When you look at her photographs, you’re reminded of something intimate and pure as nature is. Indeed, nature is one of Liz Collins’ most precious inspiration, to which she returned to during this pandemic.
One of the most celebrated fashion photographers, Liz Collins approached herself to photography and to fashion at a very young age. Since then, she successfully portrayed the most famous faces in the industry with a special light, conveying her own sense of femininity and empowerment. She is a regular contributor for magazines of the likes of The Gentlewoman, Vogue, Love, Fantastic Man, The Violet Book and Mixt(e).
There’s something magical in her shots, a captivating liveliness that really hypnotizes your gaze and makes you feel close to whoever she’s shooting with. In this exclusive interview, Liz tells us a bit more about her favorite moments on set, the challenges of working in fashion photography during a pandemic, her future projects and more.
Where does your passion for photography come from? Have you always dreamed about becoming a fashion photographer?
I always seemed to notice things that my friends didn’t. I’d point out things, (usually light on buildings or people) and my friends would say,”see, I would never have seen that”. Also my Dad was a keen amateur photographer and bought me my first camera at 12. When he passed away when I was 14, I felt a natural commitment to doing what he wanted me to do. A desire to earn his respect. Fashion became huge to me around the same time as his passing. Living in the UK in the 80’s there was a 1950’s fashion revival scene that I got into, that mixed with music of the 80’s bought me to look at fashion magazines such as Blitz Magazine, The Face, I:D and The Fred. I knew then I wanted to take fashion pictures as these pictures stirred me with inspiration.
What is the project you remember the most dearly?
So many. My first professional commission was for Prada, so that was pretty epic as a 23 year old. The best shoots are when the atmosphere is crackling with energy. Great friends, great music, great sitters and an understanding of each others creative desires. Recently I shot part of the Miu Miu campaign. That’s was wonderful. Lila Moss (Kate’s daughter) and Bella Hadid were amongst the sitters. My great friends Katie Grand (stylist), Miranda Joyce (make up) and Anthony Turner (hair) were all on set. It was very special and lots of fun.
How coronavirus pandemic affected your work and your creativity? Did you find new solutions to keep working? What do you think are the challenges of photography in these uncertain times?
I have been shooting both editorial and advertising jobs under strict Covid 19 prevention measures. PPE and social distancing. It’s working ok but we all miss the physical aspect of contact in our creativity. I’m so happy to be back at work. I missed it. Work is where I get to play and have a lot of fun with my people. During lockdown, I turned (as I always do) to nature for my retreat and it inspired me to go forward and evolve.
I think the future of fashion photography, will be like many things changed forever. From the shows we see, the clothes we photograph and the travel restrictions applied. It’s a new landscape. The most positive element that this pandemic has given us is an environment for the vital #blacklivesmatter movement after the tragic murders of innocent black people in the US by police officers. The audience was there, the tv’s were on and everyone was home to absorb the weight and react and demonstrate worldwide. My hopes are that this movement will change the world vision for ever.
Your pictures are joyful, light, dynamic and very impactful. How much of empathy with the subject is necessary to achieve such amazing results?
Thank you, that means a lot to me. I used to create characters that I wanted to have as friends. Cool girls, who could handle themselves, empowered women. As I get older I am more maternal with the sitters and I hope this puts them at ease. I grew up in an single parent, all female home of four women, so female empathy and integrity is something I find comes easily to me.
Where do you take the inspiration for your portraits?
I love 70’s photography. Advertising, beauty, portraiture, I love the glossiness and the contrasting simplicity of it. Like that photography I like to provide a clear, simple stage for the sitter to feel themselves and to feel able to bring their part of the story to the image.
Is there a future project in the making you would like to share with us?
I’m currently writing my first short film. When restrictions are lifted I’d love to be able to make it happen.
Any advice for those who want to start this challenging career in the industry?
Find something for which your work will stand out and push that individualism. If your work can to be recognisable as yours, it’s your stamp. My first work was mostly tight, crops of the body, that photographic approach, (honed by my education as a still life assistant), became a characteristic instantly recognisable as a Liz Collins image.
What is the best advice that your teachers, friends, or other photographers have given you at the beginning of your career?
My first photography teacher, Dave Miles was so encouraging to me. He said that whatever he could teach me technically would be surpassed by my vision of style and beauty in the world. He said he would never have that and I should take it and run with it. That has always meant a lot to me. David Sims always tells me “hit the ground running” too.
On the cover: Margot Robbie by Liz Collins