Part of: In Camera

Interview: Nick Knight

published on 23 March 2006

On 23 March 2006 Nick Knight became the ninth participant in our interview series In Camera. The SHOWstudio director and leading image-maker of twenty-five years answered questions from viewers, friends and celebrities during a live webcast.

View the on-demand footage of this exclusive broadcast alongside the real-time transcript edit created during the course of the interview process.

On 23 March 2006 Nick Knight became the ninth participant in our interview series In Camera. The SHOWstudio director and leading image-maker of twenty-five years answered questions from viewers, friends and celebrities during a live webcast.

62 Q&A Posts

Q. In the voiceover to his film 'Chop Suey', Bruce Weber says that photographers "photograph things they can never be". Over you past twenty seven or so years photographing, what do you think it has allowed you access to that you could never have been? Penny Martin, Editor in Chief, SHOWstudio, London
Most things probably. It is a way of living out desires. I could never have been most of the things I've photographed. Part of the reason to do it is to experience them. Photographing Skinhead was part of a way to experience it. I wouldn't have done it without a camera. The whole notion of photography is that it takes you places you couldn't access otherwise. That's the way it started: as an impartial witness to the events that people couldn't see or experience. That's also its inherent problem: its Achilles heel. People therefore expect it to be truthful, which is a tricky way of understanding photography.

Q. When did you decide to be a photographer and what defined your thinking at that precise moment? Pablo Gimenez Zapiola, Texas
I decided to take photographs when it was a way of having some sort of social purpose. It was a way of chatting up girls. But I took it up as a career because I was doing something I hated (human biology) that I thought I had to do on my way towards medicine. Photography was a hobby, a pleasure and it was the only thing in my education that I shone at, had any skill at. When people praise you for doing something, it's very pleasurable. More than being a mediocre science student.

Q. What do you feel in the split second you decide to snap the photo? Emily, Derby / Andre Penteado, London
There is an enormous rush of energy. It's some sort of transfer. A peaking of energy.

Q. What part of your career do you treasure and why hasn't more of your work been shown in public spaces? James Tregaskes, London
The part I treasure most is always the next bit. I am much more excited about something that I haven't done yet. I don't have any emotional investiture in something I've done in the past because it's a memory. Memories are sort of safe: moments of reflection aren't as crucial or invigorating as something you're thinking of doing. I certainly don't have the same emotional commitment to the past as I do to the future. That's why I've done very few exhibitions, because I'm much more excited about doing new work than I am in the old. I don't regard my work as trophies: I see it as conversation. And I don't think photographs are best displayed in galleries. I really don't enjoy the experience of seeing them there. The most exciting way to see a photograph is passing a billboard in a car, flicking past it in a magazine or seeing it out the window of a tube. That's how it delivers its power: when it becomes part of the vernacular of everyday life.

Q. Have you ever had doubts about your career choice? Naomi Sekandi, London / Fudge Haldane, London
Yes. The recurring doubt I have is whether it's socially worthwhile or whether medicine would have been a better choice. That's a frustration in my work.

Q. Are you going to do another book and if so what will it be about? Kate Moss, London
Hi Kate! There are two or three books in the pipeline. The problem with doing one is that it's a long process. What would you like me to do one on? You tell me and I'll do one! I tend not to see images as one-offs: I often see them in my head as projects. Often one thing 'that would make a really great book'. The problem is that they take ages and they are around for a really long time and a lot of trees are felled to make one, so you've got to get it right. There is a seriousness to doing a book. At the moment, there is a retrospective planned that Peter (Saville) is designing. There is also a finished book that goes with the exhibition that I did called PlantPower at the Natural History Museum. Doing one is like 'mental filing': that structural order is a good feeling. The side I like less about them is similar to how I feel about exhibitions. You need to return to past work. Books tend to be about the past. I'd like to do a book about the Dior campaigns or maybe one about landscape. But I'd rather do a film is the truth of it! See you next week, Kate!

