Kirsten Owen, Modeling’s Queen Of Cool, On Helmut Lang And Everything Fashion

Kirsten Owen, the iconic 90s model who represented anti-establishment grunge, spent her childhood in an old log house in Eastern Ontario with her mother and two older sisters. The rugged and raw backdrop of her youth would provide a huge contrast to the dizzying heights of the fashion industry and the coveted circle of models she would later find herself in. Kirsten transcended what it meant to be a model and became not only a muse to many in the industry but the face of a movement, imprinted in time. I spoke to Kirsten by phone as she recalled her humble beginnings and reflected on her legacy.

How were you discovered? Was modeling something that you always had an interest in?

When I was 12 we moved from Eastern Ontario to Toronto and that’s when people started saying that to me that I could be a model. I was a really shy and quiet kid and didn’t have a group of friends, but when we moved to Toronto I fell in with this crew of punks who took me under their wing. I finally felt included in something and left home when I was 14, but I didn’t start modeling until I was 17. Between those years I was living with my boyfriend, and then when I was 16, I started working at the Big Bop in Toronto. This other model who used to hang out at the club told me she was going to introduce me to the owner of the agency she was with. She dragged me into the Judy Welch agency in Toronto where I was signed but I didn’t do much modeling until I went to Paris a year later.

This would have been the late 80s, right? I know that you did the cover of Elle, among other things, and then there was a gap. Was that a conscious decision you made?

No, I think in modeling it always ebbs and flows. When I started in Paris, I was doing a lot of Marie Claire, French Elle, and some British Vogue—stuff like that. I was 22 when I had my son, and I decided to go and live in New Mexico. At that time the mentality was once you have a child, you are done. I got a call from my agent saying Helmut Lang wanted to fly me to Paris to be in his show. This was the third or fourth show for Helmut that I had done. I wasn’t really expecting that, but I was happy with it. I did the show and then decided to move back to Paris because more stuff was happening and I realized that I had to be working. Then I worked with Juergen Teller for i-D. At that time, this was the early 90s and I hadn’t really been thrown in with those creatives in the business yet. I was doing more safe kinds of work.

I grew up in the north of England with magazines such as i-D and The Face in the nineties. My first impression of you as a model was this edgy, cool girl. Would you say Helmut and Juergen were your biggest advocates?

Yes. In the very beginning it was Julien d’Ys who took notice of me and made sure I went with him to meet Paolo Roversi at Studio Rouchon in Paris where he was shooting the first issue of Italian Elle. Paolo and I immediately had a strong connection and he shot me for the cover.

What do you remember about that time with Helmut and Melanie Ward? The three of you are arguably the most identifiable figures for that moment.

I remember it being the setting where I felt most at home, where I could be myself. I was happy. Helmut would make you feel like you could be emotional and you didn’t have to cover up and try and be this professional model. He was just really cool, really nice, and really warm.

How would you contrast modeling today versus when you began?

Going from film to digital really changed the mood. I love shooting with photographers now who want to shoot on film. It slows it back down to a calmer pace and brings back mystery.

How do you keep it interesting for yourself after all this time?

There was a moment in my career where I realized that I could bring more to it to avoid being so bored. When you are a model, you are just a subject and you think you don’t have creative control, but that’s not true. It took me a while to realize that I could get something out of it that was really interesting and enjoyable for me.

What do you think changed within you that made you have that realization?

After a few years, I realized that if I made a certain expression with my face or body it was more interesting and brought more to the set. That encouraged me to keep moving and trying to be more expressive, and I really began enjoying it.

You’ve managed to maintain your privacy in our increasingly connected world, which I find to be refreshing. Nowadays, a lot of decisions are driven by the number of followers and likes a model has. That kind of pressure is damaging. They already have enough to contend with, you know?

It’s becoming so superficial. It’s fun for some people to do Instagram and stuff like that. I enjoy it, but I really enjoy it when people post really honest photos/comments instead of always pretending everything is so great in their life. I just can’t stand that.

Are your kids interested in modeling?

My daughter is really into fashion and may go into design or styling or some aspect in fashion. She really enjoys social media, and she fits right in with that world in a good, fun, positive way. My son is not that interested in that; it’s not really his personality.

