An Interview with the British Photographer Kurtiss Lloyd off Brick Lane, London
The British photographer Kurtiss Lloyd and I first met at the Nomadic Community Garden off Brick Lane, London. There we spent an afternoon talking and taking photographs of the street art. Finding his way to photography through an interest in dance, Kurtiss grew up in an English mining town without any artistic training. But he soon found his way into the fashion world, collaborating with brands like Dior, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and Philip Tracey. Over the past few years, Kurtiss has also collected a diverse array of subjects from the model Edie Campbell to the iconic designer Sir Paul Smith and artist Ewa Wilczynski.
As we walked, Kurtiss explained the interplay between fashion and dance and I came to understand the performative quality of his work, the way in which his subjects are transformed by their movements and clothes. Kurtiss’s recent profile in Vogue Italia reveals that, ‘he believes that it was his dancing that anchored his soul into a desire for a visually beautiful life.’ As an artist, he has a unique way of combining his medium with his passion for performance as he creates a realm of fantasy for his audience.
Since launching his career in London, Kurtiss’s iconic photographs have been exhibited in the David Bailey’s Stardust exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, and have also been published in The Times, The Guardian and The Independent. Whether it’s fashion, portraiture or capturing dancers from the Paris Opera and The Royal Ballet, Kurtiss has developed a unique aesthetic as a photographer, which has cemented him as a favourite of fashion’s elite. With notes of Tim Walker and Juergen Teller in his work, this imaginative young photographer is making waves across both the worlds of fashion and art.
What piece of your artwork would you like to be remembered for?
I will let you know when I am dead. I have a lot in me yet.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
I keep my eyes and ears open all of the time. I am usually thinking about all the pictures I want to take and am constantly problem-solving. The threads come together and I place everything as I wish it to be and leave the rest to the magic that happens on the day.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
Running around with Isabella Blow taking her photos would have been great, or Marilyn Monroe. Can you imagine a thousand years from now? Body modifications and clothes beyond anything we know now. I hope it looks like Final Fantasy.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
It is a pure essence that exudes from everything we know of. Beauty is not always obvious or universally identifiable. We need a broad range of minds to be able to translate the different languages it speaks. To do that well is an art form.
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
The film Cabaret, 1972. The unwavering vision and direction of director Bob Fosse and the unbelievable talent of the actress Liza Minelli makes for a perfect film. It has substance and is beautiful. I can watch it again and again.
What do you wish every child were taught?
Excellent technique in something they are passionate about and a personal family and cultural history.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
I see photography as a vessel to explore my instincts and imagination. I am not my camera; my love is within the containment of my thoughts and experiencing great things that come organically from this. I have never questioned my need to create.
What is your favourite art gallery and why?
For a long time it was the Victoria & Albert Museum, but ever since I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year, it was love at first sight. The curation and quality of the content was so impressive and it didn’t feel like an ordeal like the Louvre museum. It was epic.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
India. The colour! The smells! The temples! The slums! The jasmine! It captures the senses and the world is never the same as long as you throw yourself at it and let it in.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
The British poet and critic Edith Sitwell in her later years - what a woman. Watch her full Face to Face interview. I'm still spellbound.
What is your daily routine when working?
On the day I am taking a picture, my mind gets me up around 5am. I am thinking quickly and clearly. Trying to seek and sieve out any problems that might arise. I meet with the subject and we chat. I look for any more defining characteristics in their personality and then off we go somewhere, usually outside to take the photographs. I then return home to Norfolk to make a selection and send the photographs wherever they need to be.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
Draw from an experience of yours where you touched upon magic.
Do you find that Paris’s culture inspires or influences your art?
I keep an old time, romantic view of Paris. The Galliano Dior collections called out to me as a boy. At its best, the elegance, attention to detail and extraordinary beauty could humble a God.
Why do you love what you do?
It’s the whole experience for me. Researching someone’s life and taking in their spirit – it’s a kind of love. Taking what I believe has the most value to put into a photograph. Bringing different worlds together to create something new. Being able to express, create and love is a luxury.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com