Q. Are you going to do another book and if so what will it be about? Kate Moss, London
Hi Kate! There are two or three books in the pipeline. The problem with doing one is that it's a long process. What would you like me to do one on? You tell me and I'll do one! I tend not to see images as one-offs: I often see them in my head as projects. Often one thing 'that would make a really great book'. The problem is that they take ages and they are around for a really long time and a lot of trees are felled to make one, so you've got to get it right. There is a seriousness to doing a book. At the moment, there is a retrospective planned that Peter (Saville) is designing. There is also a finished book that goes with the exhibition that I did called PlantPower at the Natural History Museum. Doing one is like 'mental filing': that structural order is a good feeling. The side I like less about them is similar to how I feel about exhibitions. You need to return to past work. Books tend to be about the past. I'd like to do a book about the Dior campaigns or maybe one about landscape. But I'd rather do a film is the truth of it! See you next week, Kate!

Q. What is the typical process on an advertising campaign together with John Galliano? Jakob Marum, Copenhagen
John invites me to Paris before the fashion show where he explains the desires behind his collection: what he's trying to articulate. Then I see the live event in Paris and then I make proposals to him on how I might interpret those desires. It's a two-way conversation. Over the past eight and a half years, we've built up a visual language for Dior as well as adding new elements to that, we re-mix things from the past. For instance, the use of lens. There is a 'Dior lens' we use that gives a signature element to the images: the way it distorts the models' bodies. Also, John will remix his own collection, so there is a remixing of references, things we have established, as well as adding new bits. I try and make the images as an intense a communication across the magazine as possible. There is a five-seven day shoot in Paris. John and I continue to work together on the shoot itself and then in the same way that some American R&B music is heavily produced, the Dior campaigns are very heavily post-produced. So there is about 6-8 weeks post production on each of the images to make them as intense a communication as is possible. Then they go to Paris for an approval meeting with Mr Arnault and Mr Toledano and John himself.

Q. Do you believe that a new designer should build his image in one's photographer view or he should better exhibit different styles from different photographers? Do you honestly believe that Alexander McQueen could have had such an amazing start without your visual contribution? Panagiotis Kostouros, Athens / Chan Hoi Wa, Hong Kong
Designers are now at a point with image-making that they could quite easily do it themselves to be honest. They have a very good visual imagination and the technological side to making images is so accessible now. SHOWstudio is a platform that has proven that the balanced of power has changed: designers have now the ability to manage their own visual representation. Traditionally, the photographer spoke for the designer. Hopefully we have empowered the designer. I'm not in any way suggesting that photographers are in any way redundant: it's just that designers have a few more options now, particularly in expressing themselves through film. Alexander McQueen did have an amazing start without my visual contribution! Sadly, I didn't work with him until he was a couple of collections down the line.

Q. When you take on a fashion assignment, do you think of it as your own work or the client's work? Martin Parr, Bristol
I never make a separation, to be honest. I see it as a communication I'm making on behalf of the 'client', through trying to understand their world. I don't seek to establish ownership. I don't consider the people I work for as 'clients', however: that slants the relationship. I wouldn't call John Galliano, Alexander McQueen or J-Lo 'clients'. Secondly, I see my work as a conversation: it's always a series of conversations from within a series of relationships. Though what I do is largely well funded, what I am seeking through it is some sort of emotional relationship, which is why I tend to work with the same people again and again. Yohji for ten seasons, John for nearly nine years, Lee the same. These are people that I perceive myself to have a relationship with. It is why I work with so few people. In your life, there isn't enough room for that level of emotional connection with more than a few.

Q. What's a ballpark figure to get you to shoot our Sunsilk campaign? Paul Sidharta, Bangkok
I think you'd have to talk to my agent!

