JRP: Richard Warren is a talented fashion photographer who has a formidable client list and equally impressive portfolio. Thank you Richard for taking the time to answer a few questions for JRP Blog.
Richard Warren: You are welcome. I am glad to see you are interviewing a cross mix of photographers in various stages of their carriers. It’s good to see people starting out as well as others who have been in the business for a while.
JRP: Where is home for you Richard?
Richard Warren: I have been based in New York City since 1985
JRP: How did you get started in photography? Do you have any formal training in your background?
Richard Warren: When I was starting university I was concerned that I might not be able to make it as a photographer so I received a Bachelor of Science in Graphic arts and printing technology. I was self-taught in photography until I moved to NYC and started assisting. By assisting in NY for 5 years I really learned photography and the business of fashion photography. I assisted for two years a Vogue contract photographer and every month he did 20 pages for them. So no formal training but I don’t think there is any formal training for what I have learned in the “School of Hard Knocks”.
JRP: What is it about photography that motivates you?
Richard Warren: I love telling stories with photos. My father worked at a newspaper and “getting the story” fresh and uncensored was always a treat for me. I love working with crews: set builders, models, assistants, Art directors, fashion editors etc.
JRP: When it comes to equipment what would I find in your camera bag and or studio for a typical shoot? What lighting equipment do you favor?
Richard Warren: I rent Profoto but I would never buy one, as they are too expensive. I own Comet strobes which are made in Japan. Like an old Nikon or Canon camera you can use them as a hockey puck when you are done using them for taking photos, very rugged. Most of what I can do can be done with Canon 5Dll. I like the fact that I can shoot in low light with less noise. I use an H3 with a 31 MP Imacon back in the studio sometimes but these cameras are useless out of the ISO 100 range.
JRP: Could you please describe your digital workflow and the software you use.
Richard Warren: On location I shoot to a card. In the studio I shoot to Capture One or to Flexcolor if I am using the medium format camera. I also like the Leaf / Maymia set up and capture to Capture One. I pick the right tool for the job as not one camera does everything. Images are captured to a 17″ Mac Book pro then I bring them back to my Mac tower to process and edit. I like Lightroom for organizing things and Photoshop for retouching.
JRP: Do you print your images?
Richard Warren: My fashion book is tear sheets only. I use an Epson 4800 for color prints for gallery shows and a separate 4800 set up for black and white printing which is set up with Carbon inks.
JRP: Could you break down one of your images and explain the lighting and any special concerns you had during the shoot?
Richard Warren: For me fashion photography is about story telling. Magazine editors call fashion pages in a magazine “stories” and I take that term quite literally. Sometimes the story is a narrative and other times its simply fashion forecasting or reportage. In any case you need to be able to tell stories in different ways. The art of this simply comes with time and the knowledge you get looking at current and past fashion stories.
With the Dollhouse story I wanted the viewer to flip from page to page and see a stage where the model occupied different volumes within the two-page rectangle. All 12 pages of this story were double page spreads so it really leant to the theater effect. I lit the model slightly warm then gelled the background cool to add depth. The wall behind the model was painted a warm white and this helped the aqua colored gel from either side to not blend in the middle which added even more depth. Three lights on this one. Two on the background from either side and one on the model (an umbrella).
JRP: What are some of the new directions being taken by you in your photography?
Richard Warren: Fashion is about change and what is new and what is cutting edge. Yet the market needs to replicate itself to make money on what it sees as certainties, if it sold last time why not this. It can’t afford the risk of something new until the art world or avant-garde idealists have recommended a style to the mainstream. So for years in both fashion photography and fashion design there is always a look to the past to create the new.
A dress with a 1920’s lapel is presented in 2010 as new. It’s the same with fashion photography. Ring flash photography in 1970 becomes a new look in 1999.
Currently cutting edge fashion photography can best be described as “youthfulness”. If a style can be associated with the young then its” in” because older folks can bask in the association even though they’re not young themselves. The young do it by cutting themselves off from traditions and ignoring the past.
Remember when Conde Nast told Cecil Beaton to ditch his vest pocket Kodak and get a real camera like Steichen. What would Conde Nast now say to Terry Richardson? Anyway the kids have no past tradition and so make all the mistakes and count them as good. Poor framing, foging frames, over use of auto flash, it’s all there and its association with the freedom of youth. The challenge for me and also that of fashion designers or anyone who wants to “show the clothes” is how to incorporate this “youthful” fashion photography into something that is glamour or at least marketable.
JRP: What has been some of the best advice given to you by another photographer?
Richard Warren: The best advice I received was from a photographer named Douglas Kirkland. “Do what ever you can to make money and survive but always have a personal project”. You will be remembered for your personal photos and not by how much money you made.
JRP: What advice would you like to share with other photographers?
Richard Warren: If you have not already done so, make a 2 year, 5 year, and a 10 year plan. In other words where you want to be in that time period. Assist in New York or London for a couple of years then move back to a smaller market. Being on top in NYC or London is just not sustainable. If you are looking to have a 30 or 40 year career in photography then its better to be a big fish in a small pond.
Do whatever you can to make money but always have a personal project. If you don’t have a personal project then you’ve lost the art of what we do.
JRP: Thank you Richard for sharing your thoughts and images with us. It has been a pleasure talking with you and continued success.
Richard Warren: Thanks .. You are very welcome.
JRP: To view more of Richard Warren’s photography please follow this link: