Following an education in Art and Graphic Design, not forgetting his time spent on stage with his group The Pyramid, during the Swinging London years, Steve Hiett became, due to an unfortunate accident (he was electrocuted on stage), a tutelary figure in the world of fashion photography and artistic direction. Indeed, it was when deprived of his Fender that he started to photograph his group on tour, followed by other musicians, including Jimi Hendrix.
Then came collaborations with the magazines Nova and Queen, as well as British Vogue, followed in the 1970s by Vogue Paris, Elle and Marie Claire, with whom he shared a long and prolific collaboration. SteveHiett’s career path is like the cable attached to his Fender, which he has never abandoned: it echoes the riffs of life, devoid of any predestined route or career plan, instead taking instinct as its guide.
Some will recognise the signature style that he developed in the 1980s: over saturated images, off-centre framing, dazzling flash work. The Hyères festival, which will present the first major exhibition of his work, will bring to light some of the unsung aspects of his photography, in order to re-establish the full scope of an oeuvre which represents an essential milestone in the history of contemporary fashion photography.
Steve Hiett lives in Paris where he continues to work as a photographer for fashion (notably for Vogue Italy), as well as a musician and art director.
For more information on Hyeres Festival, click here.
-What was the process behind selecting the images for your exhibition at Hyeres. What will the visitors see?
SH: Raphaelle Stopin came to my place and looked through everything I could find. She selected the images
-You didn’t plan to become a photographer, and it seems your early photography was informed by your circumstances being on tour. Witnessing how digital means and media have changed the photography landscape, what kind of career path do you think you would find yourself upon if just starting your career in the present day? How would a young Steve Hiett go about his business in 2014?
SH: Starting today? I have no idea. Fashion photography is such a complex thing now, lots of politics and all the digital process, which makes doing a photo so long and complicated
When I started you just walked into a magazine and the art director would give you a job, I don’t think you can do that now. Also to take a photo you took a light reading press the button and that was it what you got back from the lab was it – end of story. Now you are dealing with all sorts of choices and the new world of retouching, which can go on for days. I worked for 30 years and never retouched anything – it never entered my head (or any other fashion photographer) as even a possibility
-Remembering your career as fashion photographer, is there a certain period in time that you remember in particular?
SH: starting – I knew nothing but it didn’t matter
-Having worked through the last few decades of fashion photography, what kinds of major aesthetic shifts have you noticed?
SH: Now the boss is the fashion editor – they decide who works and who doesn’t – before it was the art director
-There is always some sort of tension in your photography. How do you create it?
SH: Tension in my pictures? That must be subconscious – I never look for tension – I look for the right feeling
-What is the last thing that stimulated you?
SH: The last thing that stimulated me? Steve Cropper guitar solo on “Green Onions” which I have listened to a 1000 times. I listened to it again last night – still has that magic – OK I know the notes he plays but it goes way beyond that – its a magic thing
The questions were put together by this years Hyeres Festival Blog partners