Q. Do you consider your work to be art? Andrew Elliot, New York / Rich Ly, Montreal / Santiago Forero, Colombia
It's not a question that I ever pose myself. It's not something that seeking the answer would help me do my next piece of work. It wouldn't help me understand my work any better. I do the work I do because I have to, I want to. I can't not do it. So I would never ask that question of it. With my shoot that I have to do on Thursday, it wouldn't help me if I were to ask that question. Or any other piece of work coming up. The truth of it is that it's irrelevant and I don't care. One would have to search quite hard to find a benefit to attaching a label to my work. I shun classification: I don't think of myself as a fashion photographer, an imagist, a filmmaker or anything else.

Q. Nick, until about the 17th century, art was mainly commissioned for the church for the people to see on mass and that work is very known and defines our history, it is very powerful in many ways, issues of control, access, the church was the 'gallery'. Would you like to work on a religious project, what would you do? Carlo Brandelli, Creative Director, Kilgour, London
I find religion a very tricky subject as I am not religious. I think the church has never been part of my life and I have no plans to make it so. That's not to say I don't have any beliefs, I do. Entirely personal. It's just that I don't adhere to any structural or organised system of beliefs. In fact, it's with permanent amazement I find, that one group of people can think they know the answer to a question that can't possibly be answered more than the next group of people. I don't understand how people can be so convinced about something they clearly can't know the answer to. As for persecuting people for having a different answer... Funnily enough, I was asked for the Millennium dome to do a commission of images for their religious 'zone'. But the whole thing disintegrated into wrangling over various things and they wanted the ideas to be expressed in a very stereotypical way. Couples outside a church, for example. But that wasn't the church commissioning me, that was the state. One of my last college challenges, set to me by Paul Blatchford - probably the lecturer who was most important to me - to do a series of black and white church interiors, lit only with available light on 35mm. A no tricks approach. It's a project I often think about. He delivered the brief when he handed me my distinction at graduation. So I've already got a religious commission! I will do it at some point. There is such a wealth of human endeavour and passion that has gone into works of religious subject that the remaining legacy is testimony to us as a species.

Q. If you were curating an exhibition, which artists would you select? Antonio, Washington D.C
It would depend on what the exhibition was trying to say. Whether it was one of sound work, movement or whatever. For a start, I'd consider the space and the brief. That would determine the artists. There are so many, so unfortunately, I can't give you a succinct answer. The information I would need isn't in your question. I suspect you are asking me for my favourite artists. The answer to that depends entirely on the relevance of an artist to what I am doing at that time. So, Rebecca Horn or Lisa Yuskavage or Paul Wunderlich could be as important to me as Richard Long, Balzac and Moliere, depending on the project I am working on. Funnily enough, those are the artists who I am researching for a project I am working on at the moment.

Q. I have been under the impression lately that fashion and commercial photography reflect an awareness of contemporary art to a greater extent than in the past. We take it for granted that artists use and or are influenced by popular and commercial culture. That has been almost the main tradition of 20th and 21st century art. So my question is, was the flow of influence going in the reverse direction as well all these years? Does contemporary art influence your work? How? I look forward to meeting you someday. Lisa Yuskavage, New York
Well, Lisa, I am thrilled that you have asked a question because I am an enormous admirer of your work and for some years now, I have been thinking of purchasing a piece of your work for my wife, Charlotte. I think there is such a widening now of all the boundaries: a fundamental revolution happening in communication just now. Rightly, or wrongly, I seem them all as communication because that's how they affect me. it follows therefore that the influence of one art to another completely overlaps. To be honest, I think in the past that fashion and commercial photographers were aware of contemporary art in the past. If you spoke to Bailey, Mr Penn, the late Avedon, they would almost certainly say that they were enormously influenced by art. Bailey was enormously influenced by Warhol, you can see clear evidence of different art like Marcel Duchamp's ready mades in Penn's early work. His cigarette butts, placed in the reified white space of the printed page make the same point as Duchamp's snow shovel, placed in the gallery. And to some extent in Penn's early portraits, you see a kinship and enormous sharing of values with a lot of the contemporary artists of the 1950s and 60s who sat for him. You perceive the world of Truman Capote through the portraits that Penn did of those people. There is more than an influence: there is a complete spiritual kinship between Penn and the artists he photographed. I do hate to disagree with someone whose work I admire so much, especially as for the past two years I've been thinking of contacting you to invite you to do a project together! So I do look forward to meeting you too, soon I hope.