Was there a point that you realized you had made it?

Yeah, there was a moment actually. One of the happiest moments of my career was after a shoot with Paolo. It was the mid 90s and we were shooting Italian Vogue. At the end of the shoot, Paolo said to me, “Kirsten, modeling is an art and you are an artist.” I was like, oh my God! That was amazing, coming from him, you know. So that was the moment I felt I had made it, and I was feeling really successful.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say to myself just be really comfortable with other creatives in this business and not feel intimidated. I went through a lot of terrifying times when I felt like I knew nothing, but as I grew, I finally realized I can trust myself.

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Braeden Wright On The Influences and Inspiration Behind His New Album

With smoldering good looks, model and musician Braeden Wright’s appeal is irrefutable. Hailing from Edmonton, Canada he was discovered at a concert after earning a degree in political science. Intent on pursing a career in music, fate would have other plans for the pulchritudinous youth. After a successful modeling career, Braeden could no longer resist the pull to pursue his passion for music. I chatted with him about his new LP What Once Was Gold (The Demo Sessions).

Tell us about your childhood in Alberta.

Alberta is an incredible place to grow up. I really do love Canada so much, and growing up there shaped a massive part of who I am. The people are diverse, open, and loving, and the long winters give you a lot of time to think. I spent so much time going for quiet walks in the snow, staring at the stars, and thinking about many of life’s big questions. I don’t think I’d be the same without growing up in that environment, especially without having been exposed to so many different cultures and people so openly as a child. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.

Tell us about how you were discovered.

I was discovered at a music festival in my hometown of Edmonton, Canada.  I had gone out to see Chromeo and Broken Social Scene with my best friends, and during the show three separate scouts came up to me to give me their card. The agency was Mode Models (also home to the likes of Meghan Collison, Heather Marks, Simon Nessman, and Chad White), and they were pretty persuasive about having me come in. At the time, I was a bit shocked they had even approached me, but having three of them come up to me separately made me feel like giving it some serious thought. So I went in a couple of weeks later, had some photos taken, and before I knew it I was in New York at the head office for Calvin Klein, casting for their exclusive in Milan. The rest is history.

Modeling derailed your music career, at least temporarily. What convinced you to pursue music again?

I think derailed is maybe too strong of a word. Modeling is something that actually helped my music career quite a bit. Even when I wasn’t directly pursuing it, it was always in the back of my mind. Modeling gave me the opportunity to travel the world and evolve into the person I am now, and I don’t think who I was before any of this would have been truly ready to be a successful artist or musician. I am incredibly grateful for everything going exactly the way it went. I had always planned on getting back into music eventually, and finally I reached a point where I realized I was established enough in my modeling career that I could handle pursuing both passions. I had already accomplished so many of my own personal goals in modeling—walking exclusive for Calvin Klein, working for Versace, Tom Ford, and Ralph Lauren…it just felt like it was time to show more of who I am and expose a side of myself I had held in and worked to grow for so long behind the scenes. Then, after a really difficult breakup and a fresh move to Los Angeles from New York, everything just lined up right.  I had an opportunity to finally just sit down and record and write. There was so much bottled inside that once I finally started, I just couldn’t stop.

Can you talk about the role music has played in your life.

Music has always been everything to me. Even at a young age, I felt this intrinsic need to play music—to sing along to whatever was playing or tap out the beat. Sometimes I have no control over it—it’s compulsive. I also have synesthesia and have strange relationships to sounds in my mind in ways that maybe some people don’t. I have a visceral connection to music that’s shaped my life in ways I wasn’t necessarily even aware of. It’s drawn me to places and things in life because that connection is so strong. It’s shaped my identity. My personal style was very much influenced by Britrock and what artists I loved were wearing. It influenced the people I gravitated toward, the things I tended to consume, and how I spent my time. I was always more content to lay in my room listening to an album on my bed than to go see a movie, or to just play guitar, or to write. Music has become my escape/catharsis when I need it. I’ve always been a massive music listener, but with writing, it’s an outlet. It’s a place for me to express myself and to create…to think and learn and grow in life, along with the music. I love writing, and I am always happiest when I am just singing. Even at young age, that always felt like the only thing I wanted to do, so when you finally get to do it, you feel the most like your true self. There is a huge energy behind that. So being able to find that and finally do it is what I think everyone dreams of in life—getting out and doing that one thing that they know is their thing, whatever the fuck it is. I am just grateful to feel like I know on that very deep level who I am and to live everyday trying to be my authentic self in the brightest way possible.

