Conor Clinch On Reality TV, Rankin And Fresh

At just 18-years-old, Conor Clinch is an emerging talent and one to watch.  Conor has built an extensive portfolio of clients including Topman, Hunger magazine and Vogue.com in addition to being mentored by iconic photographer Rankin on Sky 1’s The One’s To Watch. I caught up with Conor to talk about his influences and the inspiration behind his exhibit Fresh, an exploration of lad culture.

Where did your interest in photography begin?

I grew interested in photography at the age of 14. I bought my first camera online before I knew how to use it. I began experimenting and learned from my mistakes.

What challenges have you faced as a photographer being so young?

The fashion circle in Dublin is quite tight-knit and a lot of people say it’s very difficult to break into. I know quite a few people who began farther afield and left Ireland to pursue a career in fashion. I think that Dublin is a great starting ground as a young photographer, however like anywhere I found it very difficult to break into it as a teenager. A crucial part about starting young is keeping your head on your shoulders and taking every bit of criticism in your stride. You need to prove yourself so it’s important to be mature and professional but don’t be afraid to try new things.

What influences and inspires you?

At the moment I’m very inspired by the north side of Dublin. There’s a unique culture here that often goes unnoticed so recently I’ve been working on incorporating it into some personal projects. I look to the works of Alasdair Mclellan, Walter Pfeiffer and Boo George for inspiration.

How would you describe your aesthetic as a photographer?

I’d like to think of my work as quite honest and raw. I’m starting to take things down a notch with my personal work but still challenge myself on a technical level.

Rankin said about you,“Rarely does a very talented young photographer stop me in my tracks. Conor Clinch is one of those rarities.” What does this sort of recognition mean to you?

It was such an honor to hear those words from an iconic photographer like Rankin, it keeps you really determined.

How has appearing on The Ones To Watch on Sky 1 changed things for you?

After The Ones To Watch I came back to Dublin to sit my final year exams. Since, I’ve been working full-time in Dublin which is amazing! I’m planning to exhibit Fresh in Dublin this September and then making the move to London at the end of the month. I’m looking forward to opening new chapters abroad and start working on some new ideas.

Tell us about the inspiration behind Fresh.
Fresh is based around the concept of how lads perceive fashion. The idea derived from lad culture here in Dublin and how they take pride in what they wear. Whether it’s the huaraches craze or the latest barber cut, lads like to look good.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

Lots of exciting new projects! I’m looking forward to making a start on some new ideas and challenging myself in new areas of photography and film.

Follow him at @ConorClinch

Toby Sandeman Goes From The Track To The Runway

Toby Sandeman is a former UK Athletics national champion turned model. He won two gold medals at the European Athletics U23 Championships and has modelled for Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and worked with Naomi Campbell. I caught up with Toby to talk about his career and plans for the future.

What parallels can you draw between modeling and competitive athletics?

The biggest parallel would be the need to always be ready while at the same time being patient. In the modeling world three weeks may pass and you haven’t booked one gig so naturally binge eating pizza and partying every night seems like a good idea. Suddenly you get a call, “Toby, amazing news. Tomorrow you’re shooting with Naomi Campbell for Vogue…naked”.  All you can manage is a fake yay with a mouth full of pizza. Luckily, I’ve always stayed on top of my game – or at least haven’t been caught out yet.

I understand you were reluctant to model initially. Why did you have a change of heart?

In the summer of 2005 I saw two of the people I hung around with get 19 years in prison. Another friend was murdered and I was betrayed by two friends.  I needed a change in my life –  a big change. Modeling was a 180 degree turn from the life I had been living, so I took it.

What challenges have you faced as a model?

I’m a man who likes to put in hard work and contribute to my own success.  The challenge modeling sets is that the outcome isn’t always in your hands. You’re born with a certain look and it’s either in fashion or not. There isn’t much you can do except not giving in to binge eating pizza.

What plans do you have for the future?

I just finished the production of my second film, Conversations of Ed-Dick-Shawn, which I also wrote. It is a 1940’s styled film noir piece about addiction. It explores what goes on in the mind of an addict that can draw a man like Phillip Seymour Hoffman back into addiction after 23 years of being clean. We will enter it at Sundance, Tribeca and the Cannes Film Festival which is very exciting. More information will be posted on my Instagram.

What does success mean to you?

Professionally success for me is fine-tuning my acting craft to the calibre and standard I have set myself. Personally, success is reuniting my family that is currently spread over the globe.

What have some of the highlights of your career been?

Working with artists like Bruce Weber, Greg Lotus and Patrick Demarchelier. There have also been fabulous locations and some great brands. Working with an artist who is so passionate about their work always takes the top prize for me.