Q. How do you finance SHOWstudio? Sandra Ernst, Germany
I finance it out of the money I earn through doing my work. But I'm having to look for a new way to finance it as it is so clearly bursting to grow and become the fantastic phenomenon that I've always thought that it could be. So, as you will see in the autumn, SHOWstudio will carry its own version of advertising, which I think will be very successful for both our audience and for the advertisers.

Q. In what way is Kate Moss such a good model? Lorraine Cook, Berkshire
In nearly every way to be honest. Normally, how I explain what makes a good model is to say that they are a cross between an actress and a sportsperson. They have to have the physical stamina to endure literally hours of demanding work and they have to have the intelligence to understand and express the fashion narrative implied by the clothes that they are wearing. I photographed Kate for the cover of Visionaire and it meant that she had to swing on a swing in the studio for five and a half hours non stop. Every time the shutter went off, she had to be aware of her physical position and what she was portraying emotionally. Not only did she do this beautifully, completely professionally, she did it with a personal grace and kindness that is quite rare.

Q. Who has been the most difficult person to photograph and why? Carlyn, Perth / Weechee, Kuala Lumpur
Me. It is very hard to come to terms with how you do look as opposed to how you think you look. Any poor photographer that has been given the task has had to suffer my foul moods! If they bring a light near me, I know what it's doing and if they put a lens on the camera, I know the effect it has, which makes me a very bad sitter.

Q. What was it like working with Björk? Meccel, Orlando
Always an inspiration. Both as a person and her music. The picture we did for Homogenic, which Lee McQueen art directed, was the very first shot we took of the day. Lee saw it and went home because he'd decided we already had the shot. Bjork very patiently put up with me spending the next three and a half hours and 300 sheets of 10x8 proving him right! She's one of the people I always look forward to working with.

Q. What is your opinion of the paparazzi? Do you think they are actually photography enthusiasts following their dream to get paid for doing what they are passionate about, or are they just perverts out to ruin so-called celebrities lives? Stella, Perth
The only relationship I have with the Paparazzi is that they always put their cameras down! Last time I went into a big event, I was on the red carpet behind Sienna Miller and I was the only one not being photographed! So I have no relationship with them whatsoever, which suits them and suits me.

Q. Have you ever fallen in love with a person after you photographed them? Azazel, New York City
Yes, of course I have, but the only people I have complete love for is Charlotte and my children.

Q. When you shot the ‘Skinheads' did you get turned on by them (because I did!)? Alexander McQueen, London
Hi Lee, Nothing like an easy question! On an immediate level, my sexual interest with Skinheads was directed at the girls. That's why I got into it, I liked the way they danced and dressed. In the early 70s, there was a girl who lived next door to me that was three years older than me, and who was a skinhead. I had the typical crush of an eleven year old boy on a fourteen year old girl. It was the experience of that obsession and fascination that fuelled my desire to photograph skinheads. I used to walk her down to the disco and she used to ignore me! But I do also find powerful women very attractive. Charlotte is a very powerful woman.

Q. Name a photograph you've seen that made you think ‘I wish I'd done that'. Virj, Paris
I often see my own photographs and wish I could change them to something different, but looking at someone else's work and wishing I'd done it isn't the way I think about something. You could look at Lartigue, for example, and think it was a beautiful photograph, but I wouldn't want to have been Lartigue and that's the only way to have taken that photograph. It's a summation of that person.

