going around and meeting people. Our excuse for talking is that we want to take some pictures, here's a camera, and it's a great introduction to people.
Then Alan would come out with all the clothes, and we'd just go around photographing people, and meeting more people, and just putting together a really lovely story for the magazine. At the end of the day, sure you're just selling frocks and outfits, but within that, there's an artistry to it, and a way of doing it, and a way of creating fresh imagery, and exploring culture, and different cultures, and for me, that's always been very exciting.
Ashley: Absolutely. I think you've captured the essence of the magic of the industry. Thank you so much, Perry, for sharing all of these stories with us. You've lived such a rich, and colorful, and energetic life of adventure, that's for sure. I was wondering if we could just ask you if you had advice for emerging creatives today, whether they're designers or photographers, for those that are thirty to break into this industry, what advice would you share with them?
Perry: I would say it's really important to research and look at things. By looking at other peoples work, be it a fashion designer, or a photographer, or a painter, or a filmmaker, I think those for me were the sources of inspiration, magazines of course, but really anything that grabs your attention, that captures your eye, explore it, really explore it. Go look at paintings, go look at photos. Study whoever's, Simone Rocha's dresses, wherever it might be. It's through that you can start making your own things. Go look at the great films that have been made over the years, and Antonioni, and all these incredible-- Terry Malik, who's a big influence for me. Badlands and Days of Heaven.
Just look at these things and start making your own work. Then I think, ideally, try not to get forced into a commercial corner. Try and do what you want to do, and go down that road. It was tricky. I've done lots of commercial work over the years because it's paid for my personal projects. Some of it has been great and some of it's not been so great. I think it's really that team of people you work with. Do you want to be a fashion photographer? You're going to be great depends on the style. I think that's crucial.
The extended team; makeup, the models of people you choose, the people you want to go out with to do that. Some of these things are a bit more solitary. But as a designer, that's really powerful, too. Certainly, a lot of these things are collaborative and you've just got to have great a great team.
Ashley: Teamwork makes the dream work.
Perry: If I look back at all it all, what I feel would be my most powerful stories, they've been done with really great team, I remember exactly who did the styling, who was doing hair, who was doing makeup. Obviously, the models and everybody brings something to it. There are many beautiful guys and beautiful girls out there but few of them make it as a model because few of them are able to give you something just a little bit extra that can make the difference in a picture, and make it a great picture.
Ashley: Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your insight and your experiences with us. Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
Perry: The interesting thing about it is it's changing. Changes. You might go through periods, 40 or 50 years where the photography didn't change, and then suddenly, there's digital, and that starts a whole new thing, which is only in its infancy. Who knows where that will go? At the very moment that we're talking, the concept of anti-racism and diversity is very important. It's an important thing for me, particularly as I chair a anti-racist NGO here in Dublin, Support Against Racism Ireland, also known as SARI.
I think it's very powerful in the sense that it's only got to this because somebody filmed that killing because they had a mobile phone. If that hadn't been filmed, a lot of this may not have happened, and these very positive changes that are potentially going to take place. That's the power of these instruments that we have in our hands, and from taking pictures and making videos and films. That's pretty useful. It's adding to the democracy if you like.
Ashley: I agree. I think it gives everybody the opportunity to have their voice heard. As we said, it democratizes the space. Anyone can be their own news channel now, anyone can be their own media platform, their own digital magazine. A lot of it will go unseen but suddenly, something very powerful will happen. It's vitally important that there is that space. Perry, can I ask you a little bit about your work with The Hugh Lane gallery specifically to do with Francis Bacon?
Perry: That was an amazing project to photograph Francis Bacon studio in London. I had to show Pony Kids at the Hugh Lane. The very first Pony Kids show is in Smithville. As I said, and then Barbara Dawson, the director of the Hugh Lane had seen that and loved the Pony Kids Series. The first exhibition in a museum or gallery was at The Hugh Lane, and had a massive turnout and was a big success. Obviously, I got to know Barbara a little bit in the period up to that.
She knew that I was interested in Bacon and the gallery was being given the Francis Bacon studio that was in South Kensington in London, and she asked me would I go with her and look at it and, and document it before or they took it to pieces, and then put it up again in the gallery. I spent a few days in London over a period of time, taking photographs in Bacon's studio that was at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington. It was three rooms, essentially the studio room where he painted and then a kitchen-cum-bathroom where you could almost lie in the bath and turn the cooker on and off. Then a bedroom-cum-sitting room, and that's how he lived very, very simply. That's how he was most focused on working. I think it was a magical space, the studio. You can see it now if you come to Dublin and go The Hugh Lane, they recreated it incredibly, I don't know how they did it. They took the whole walls out and put them up again. It was very clever what they did. It was an incredible space, and he just had this west-facing skylight, it was the only source of light apart from a few light bulbs, just bare light bulbs. He mainly worked in the morning, so the light would have been similar to that classic painters north light.
It was an incredible project. We made it berk, and exhibitions all over, simply did a set of limited edition prints, large prints. Again, painting is very powerful, and those images are incredibly powerful. About the human condition, and what it is to be human, and to be alive. I think that by having those experiences, it brings so much to one's work, it changes you forever going forward to have a project like that.