If you weren’t modeling what would you be doing?

Acting, as that is where my passion currently lies.

Follow him at @Tobysandeman

Scott Barnhill – American Beauty

Scott Barnhill was part of the group of American models that dominated the runways in the nineties along with Mike Campbell, Jason Fedele and Jason Shaw. He has fronted campaigns for Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Valentino and Gucci in addition to appearing on the cover of Italian Vogue. I called Scott to find out what he’s up to these days and to reflect on his 20 years in the business.

Let’s talk about how you were discovered.

I was 17 working in construction and living in Florida. I went to Pleasure Island for my birthday where my brother got me in with a couple of friends. I was scouted by Cindy Cooper who gave me her number and asked me to call her.

You’re originally from Chicago, correct?

Yeah. One day after I got off work I went home and turned on VH1 and there was a fashion award show. I caught it just when Tyson Beckford was winning Model of the Year. I thought, that doesn’t look that hard, I’ll give it a try. I sent Cindy some basic 35mm photos and she set up a test shoot. I went down to Miami to shoot then I drove back to where I lived and they made contact sheets. Cindy set up appointments for me to go back down.

I went to Page Parkes Model Agency with that contact sheet and met Rob who was on their men’s board. He took me on and then I moved down to Miami. I was still doing construction work and I found a part-time job working in a stockroom. Nothing really happened for me on the modeling side. I did do a couple of editorials for teen magazines. Nothing financially came out of it so after six or seven months I decided to try to get my old job back.

My position was filled so I was just looking for a job. I found one working at a gas station pumping gas at a full-service station. After a few months of doing that I got a call to come down to Miami for a casting for Diesel. I didn’t know much about it and that’s when I met Ellen Von Unwerth. Two days later I got a call saying that I had booked the job. They were going to pay me for my driving time, plus my day rate so I said sure.

Before we started shooting Ellen asked me if I had any other surfer friends. I did and showed her a picture of my buddy. She asked me to go drive back up and get him so I went. I picked up my buddy and did the shoot. It was the first time I was in my underwear on the beach.

Would you say that was the pivotal moment that changed the direction of your career?

Oh yeah. Two weeks later I was in New York. My photo had been sent to all the photo reps. Steven Meisel picked up on me and that was the end.

It’s a theme among models that once Steven gives his seal of approval their careers take off.

Yeah, it went from that to shooting Versace. I went back to Miami to do catalogues for a while. I worked with a lot of German sports catalogues. I would work 12-15 days with them at a time and then it was back to Steven. I went back to Miami and went to a casting at the Raleigh Hotel. It was early and I was in the lobby trying to figure out where to go. I met this guy in the lobby and he wanted to know if I would shoot with him. I didn’t know him so he told me to go to my agents and tell them that Mario Testino wanted to shoot me. My agency called him and that opened up a whole other thing. From there it went to more photographers and non-stop for a few years.

You won the VH1 Model of the Year award. From watching Tyson win to you winning must have been surreal.

Yeah, it was.

What was that like winning the award?

I was never in the public eye before. Models now have training. I had no guidance from a PR stand point. When I won it I didn’t know what my voice would sound like. I was on stage at Madison Square Garden and nobody told me that there would be a five second delay in my voice. It was very off putting.

You were a part of the pre-internet era. You won this award, you were in a high-profile relationship. How do think all of that compares to now in terms of social media and coaching? Did you feel that you had more privacy.

Well it wasn’t just privacy. Even now when I walk down the streets in New York people still recognize me. What I needed was guidance. Now we have Project Runway and other reality shows. The whole profile is completely different. It’s been bogged down creatively. It’s two different businesses now. It feels a lot more contrived. It’s really about selling now as opposed to a creative market.

Do you feel that the industry is more contrived now?

It’s all about money management. I think now it’s like here’s the budget, we need a look book. We don’t need someone to steam the clothes we can retouch the photos. One person has to now do so much. There was a time when I was on set that all of that was done. The picture was taken and it was taken a  couple of times.  Exactly what was on set was what was shown with maybe a little bit of color correction.  The only thing that was really done was the cropping. Now everything is Photoshop and Illustrator. Anybody with a digital camera has the opportunity to become somebody great if they have the right connections.

One of the concentrations at Soul Artist Management is to bring back the male supermodel. How do you feel about that? Is it something that is achievable?

Yeah, I think so. The thing is now it could easily be achieved especially with all the marketing outlets that are available but you also have to have substance to back all of that up. You really can’t create a household name based on gimmicks.