Q. What inspires you? Johnny, Mexico / Robin Newman, Los Angeles / Alejandro Ulloa, Seattle / Martin, Hamburg / Cathy, USA / Quique, Peru / Par Parsson, Stockholm / Ryan Obermeyer, USA / Crystal Wong, Hong Kong / Justine, Shropshire / Juliet-Carmen, Randi, Melbourne / Ignacio Echeverria, Chile / Nick Lakey / Windsor, Sophie, Cambridge
Everything inspires you. It could be the man I see at the bus stop, it could be a late-night TV documentary, it could be a phone conversation, something someone says to you. Those are all inspirations. But I think it's more about desire than inspiration, to be honest. I think inspirations merely fuel your desire. I remember last year when we were working on Bring and Buy and Dress Me Up, Dress Me Down, I can recall feeling so excited to get to work. Although I was physically very tired, I would wake up an hour or so before I had to. The desire to work was so strong. When I am in that state, everything inspired me. In that state, I feel I can't contain my excitement.

Q. If you weren't Nick Knight, what of your work over the years, do you think might inspire you the most? Maison Martin Margiela, Paris
That's a tricky one to answer! I guess SHOWstudio would inspire me because that takes in a whole way of communicating, seeing, being.

Q. Which photographer has influenced you the most? Martin Cohen, London / Bernd Hussnaetter, Germany
Again, it depends on the work I'm doing at the time. Weegee was enormously influential at some times, Rodchenko at others and then Penn at others. Equally, it could be an unheard of advertising photographer from the 1970s. It really depends on the project you're working on, which other people's work seems relevant. But I will tend for no particular reason to check Irving Penn's work. Periodically, I go back and re-check it, independent of any project. There is a level of refinement and intellect in his work that I find enormously enjoyable. Just for sheer pleasure.

Q. What do you think drives you to continue to want to experiment with image-making? Charlotte Cotton, Art + Commerce, New York / Adil Oliver, Sydenham
Trying to see things I haven't seen before.

Q. For thousands of years, Christian religious art was concerned with the representation of tenderness - chiefly, that of Jesus's mother for her child. Does the theme of tenderness interest you? Alain de Botton, London
Yes, enormously. I see tenderness as another expression of the power of humanity. I think the ability to be tender clearly demonstrates the capability of reason, intellect and strength. In a way, those are the finer human virtues. If you were to define humanity by a set of values to aspire to, tenderness is the proof that we are at that level. I would hope it nourishes the better parts of my work. I don't specifically put it in, but if was recognised in my work, I would be very pleased.

Q. I would like to take photography best of the world. Photography that stronger than yours. How would you advise me to do that? Minoru Kaburagi, New York City
We've been talking about that on the SHOWstudio FORUM. It's hard to answer you, because I have a similar desire! I hope that doesn't sound ungenerous.

Q. To me it looks like fashion photography has become stagnant, a lot of shoots look contrived, repetitive and quite boring, frankly. Would you agree? Rene DuPont, Los Angeles / CCIL, Paris / Elleser Galleta, New York / Ali, Cambridge / Daniel Sheriff, New York
No, not really. I don't have that feeling, though it might indeed be the case. I tend to seek out the work that I find exciting and don't even register the stuff I think is not, because I don't really have the time to dwell on it. I think there is a lot of exciting photography around.

Q. Do you think the fashion industry is more or less cynical than when you started working? Jason Evans, Hove
I don't see it that way, Jason. I never have seen it as cynical! Some people are and some aren't. I don't tend to dwell on the bits of it that I wouldn't like. Parts of it probably are cynical and probably always have been, but I think there are still the same amount of wide-eyed people, full of desire and eagerness, just as you were when you first came to see me. Probably not with quite the same sense of dress!

Q. Are there days when you don't feel passionate about the work you do? Paul Archer, London
No. There are days I feel more scared and fright isn't particularly a good emotion to make you feel passionate. So, I always feel passionate. There are days where at the end of them, I don't feel anything, but that's exhaustion.

