Amanda de Cadenet’s photography has been variously described as ‘truthful’, ‘beautiful’, ‘haunting’ and ‘intimate’. The renowned fashion and portrait photographer shoots advertising campaigns, Hollywood starlets, rock royalty, and her friends at play, always infusing her work with an appealing honesty and authenticity.
De Cadenet has also dabbled in film, acting in movies such as the cult hit Four Rooms and Mascara, and the cautionary tale Broke Down Palace.
There is no doubt that her past artistic endeavors and famed friends inspire de Cadenet’s photographic musings. She is perhaps the most compelling visual artist to marry fashion and rock ‘n’ roll to date. Her camera has recently blessed the pages of Vogue Hommes and V Mag, for whom she recently shot plus-sized model goddess Crystal Renn.
She has a mysterious new project slated to release May 9th, and the working title is simply Untitled Women’s Project. I cannot wait to see what kind of eye candy de Cadenet presents. Her former coffee table book Rare Birds, with conversations between Sophie Dahl and Marc Jacobs, is like a post adolescent scrapbook documenting all the kids who were too cool for school, who landed Rock Star careers in the end. Rare Birds captured a slew of intimate moments and quasi debaucheries, at times juxtaposed with a page of beautiful blooming flowers, the ultimate feminine touch meshed with irony. Amanda de Cadenet is a woman after my own heart.
Between juggling motherhood to a set of twins and a gorgeous teenage daughter, Atlanta de Cadenet Taylor, Amanda found time to answer some of my questions.
Q: So you are originally from London – can you tell me a bit about your upbringing?
Amanda de Cadenet: Yes, I grew up mostly in London. But I was working as a model from age 14, so I was traveling around Europe and New York from a young age.
Q: From what I understand, you were on a TV show. Were you a presenter, or an actress?
A: I hosted a live talk show called The Word from ages 15 to 20. It was a live, crazy late night show where I interviewed musicians and actors. Not a bad job for a 15-year-old.
Q: Did you have any formal schooling for photography/film, or has it been more of an organic process that you just fell into, teaching yourself the ways of the business and art?
A: I learned about photography from being photographed by amazing people like Mario Testino, and I was madly in love with Mario Sorrenti from ages 16 to 19, so he was really the one who taught me how to see the world with different eyes, and how to notice the beauty in the seemingly unattractive. Business is second nature to me – at least marketing is.
Q: My favorite photo you’ve taken is the one of Karen Elson on your site – she is one of the most beautiful figures in fashion. She embodies an artistic cultural being, and is a great musician in her own right. How were you acquainted with fashion’s ultimate redheaded darling?
A: That was a portrait for Cheap Date magazine. Karen and I had mutual friends, and I think that portrait reflects the ease that we felt with each other. It was actually a Polaroid that Pascal at Box worked his magic on. So many people love that image. It’s the one I always give for charity auctions, because it SELLS!
Q: My other favorite is the first photo under the music section of Julian Casablancas (for obvious reasons). Could you tell us about photographing Jules? What is his energy like when it comes to stage presence, and how have you gone about capturing all that he embodies as a performer?
A: That shot is nothing special to me, it was the fact that I had access to him that gave me the point of view you see in the image. I don’t think he likes me photographing him, and actually I have taken the least pics of Julian than any of the other Strokes. I shoot Fab a lot, as he and I have a solid friendship, and he trusts my artistic eye.
Q: You’ve been successful at gaining the recognition of major fashions magazines from Dazed to Vogue and Black Book. Were those opportunities you had to work very hard to seek out, or did most of these publications contact you because you are amazing?
A: That’s kind of you, but sometimes I knock it out of the park, and other times I just think I’m the wrong person for the gig. You have no idea how many times I go back to see the same mags before they give me a job. Teen Vogue was the worst – it took 3 years and maybe 8 visits before they gave me one little picture, and I did a terrible job for them, so will likely not get hired again.
Q: So far, what have been your favorite assignments, and why?
A: Photographing cute boys and my amazing girlfriends. Keanu for Vogue Hommes was pretty important for me in a few ways. Firstly, I love that man, and it was profound to take his picture and let all the love shine through. Secondly, it’s a big deal for a woman who is 35 to shoot a Vogue cover. Annie Liebowitz and Ellen Von Unwerth are a generation above me, so I felt like I was making a dent in the largely male-dominated area of cover photographers.
Q: I really love your personal work, and plan on tacking it up on my mood board. What do you like to focus on, and do you find it therapeutic?
A: My personal work fluctuates with how much time I have, or how crazy my kids have been. For the past 4 years, I’ve been photographing my kids so much that all my free time is spent with them. The work reflects where I’m hanging out. Over the summer I’ll be in Europe on tour with my kids and The Strokes, so I’m sure there will be some more backstage images. Mostly I take pics of flowers and my garden in L.A., my kids, and my friends.
Q: In this decade, what would you like to see change in the fashion industry, and in pop culture in general?
A: That’s hard to say. I think the rules are changing to allow anyone a change to give something a go, and I love that. I totally encourage anyone to go for whatever inspires them in their lives and try to make a career out of it – it’s working for me!
Q: What can we expect from you in the future? I’ve heard you have a project you are working on called "Women’s Issues" – could you tell us a bit about it?
A: I am launching an online interview series with women about women’s issues and rights. Most of my editorial ties in to women’s issues in some ways. I just shot a 10-page nude story for Harpers Bazaar, showing beauty in diversity of body types: curvy, skinny, different skin colors, etc. It’s a big deal for a main stream U.S. fashion magazine to agree to do this, and the women who are sitting for me are all very high profile, but also believe in helping raise awareness. There are so few female photographers who have the interest in or ability to represent women with some kind of integrity, but this is something I feel strongly about, so I am doing what I can. Since I grew up in front of the camera, I have some idea of what its like to be photographed and in the media, so I am being considerate of that when taking pics of other people.
Q: One more thing – you are a mother of 3 kids working in this hectic business. Can you give us tips on juggling motherhood and fashion while keeping your sanity?
A: It’s tough. My kids come on set and visit me every day I am working. So i integrate my life, and don’t exclude work from home life. Some people would disagree with that, but it works for me. I always feel like either my home life or my career is not getting enough of me, and I am learning to live with that feeling.
Images courtesy of Amanda de Cadenet.