How do you feel about shows like The Face and Project Runway? Do you think that they give an accurate portrayal of the industry?

It can only go so far from that venue. If Steven Meisel or another great photographer is going to shoot the winner from America’s Next Top Model it’s not going to do anything for the photographers to shoot them. It’s not going to help sales of the cover of Italian Vogue or American Vogue or anything like that. I don’t think that a winner of a show is going to change the industry.

What would be your biggest take away from your 20 years in the industry.

Follow your path. Don’t take anything for granted. Stay and follow the endeavors you believe in, not just in the modeling field but life in general. Everyone is so young, they don’t know what they want in life. My life changed when I started modeling. The whole world literally opened up. At 20 I wanted to do music and be famous but it’s not going to happen unless you really want it and are willing to work really hard at it.  We make it look easy but there was a road to get there.

How did you deal with the pressures and scrutiny of the industry. Was it difficult for you?

I just went with it. I was easy. I remember being at Pier 59 shooting a campaign. I had my skateboard and we were in a huge studio and I just started skating because there was so much smooth concrete. I just lost myself. There was no pressure for me.

At one point I got a phone call from my agent that heard I was being difficult on a job. I was in Paris staying in a hotel and I had just been in three or four different countries in one week. I was in Paris, Jamaica, Italy, Germany and then back to Paris and I was tired. It made me think, are you serious? The agent was in Miami the whole time just doing his daily routine and I was out here busting my ass traveling around being happy-go-lucky and pretending everything is great. I broke down that night. My nerves were shot. I had nobody there with me, nobody to call, nobody to depend on. At that point everything was emotional.

I had my ups and downs following that. I have nothing bad to say about my 20 years in the industry. Just mad respect for the opportunities.  I’m so grateful to have worked with such great creatives that allowed me to feel I was being creative. I was a part of their process. That felt good.

What are you doing now? What are your plans?

I play music and I also have a custom handmade bow tie line I’ll be launching soon. On a day-to-day I custom build and I fabricate. Right now I’m standing in a coffee-house that I built from the ground up for a client of mine. They just got the lease for the space next door so what we’re going to do is convert the place into a brunch, coffee-house and wine bar. The last event job I did was for Absolute Vodka. I built them a tunnel in the shape of their bottle. Before that I did an office build-out for a casting director in New York. We custom-built 13 desks and a conference table and their whole kitchen area. I’m trying to get away from the building which is why I’m launching the bow ties. I’ve had them for two years and now I’m ready to take them into small spaces and shops. I want to play my music and take the modeling jobs as they come. I just did a Haider Ackermann presentation in Paris.

Scott is represented by Major

Jason Eldredge on His Aural Fixation

Named by Billboard Magazine as one of the ‘Top 30 Under Thirty’ in the music industry, Jason’s music supervision credits include: HBO’s Six Feet Under, The Closer for TNT and Free Radio for VH-1 in addition to DJ’ing the 86th Academy Awards Governors Ball and creating mixes for Fred Segal. Michael Kors, Beats Music and Urban Decay. I was turned on to Jason’s work through our mutal friend Andrew and I caught up with him to discuss his career.

I think to describe you as a DJ is limiting and doesn’t do you justice. How would you describe what you do?

I have always described myself as an artist. I am constantly working in different mediums and practicing a variety of disciplines simultaneously. Everything I do is based in the arts. Music, performing, writing, painting, cooking, design. I have a great appreciation for the creative process and I am happy to contribute whenever I can.

You’ve consulted on various music projects. Tell us about that process.

Consulting is a dream come true because the bulk of that work is mainly making suggestions. Unlike other jobs where I have to go through the process of licensing music, consultancy is more about sharing ideas and it is the essence of creativity. A client will come to me with a specific project and it is my job to pitch a selection of music that will fit their needs. As with everything I do, I also try to maintain a bit of my own signature in the work.

You DJ’ed the 86th Academy Awards Governors Ball and also provided a mix for the Oscar’s Foreign Language Film Nominees reception. How did that collaboration come about?

Tom Hanks and Annette Bening were hosting a private inaugural fundraiser last year for the upcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. I was asked to create a mix of movie soundtracks for that event and it turned out to be a big success. When it came time for the Oscars to hire a DJ for the Governors Ball, they remembered my previous work and I got the call. It was a really incredible night.

Music is such an emotive and powerful tool. What factors do you consider when curating your play lists for various clients?

I tend to gravitate toward music and art that has a strong sense of originality and I continually strive to curate for quality in everything that I do. My number one concern is maintaining a high level of integrity for both the project and myself. That said, I also constantly look for places where I can take risks and think outside the box.

