We present you with the next in GARAGE's series of interviews and portraits, we look into in the close knit world of the creative industries. The series namesake ‘Six Degrees of Separation,’ comes from the theory that no matter what, you are six individuals away from any person in the world. With this is in mind, we start with someone we know, like and want to know more about. In speaking to them we are connected to the next interviewee and through this we investigate the lengths of this interlinked, connected world. Perhaps the previous sitter mentioned the next interviewee in our meeting; perhaps they are close friends or just professionally connected... who knows where our sitters might take us and to whom?
Our first interview with Eudon Choi provided a stepping-stone to Jules Wright who then led us to photographer Thomas Zanon-Larcher. We pay him a visit on the day of his opening at The Wapping Project Bankside.
GARAGE Magazine: How do you select the women that you use in your images?
Thomas Zanon-Larcher: The starting point can be a story or character I have in mind. We then cast or audition to find a performer or model who we believe can build and play that character. Sometimes people I meet can trigger a story, in which case a character can be built around them.
GM: What is it about women that you find so interesting to capture?
TZL: Women are not necessarily more interesting to photograph than men. There are of course differences in photographing the two. What is interesting in photographing a performance, as played by a number of different women in the images in 'Falling: A Part,' is how to take a convincing image which conveys an essential truth or a preconceived emotional content in a given scene.
GM: What is the nature of your collaborations with the many brands you work with?
TZL: With the ones I still work with - lasting.
GM: Is photography always what you imagined doing?
TZL: I started when I was 15. It was not what I always have imagined doing. I studied structural engineering and once chartered, I worked as engineer for a couple of years.
GM: What do you shoot on?
TZL: On film, using medium and large format cameras.
GM: Would you ever consider motion picture?
GM: Was it always fashion photography for you? Is this what you started with?
TZL: I didn't start with fashion photography - at the beginning it was more narrative work, about 20 years ago and mainly in black&white, I came to fashion later - it occupies me to a minor part now.
GM: You shoot backstage frequently, are you very selective about what designer you will do this for?
TZL: I probably was from the beginning. It is now a body of work of ten years - it was more difficult to be selective at the outset. However I worked with very interesting designers from the beginning, Robert Cary-Williams, Shelley Fox, Anne Valerie Hash and then very early on I was privileged to include Comme des Garçons and build up collaborations with Hussein Chalayan and Dries Van Noten. It is increasingly difficult to add anything to the images I have already taken.
GM: Tell us about your relationship with Jules Wright. She told us about when you met, through Robert Cary-Williams, but when/how did these collaborations between the two of you start?
TZL: Robert suggested I meet Jules, this was in 2005. At the time Robert was working on a commission for an exhibition at The Wapping Project - 'Fashion, Film and Fiction.' He designed an Alice in Wonderland inspired hand-painted dress from a WW2 parachute which is now at the MET in New York in their permanent collection. I met Jules and she commissioned me to photograph that exhibition. We kept working together and a year later I had my first exhibition at The Wapping Project, 'Free and Framed.' We have been collaborating ever since. Calling it a collaboration is probably an understatement.
GM: We've seen you backstage at Richard Nicoll and love these images, describe your relationship with him and how it all began?
TZL: I first took images backstage at Richard's in 2004 when he showed as part of Fashion East in London Bridge. However we met much later, in 2008 through Jason Caine, who worked for the CFE at the time. We have been working together for 13 seasons - I just photographed his new Autumn/Winter Menswear collection. I really like Richard's work and he understood from the beginning how best to use the images.
GM: What's next?
TZL: I'm working on a selection of images, exclusively from the body of work taken backstage over the last ten years, for a future exhibition. These images may not conform to what is commonly understood or perceived as backstage photography and will almost all be unseen and unpublished. As is the case in the current show 'Falling: A Part,' each image will be removed from the context it was originally taken in, and will have to stand on its own.