Q. How you get a picture from your imagination on paper/screen? Grischa Witt, Unknown
Your imagination merely provides you with visual guidelines. It's a map for you. Because you can see something in your mind means that you know what you don't want. A sort of shortcut. All the image in your mind does is focus your desire. I would never want to just reproduce any image that I can see already.

Q. Do you approach a shooting for Vogue the same way that one for i-D for example? I mean that those 2 magazines have a different editorial politic..does this matter for the way you are going to treat the subject you have to shoot? Claire, France
Do you speak to your boyfriend in the same way you do to your Mother? Not a good analogy, but there are different ways for addressing different audiences.

Q. Do you ever shoot with a digital camera? Jonathan Brown, New York
I shot with a digital camera for Vogue last week. I have little or no interest in what my camera is any more than you would be interested in which pen a writer writes with. My main problem with starting the image process with digital is that there is no safe way to archive work. I can pick up a neg that I shot in 1979 and within seconds be sure it's still fine. There are zip dics that I shot in the latter part of the 90s that I now can't open and the work on them is lost. I think the digital revolution in photography is leading us into a new medium that is exceedingly exciting, that we shouldn't be calling 'photography' at all. It comes with its own distribution system, that of the Internet and screens, it comes with the ability to communicate instantly, on a global level, and of course, the addition of sound and moving image. This should clearly be seen as a completely new medium and not as a mere extension of photography. I welcome this wholeheartedly.

Q. Hi Nick, what is your personal definition of beauty? Are you still motivated towards subverting stereotypical images of ‘beauty' in your work? Sara Morrison, Northern Ireland
Hi Sara. I don't have a personal definition of beauty. Yes, I'm enormously interested in subverting stereotypical images of 'beauty' in the media. But the line I have to tread, to be able to keep on doing this, has to keep on crossing back into the mainstream. If every shoot I did was about that, I would be marginalised and any change my work could bring about would be greatly reduced. I ask Vogue at the start of ever season to allow me to do a story with some who are size 16 +. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't.

Q. Is the studio the best place to work? Pablo U, Spain
Well, I've always seen photography as a reductionist medium. By that I mean that you're condensing a series of events, forms, emotions to be expressed in one, singular moment. So having a controlled environment, like that of a studio, is often beneficial.

Q. What was one of the biggest laughs you ever had on a photoshoot? Antony Hegarty, London
Often when Charlotte's there, or Simon Foxton. Humour isn't very much at play in my work, however. It is one of the senses I try least often to portray. I just rarely think 'oh, I want to make a funny picture'. It could be because there is a large amount of fear I experience when I am working: not an emotion conducive to humour. I just never found a way of making it part of what I do. I'm very focused when I'm working and it doesn't lend itself to having a lark. I guess I'm very focused. It's just a very intense experience for me.

Q. Do you carry your camera with you everywhere? Alice Shenton, Perth, Australia
I carry a camera with me everywhere, yes, but it's usually a mobile phone camera. I don't normally take my 10x8 onto the beach!

Q. Do you have any interest in photography as a record of the moment, rather than as a medium for totally created image? Does the completely unworked on photograph hold any appeal? Alexandra Shulman, London
All photography is a record of the moment. What I hope I am doing, when I am working on a photograph, is to make that image or communication more profound, successful, to perform better, and it's true that some things with less work on them can feel they are delivering something more spontaneous. But it's a sort of advocating a haphazard and naive approach to communication. It's a bit like saying the first thing that comes into your mind. But I think you'd agree that words and images can be used too lightly.

Q. Would you recommend or encourage your children to choose the same career as you? Lajla Mostic, Melbourne
No, I would encourage and recommend my children to pursue a career in which they can be happy. That's what I said to Calum at the weekend.

Q. Do you see yourself continuing to work well into your eighties like Richard Avedon? Meg, New York / Andres Hernandez, Miami Beach
Yes. I've recently taken up pilates because a large part of my work is very physical and at the age of 47 I am aware of the effect it has on my body. I have found the physicality of working to be an important part of creating the image. So, I am very much enjoying pushing my own physical limits through the exercise.