Do you prefer the immediate visceral response from your audience when DJ’ing as opposed to other environments?

DJ’ing in front of a live audience and DJ’ing on the radio each have their own unique perks. When I am DJ’ing live, it is all about instant communication. A good DJ is able to read the crowd and the space. It is amazing how a DJ can immediately change the temperature of the room based on what he or she is playing. On the other hand, when I’m doing a radio show— even though I might get listeners texting or calling in— it can sometimes feel like performing in a bit of a vacuum. I guess a good comparison would be acting on stage as opposed to acting on film. In theatre, you have an instant response from a live audience that you don’t usually get while working in front of a camera. The same goes for DJ’ing. When you play live you can get an immediate response, whereas on the radio or with a prerecorded mix, the response is more delayed. Usually there is an opportunity to take more substantial risks with the latter, because you’re not as concerned with keeping the flow of the room going.

What projects are you working on that you can share?

I am currently in the process of launching AccidentalRhythm.com, which is the exciting new chapter of my radio show. It has been thrilling to move my program over to its own independent entity, because it feels like such a new idea. Aside from maybe the BBC, it seems like radio stations as we’ve come to know them are coming to an end and I am really intrigued to see what happens next in the world of webcasting. In addition to the new phase of my show, I am also helping produce a documentary focusing on the town of Montauk in the Hamptons and this year also marks my fifth year anniversary of DJ’ing for Oliver Peoples. I will be playing their Summer Sessions series again this July in Malibu.

What do you think are the most common misconceptions about what you do?

DJ’s are not jukeboxes. I am usually not opposed to requests, but what I don’t understand is when the occasional person wants to change the entire vibe of what a DJ is playing just because it doesn’t suit his or her particular taste. You wouldn’t ask a chef at a restaurant to rewrite the entire menu just because you aren’t familiar with the dishes, would you? When I hear other DJs play live, I am genuinely interested in how their sets are going to unfold. I want to know about the music that other people have discovered and how they choose to express their individual taste. That is the genius of the job. I recently had a long conversation with a friend who said, “I understand that you are playing songs up there, but what exactly is it that you are doing? Like, what are you listening to in those headphones?” I tried to explain the concepts of cueing and beat-matching and orchestrating the appropriate tempos and pitches and it all sort of blew his mind. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the complicated process that goes into the work. DJ’ing is the epitome of postmodernism. It is the act of taking ready-made works of art and creating something new. To me, that is the highest level of creativity because it is such a unique form of collaboration. DJ’ing is about creating a collage. It’s auditory assemblage.  I think Marcel Duchamp would have been really amazed to see this type of curating happening. He also would have made one hell of a DJ.

Follow him at @JasonEldredge

Ryan Fitzgibbon – The Voice Of A New Generation

Hello Mr. is a bi-annual publication that launched in the spring of 2013 paving the way for a new generation of gay men. I spoke with its founder Ryan Fitzgibbon about the genesis of the project, how he executed his vision and how he continues to defy convention.

Tell us about the genesis of Hello Mr.

Hello Mr. started out as a blog that I created to gather a few of my friends in a common space. We could write about dating and what the gay dating sphere was like, talk freely. It was a very casual, safe space with somewhat infrequent posts, but soon enough I saw that there was something deeper to uncover in all this. It evolved into the concept for this magazine about a new generation of men. Those in middle existing media that paid no heed to the extremes—the chiseled go-go dancer in a rainbow Speedo, or the marriage equality activist standing with posters on the Capitol. These stereotypes are iconic of gay culture, but they’re extremes, and such, leave little room to showcase the reality of the everyday gay, which is what I was interested in.

You describe Hello Mr. as a community. Why did you choose print media as an expression of that community?

Print magazines have always been a love of mine. Independent publications are emerging in such a way so that now the Kinfolks and the Fantastic Mans of the publishing world are starting to surface in the mainstream, offered at big time bookstores and retailers. I think this new energy in the indie publishing world comes from the worth of thick, quality-printed, beautiful serial you can keep at your bedside or on your bookshelves. It’s a conversation piece and, similar to how the blog functioned, a common place. Because much of each issue comprises personal narratives and essays, it reads more like an anthology that acts as a reflection of the universal truths for many gay men around the world. The format, combined with the design details—the inclination to keep it on your coffee table rather than toss it in the recycling bin when you’re finished—establishes the worth of the object. Our readers take great pride in owning it, for lack of a less punny word.

How has autonomy informed the creative process for you?

