In the late 80s and early 90s, a new generation of photographers emerged, their work published in the glossy pages of influential independent magazines, creating campaigns featuring a new generation of models that would catalyze an era-defining moment in fashion and culture. Craig McDean was among those photographers, at the time a rising star among luminaries such as Mario Testino, Juergen Teller, and Nick Knight. Initially training to become a mechanic, he in fact began his photographic career as Knights’ assistant at i-D magazine in 1989, quickly building his credentials and contributing to magazines such as The Face, Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, which led to advertising campaign work for clients such as Jil Sander and Calvin Klein. After over two decades of work, he is now considered one of the most prominent fashion photographers within the industry, having shot campaigns for Dior, Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani, and Estee Lauder, and regularly contributing to a range of international fashion publications including W, American, French, British and Italian Vogue, and Another Magazine. In 1999, McDean put his automotive passions on display and made his book publishing debut with I Love Fast Cars, his homage to the American drag racing community. He’d publish more, among others: the 2011 book, Sumo, a collection of images of sumo wrestlers taken during his year in Japan that was accompanied was accompanied by exhibitions in New York and Paris; and Amber, Guinevere, and Kate Photographed by Craig McDean, which focused on his professional relationship with these influential models and the images that helped make them icons.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with Mr. McDean on several Jacques Marie Mage campaigns, including Summer/Fall ’21 featuring Tony Ward and Jessica Van Der Steen, both important models in their own right. Here we engage Mr. McDean for a quick, much appreciated tête-à-tête.

JMM: You’ve lived and worked in many places around the world. How does a sense of place influence your creative practice, if at all?
Craig McDean (CM): I am heavily influenced by architecture whenever I take pictures. I am also drawn to the quality of light that can be found in different cities around the world and the sense of place that can offer a photograph.

JMM: Which are your favorite cities, and what are the qualities that make them special?
CM: Lisbon holds a special place for me as does Paris which always give me a special feeling when I return.

JMM: What would you say is your longest standing obsession?
CM: Anything with an internal combustion! I am forever obsessed with the design and mechanics of cars and motorbikes, especially from the 1960s and 70s.

JMM: What do you see as the connection between muscle cars and fashion? How do you see your interest in both intersecting and influencing each other?
CM: The connection is design and the way people connect with them; the way people wear clothes and the way cars wear people. To me, the 60s and 70s were the heyday of design for both fashion and cars and a time when incredibly designed cars were approachable to everyone.

Who is somebody you’ve never worked with that you’d love to photograph?
CM: Muhammad Ali

JMM: Which artist(s) has most influenced you?
CM: The surrealists like Man Ray and Cocteau.

JMM: What advice would you give a photographer at the beginning of their career?
CM: Stay true to yourself, your background, your culture, your family and upbringing and what you love. Let that sense of self carry thru [sic] what you see in the lens.

JMM: What song would you choose to dance to at 5 in the morning?
CM: Something classic, like a Cardi B track.

JMM: Can you tell us the story of the last time you felt “out of your comfort zone”?
CM: I am out of my comfort zone on every single shoot I’m on. That’s what drives me.

JMM: What is your favorite erotic image?
CM: Paul Delaroche’s painting of Ophelia which hangs in the Louvre.

JMM: Where do you go, what do you do, to be alone?
CM: Ride one of my motorcycles.

JMM: Which do you find most (real and/or metaphoric) value in: a window, a mirror, or a prism?
CM: A prism. It bends light and that’s what photography is.

Written by Andrew Pogany.

Tags: JacquesMarieMage , CraigMcdean , JacquesInterview

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