Ashley: Absolutely. As you said, for anyone that's in Dublin, it's a must-see to actually experience his original studio moved piece by piece, every paintbrush, everything, every piece of newspaper, it's absolutely wonderful. All of the stories around it, and the photography, that's also placed in the studio, obviously playing a big part of it.
Perry: It was fascinating. You'd look into the studio, and you would think, at first glance, that somebody had just thrown, that he had just thrown all his stuff in there, but actually that was the method, and layers and layers. I guess it was all there, those were his resources, and anything could be pulled at any moment.
Ashley: There's a real sense of soul, a sense of movement, it's hard to believe that, as you say, someone hasn't been in there today painting. It's an incredible space. Perry, I know you're working on a new book at the moment. Could you tell us a little bit about how you're creating a book, and where are you in that process at the moment?
Perry: Yes, well, the book is ready to go alongside this film. Kieran McCormick was made recently about my work. I'm thinking along the lines of doing something similar to some books I used to make some years ago. I guess I really made them as portfolio books. They were a little bit like this one. This was one of them. For example, they were all made on the photocopy I had. We'd make a little box, a little slipcase, and then a little book. Quite small but I love these size books. Then it would just be - I'll try and hold this up, so this one. It's probably falling to pieces a bit, but just to give you a sense of the mixture of pictures. It's totally a mixture of-- This one is a bit broken up, but just different pictures from different story, and portraits, and-
Perry: images. This one's falling off its spine, but anyway, it will give a bit of a sense of-- Yes, that's from the Italian Vogue one, and Mississippi with my daughter, Violet, and the same trip we did a shoot for L'Uomo Vogue. That's from Jane magazine in Texas.
Perry: Another Italian Vogue one.
Perry: Zanzibar. It just a juxtaposition of Irish travelers, a young boxer kid, Francie Barrett, who I think was one of the travelers to go to the Olympics. That was from a guest kid's campaign. I did a lot of work for La Repubblica in Italy. Done many, many stories for them over the years. There's another one for them that was done in Dublin. We're working on doing something not dissimilar to that. Portraits and John hertz who was always great to photograph. Caden Pallamo had another shoot we were doing for Jane, a drawer from Bacon studio with Giacometti, and the bathroom-cum-kitchen at Bacon Studio.
Ashley: You weren't lying about the bathtub thing.
Perry: Spain in Trinidad. Just different images from different times. Nate O'Connor and then Francie Barrett on the other page, the traveler boxer. That was a shoot for French Vogue with the giraffes and that was from another W shoot. This one was in Dublin. Going back, I always like that picture of Angelica Houston for a film she did in Dublin. All those kids are meant to be her kids. Lots of different images really, from all over.
Ashley: When were you able to discover this book?
Perry: That's in Kayenta, Arizona; the Navajo reservation, that's from that story. That's a studio of the Irish painter his studio in France. Hopefully, by the end of this year, we're trying to get it. I love that picture, that was from a Jewish theater in Galway, production of At The Black Pig's Dyke that I saw. One or two of my friends were in and I just wanted to document them. I took them out from Galway to Connemara to do a series of pictures. Another picture, this was a L'Uomo Vogue story. That was another Italian Vogue in Ireland. This is for Jane magazine in Belmullet. It was two wonderful brothers that I found who were just farmers but they also painted these very naive images and had this wonderful- they had this wonderful-- That was the Virgin Mary on their kitchen table.
Ashley: I like the box beside the shrine.
Perry: It's a bit of pop art really, isn't it?
Perry: This was a story. I love this story. This was done in Palermo for Jane magazine. We went there and we cast. We found a girl and we found an older woman to play a grandmother. We just went around Palermo, photographing him and then we played football with these kids. It's going to be a mixture of pictures from all over. This was a story and these are two different stories, actually, but both done in Vietnam, in Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City.
One of those was for Marie Claire, one was for Arena. Then portraits around Dublin. This one here is the artist, McDermott & McGough, photographed just outside my studio in Capper Street. This boy, Wesley, who's very much from the Pony Kid time. That was actually from a shoot for W. It's going to be those kind of images. Just going through the process now, when you go back through the archive it's interesting because you suddenly open a bag and go, I'd forgotten completely about that, and find some more interesting images. By the end of the year, that would be ready.
Ashley: Fantastic. Can't wait to see all of the images taken through your lens documenting everywhere you've been throughout your life, so.
Perry: Yes. It's wonderful to travel because you learn so much, and you meet so many amazing people.
Ashley: Absolutely. We'll be traveling through your book.
Perry: Yes, exactly. I just haven't met too many people the last few months. Different and only way to do it.
Ashley: Yes. Well, thank you so much, Perry.
Perry: Paddy and Liam, probably you haven't noticed they're still on that couch, not wanting to travel-
Ashley: On Snapchat. They are traveling through Snapchat. Perry, thank you so much for sharing your life experiences with us, for sharing also advice to emerging designers and creators. We're looking forward to reading your new book when it comes out, and to diving back into your older books as well. As we spoke about Pony Kids, Paddy and Liam, so thank you.
Perry: Hey, well, thank you.