I veered away from potential investors and advertisers early on in the process, and crowdfunded this fully, and then some. The first issue ran completely ad-free. Because the magazine came from the interest, motivation, and interest of those who were helping raise the fun, the engagement with the creation of this magazine meant so much more. If I’d gone another route, the response to the launch would have been totally different. I feel like readers (new or old) have been here since the beginning.

As a kind of solopreneur some of the toughest parts of this were in forming the style guide, building the brand, designing the website, assembling a contributors agreement, deciding how the book should be sectioned, etc. Because I was also scouting writers, photographers, and illustrators that I wanted to work with, it comes together somewhat organically. Not only do these pieces speak to each other, but they don’t have to be influenced by advertising, by the opinion of a major investor, or by the regionality of a publication. It’s universal and unbridled.

In an age where print media is in a state of flux and the current subscription model is to sell cheap, what are the challenges you faced launching your publication?

Starting any kind of new media or content-provider in this day and age comes with its challenges—the publishing world is saturated. But major magazines have dug themselves in a rut. They offered subscriptions cheaper and cheaper until you can get a year of periodicals for $5, which trains the consumer that these materials are cheap. So when you see a magazine that is $20, you might be confused at the pricing based on your prior knowledge of what other magazines cost. People might not purchase Hello Mr. because you wouldn’t spend $20 on Vanity Fair or Esquire. But this new breed of indie magazines is reclaiming the worth of print, and avoiding the tribulations of the electronic. Digital advertising revenue figures are nowhere near what everyone projected and eBook sales are steadily declining. Online engagement is undeniably important, but the trend of sales and readership (despite this massive shift to digital content) shows that people will always love holding something in their hands and putting something on their coffee table.

How do you mitigate merging art and commerce while maintaining the integrity of what you are doing?

As our magazine is starting to take on advertisers, I put a lot of thought into what products I’d want next to our content. I’m picky in the sense that I wouldn’t want a reader to flip through my magazine and feel isolated, or feel like the commerce that went with the content didn’t strike them in a positive way. It’s easy enough to take on every fashion brand and gay travel advertiser that comes your way, but it risks cheapening the quality readers are paying more for.

As a sort of weird parallel example, when Joanna Coles was put on as editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan, one of her first motions was to cut off all relationships with the sex-toy advertisers that littered the back of the book. A year later, Cosmopolitan has won a National Magazine Award for the first time since its emergence in 1965. If you treat your brand with respect, your readers will respect it too.

What struck me in the first issue was how gay culture was normalized unlike the caricature presented in mass media. Was this a conscious decision?

Haha, yes. If anything it was the thing that set the whole mission in motion. More than anything, Hello Mr. is a platform to allow people to express their own experiences. We’re not necessarily trying to replace the current image of gay men, or condemning existing images of gay culture as necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that the gay population is divided into cultures and subcultures, with a few cultures that were being represented a lot and this whole middle culture that got zero to nothing. As I’ve said before, stereotypes are not going away—there’s nothing wrong with them existing and there’s truth in them. But what about the middle ground?

What have you learned about yourself during this process?

I’ve always been a designer and an art director, but I’d never ventured into editing professionally. In this new role, I’ve kind of surprised myself in finding out that this time around, being editor-in-chief is so much fun. I design the whole book, and it’s my aesthetic first-born. But when it comes to editing, I’ll sit and read submissions and laugh and cry and resist the urge to post stories immediately. I love promoting the work of my contributors, and I can’t believe I get to call that my job now.

Also, I’ve become better and better at delegating. I’ve always been the kind of person to let a lot rest on my shoulders until I’m at max capacity. After we packaged this last issue, I’d hired someone temporarily for brand partnerships, I am constantly giving work to our editorial assistant, enlisted multiple people to help me host events, reached out to writers and copyeditors, met up with over a dozen interns—and I’m starting to feel more balance because of it. From a glance, it might seem like a one-man show, but as always, I’ve learned that a community is the only thing that’s going to produce the high reaching results I’m aiming for.

How do you plan to evolve your brand?

I’m constantly getting feedback from my writers and readers. Having recently become one of the suggested users on Instagram, resulting in 33,000 new followers means we’re reaching a much larger audience now. It’s fun to see what people will react strongest to, and what they’ll neglect on social media. And trying to cultivate that online relationship is one way to produce the best possible experience for them. Creating the paper magazine means that I’m curating content that can be (and usually is) read from cover to cover. But my next venture will be in building the online community in the same vein as the original Hello Mr. blog. We have so many artists, writers, contributors, timely stories to draw from, but can’t fit into the print edition. It seems that the only logical way for our magazine to grow is to get more people participating in the conversation.

Subscribe here