Q. What and when was your biggest breakdown in your life and how did you over come? M Kim, Seoul / Chris, Phoenix
There hasn't been a moment where I had a big breakdown, in truth.

Q. Do you stay aware of contemporary politics and current affairs? Hari, New Delhi
To some degree, through conventional media: television and newspaper. There are some topics that I'm particularly interested in discussing and those are articulated through personal discussion. I can't for the life of me, for instance, see how this government can be committed to environmental issues when they are promoting the expansion of airports, cheaper flights and more of them, when air travel is one of the biggest factors in climate change. On that line, I was talking to David Chipperfield about this and it is his belief that there should be a generation of parents, who are sponsored by the government solely to educate their children. That's the way of sowing the seeds for a much better society. But I can't see any possible chance of my government putting such ideas into practice. In mentioning these examples, what I am trying to say is that, in my life, the awareness of contemporary politics is expanded by personal conversation, not by conventional media.

Q. You have earned a lot of your career-fame for breaking taboos, but what do you say to those who claim that it's just a one-time-gimmick for the shock-effect? Because you don't consequently use “different” model-types, it seems like they always are classified and gathered into that one project, instead of being used in all kinds of different context where the looks and body-types is not the main intention of using them. (PS: not meant as an insult) Tor Erik Bøe, Norway
I don't take this as an insult and charges or tokenism or hypocrisy are things I'm prepared to accept as a natural shortcoming of the limited situation that I find myself working in. But if you don't try and do a story with disabled people, larger people, people with breast cancer, then they don't get done. I do detect some change within the media about a broadening of parameters. In a way, then, it's having some effect. But as I answered in the question earlier, if you become known as the photographer that photographs disabled people, curvaceous women or old people -whatever it is- it's just a way to be marginalised and then ignored.

Q. Has your wealth of experience made you a wealthier human being? Terry Jones, London
Yes, emotionally, I feel a lot broader than I did 25 years ago when I first met you. During the Skinhead period, I was a my most narrow, emotionally. It was a concious decision to get to my lowest point to find out where that was: back against the wall. I think it was Al MacDowell or Perry Haines that told me I was an easier human being to work with since I met Charlotte!

Q. Do you really have your jeans lined with gold silk? Anastasia, London
Yeah, I do! I have a knack where if I decide I like something, then they take out of production. This happened with a particular pair of jeans: Levis 505 0217. So, I approached Paddy at Oki-Ni, who deals with vintage denim, and he had a warehouse full of them in Hong Kong. But the only way he'd give them to me was if I'd do a customised Levis 505. As I didn't want to change their physical appearance at all, I decided that they'd be better if they were silk lined. It would feel better against the skin. Another thing I should say is that I don't like them faded, so I replace them regularly. When I'm working in the studio, I kneel a lot on one knee and it regularly gets covered in the white emulsion studio floor paint, Those all get put on eBay.

Q. Is it easy to combine your professional and your private life? Jana Cramer, London
I don't separate them, is the truth. In my head, it's just my life.

Q. How much is a pint of milk? Simon Foxton, London
I have no idea. You're just bitter that you don't have a milkman, Simon!

Q. In this stage of your career as a photographer, what would be your ultimate photography-related dream project you would still like to realise? Raf Simons, Belgium / Baljinder, Leeds / Martina, London
My ultimate one? I want to do a book on birds. There is also a book on landscapes I want to do. But 3-D sculpture is my current obsession: the making of a physical object using the same skill set you use when capturing a photograph. With the 3-D scan data, you can make a physical object. Scent is another fascination. And I would like to learn to dance.

Q. A sincere question that requires a quick-fire answer to determine your true passion: if 1 of the following disappeared from your life which would you feel more devastating - 'Photography' or the 'Nick Knight Empire'? Nick, London
It's a pretty limited choice! Since I don't conceive of a 'Nick Knight Empire', then photography, clearly!

