The 370-page book, The Well carefully documents Nigel Shafran’s contemplative and gentle approach to fashion photography. He says he never considered himself a fashion photographer. “I think I’m a photographer who can do fashion photography “that’s how he describes himself. To most people, there is no difference between a fashion photographer and a photographer who can capture fashion images. But you will get the difference after reading the book.
The landmark new book shows the photographer’s over four decades. It collates his ground-breaking work from the 1980s. You will notice that Shafran’s work is characterized by a keen observation of everyday life. He has always had an uneasy relationship with fashion photography. Nigel has an understated, unromantic approach to his work. He has a collection of photo books, including Dark Rooms from 2016, but The Well is the latest. Unlike the ones before, this book is a great love letter to the commercial journey he has had so far.
Nigel Shafran Navigating the Fashion Photography World
In The Well, it’s easy to see how Nigel’s dressed-down and naturalistic approach has evolved through the years, especially in the 2000s. He used to contribute a lot to independent magazines like Harpers and Queen in the 90s. But in the 2000s, he took a different turn with his work. Nigel started photographing simpler settings. He was presenting the beauty in familiar scenarios. Fashion is not something he wanted to pursue from the get-go. He once said it’s because of the aspirational values it promotes and how it depicts women. For a moment, the photographer was entirely focused on non-commercial projects. But as time goes by, he has done some great commercial projects that had people talking.
The Well is not just a collection of commercial works. It shows his artistic side by showcasing some of his personal works. Over time, his personal and commercial projects started coming together. The collection of images in the book will show you how it all fits perfectly. This is the first publication from Nigel that puts his fashion photography in its own context. Despite having an uneasy relationship with fashion, his work is incredible. He dressed Bella Hadid as a petrol pump for Vogue in 2020. He also did a playful photo shoot by capturing different models as shoppers in luxury stores for British Vogue in 2014. Shafran’s commercial works are as simple as his commercial works.
Nigel says some of the works he does on the book are more planned, but he hopes they don’t appear too staged. However, there are still some spontaneous pictures in there that are very relatable. For the newer fashion works, you will see on The Well or anywhere else, he had ideas prior. He made drawings and tried to recreate them. Trying to portray models not as objects or over-sexualized has been something he strives to do. Shafran wrote in the book’s introduction, “this isn’t a book of best pictures; it’s more of a tight edit than that.” If you have been following his books since the 90s, this latest book will show you Nigel’s work from a unique angle because it incorporates a lot of themes.
Nigel Shafran started commercial work a little over thirty years ago. His earlier work used to be a reaction against fashion, but his later work is more of commercial photography projects. So what you see in the book might be pictures connected to fashion photography or images of people on the street. It covers all angles of fashion; that’s what makes it interesting. It’s not all models that you are going to be interacting with throughout the publication. He introduced a new electric era of fashion photography, which you can see clearly in the latest book. He is known for his unplanned, seemingly impulsive photography, especially with the anti-fashion approach he used earlier on. But over time, his works have mixed up or come together in a nice way and have led to incredible pieces like The Well.
He clearly says in the book that he likes pictures to be more provisional than professional. This is not an approach many photographers would take, but it works for Shafran. The down-to-earth style is what most people relate to. Instead of super models, he uses spur-of-the-moment passers-by as subjects. The publisher Loose Joints give a detailed review of the book that appears more like documentary imagery.
A More Personal Touch
As you probably know, Nigel’s work is usually domestic in nature. He captures things like the flea market, his dad’s office, doing the dishes, and charity shops. He chooses low-key subject matters for his projects. Despite photographing some things, you won’t think twice about; he still manages to create something consistently beautiful and profound. This book will also survey Nigel’s early work and some recent domestic interiors. You will also see some of his favourite snaps and things from his scrapbooks. The book is not all about his commercial projects in the fashion industry. There is also a ton of personal images that lets you in on his artistic side.
The Well includes doodles and drawings that often decorate his workbooks and animate his ideas. You can’t deny that books play a crucial role in his artistic practice. Over the years, you have seen books that display his commercial and personal projects, including images of his partner Ruth. Shafran believes books are the most successful way of showing photos. He says it’s easy to control edit, sequence, and how people see the work. The Well is a perfect blend of commercial and personal projects.
According to Nigel Shafran, exhibitions will come and go. But when you want something you can view anytime, books are the best solution. He has several books out that showcase his commercial and personal projects. The Well is the latest in the collection and probably one that dives into fashion photography more. Since he likes to be in control, he likes publishing books because then he can control what you see. When you want to understand his navigation through the fashion world from anti-fashion works to where he is now, The Well will tell you everything.
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