Q. What advice would you give to a young photographer? Tom Kirkman, Dundee / Mark Alcock, Scotland / Caitriona, Elstree / Natalia Brand, Ireland / Markn Ogue, Venezuela / Leila, London / Ryan Pickart, USA / Caroline, Leeds / Andres Pereira, Bolivia / Michael, London / Michelle Hill, Dublin
One, honesty. Two, work until you can no longer stand. Three, never give up. And four, be kind to people.

Q. How does someone become your assistant? Matthew Henry, London / Samuel Westlake, Harrow / Poppy Maynerd, Los Angeles / Cherry Yi Ling, Dundee / Patrick Titheridge, Scotland / Kenneth, Dublin / Holly Hay, London / Vivien, London / Carl Starling, Bournemouth / Mick B., Sydney / Ana Katuric, Milan / Luru Wei, London
The first step is to write an e-mail to my agent Charlotte, outlining why you want to assist and what you have done. Where you come from. You should know that I usually take on assistants for three years and I expect that for them, it feels like a three year assault course! I work my assistants exceedingly hard and I expect them to work seven days per week and to be completely devoted to making my images better.

Q. Who do you think will be your successor? Djamila, Paris
I haven't got to where I want to be yet! I don't feel that I've done my best work or I've achieved what I want to achieve, so I'm not sure what they would be succeeding.

Q. What will be your legacy? Caryl, Berlin / Simon Foxton, London
I think I have overseen a transition from one medium to another. That's what I feel I have lived through. Hopefully, I have laid some of the foundation stones for a new medium. That's what I hope I am doing: both technically and morally. This might be completely delusional, but that's what I would like to think I am doing.

Q. Is there a point where you will stop taking photos and look for a new medium to communicate your ideas? Craig McDean, New York
I am already well past that point.

Q. Are you still wearing the same jeans? Stella Tennant, New York
I am about ten pairs further on since I worked with you last, but still the same model.

Q. While we strived unaware for it, we have created through our collaboration novel sensations and tastes in the world of fashion photography. Today Nick... do you believe it would still be possible? Marc Ascoli, Paris
Yes, for today and for tomorrow. I still have the desire to make it possible.

Q. Having had the chance to do a film with you for my second LFW show made me realise how important the fashion photography/video as a new art form is in the world of fashion. As one of the pioneers in this direction, where do you see this going from now? Towards more a more complex hi-fi mixed media or with a return towards something more old school? Or maybe a hybrid of both? Jens Laugesen, London
I went to see a film I didn't expect to enjoy, which was Mission Impossible III. And to be honest, it was a thrilling, entertaining (no thought needed) experience. And I thought that there was no reason that fashion film couldn't be the same. The energy you can get into a fashion shoot can be similar: frantic and action-packed.

Q. Music has obviously had an enormous influence on you throughout your career - if you could have been (or could be) a member of any band, who would it be and why? Tom Hingston, London
As you know from being on my shoots, I do compilation tapes. They are not whole songs, they are usually 5-30 second pieces of song. I also love the sound of the human voice. So if my band were to reflect what I like listening to, it would be a very fragmented vision!

Q. Hi Nick, what do you prefer, hats or shoes? Stephen Jones, London

You know the answer to that one already!

Interview by:



Interview: David Bailey

12 February 2003
Acclaimed fashion and portrait photographer David Bailey answered questions from SHOWstudio viewers with Penny Martin. Broadcast 12 February 2003.

Interview: Peter Saville

29 May 2003
Legendary art director and graphic designer Peter Saville responded to questions from SHOWstudio viewers with Penny Martin. Broadcast 29 May 2003.

Interview: Kate Moss

03 March 2003
Supermodel, fashion pin-up and Pop culture icon British model Kate Moss answered questions from SHOWstudio viewers with Penny Martin. Broadcast 5 March 2002
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