What were the influences and inspiration behind the making of What Once Was Gold (The Demo Sessions)?

Musically, I have always been influenced by ‘90s Britrock and post-Britrock. Bands like Oasis, Coldplay, The Killers, U2, Arcade Fire, and Ryan Adams have been huge for me, as well as the multitude of artists that either influenced their sound or were influenced by it: The Beatles on one end or Bon Iver on the other. At the same time, I have always loved pop music. Everything Max Martin has touched just hits me. The melodies and the song structures are so addictive. I love music that connects deeply in some way, either from the authenticity in its emotion or simply because it has a sound or melody that takes you somewhere else. I am also very influenced by ambient and sound design—people like Jon Hopkins and the legendary Brian Eno. So a lot of what you hear has bits of all of that, and I felt like each individual song has its own influences. It’s an album that has a spoken word electro-acoustic interlude on the one hand and a pop song on the other. It’s not all the same. But I wanted to try my best to tell a cohesive story, using all of the ways that felt natural to me. That story was about the heartache I was going through over a lost love and the eventual recovery. I think you will hear the arc in the record. There’s the hope to fix things, realization of the loss, and finding your way back. “Hold On to Your Love”—the final song—is all about the lessons learned and returning to the hope that one day that person, whatever shape she happens to take, and that love might still be there. It’s all very much reflective of what I was going through at the time—heart on its sleeve. I hope that comes across. I feel like it’s something that many people can relate to.

How do you think having autonomy shaped the sound of the album?

When you are writing something completely on your own—in control of every sound, every note, and every pronunciation of every line—it gives you the ability to create something very organic. Even if you make a mistake, maybe that mistake is meant to be there. At the same time, it can do your head in trying to get it right. You live with this thing over and over as it grows every day, and pieces get cut and regrow into something else. It definitely helped that I didn’t have some sort of box to fit into—I just wrote whatever was coming out that I couldn’t hold in. So every single song has truth to it. I wasn’t trying to create anything for the sake of making it to fit into a label demand or request of someone else. It was all a passion project. At the same time, I am my own biggest critic, so I was incredibly hard on myself at every step and every stage. Not having anyone there to tell me something was great when maybe it wasn’t really pushed me to try and get things as best as they could be with the tools and abilities I had while working alone in just a home demo studio. There was never any phoning it in, and there isn’t anything on there that didn’t have meaning to me. It all felt like it absolutely had to be there or it just wasn’t finished. The style and sounds were free to be whatever I envisioned. I think the fact that I had no one telling me what to do made me really try my best to make something real and something meaningful to me, and I think that was the guiding force that shaped the songs and spirit of everything in the end.

Thematically, how would you describe the sonic landscape of the album?

I mean, I have so many influences from alternative rock:  Dreampop, Shoegaze, Stadium Rock…There are many sonic landscapes that have been absorbed into my own choices of instruments and sound textures and even how I play them based on the atmosphere I’m trying to create. The Edge is a huge, huge hero of mine. Same with Nick McCabe from The Verve. I love the blend of acoustic and electronic, so there is a lot of that. There is also a lot of reverb, a lot of tape delay, a lot of Waves plugins from Abbey Road to give tape saturation or a spring reverb, that kind of thing. I like to make sounds that are somewhere between dreamy, rock ‘n’ roll, and pop at the same time. I wasn’t afraid to use any instrument. On “Lover…” I bought and learned how to play harmonica the day I recorded the take. I knew what the melody was and I knew in my head it had to be a harmonica, so I just did it. Same with ”Hold on to Your Love”— there are acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, and ukulele parts played on top of each other to create a kind of folk/surf sound. There’s a band called The Thrills that I loved, whose album “Teenager” had a ton of mandolin and ukulele. And the sound I had in my head was exactly what you hear. I knew the only way for it to be right was to go out and buy the instruments myself and just learn to play them that day. If you have a good ear, they aren’t too different from guitar. I just made up the chords myself and did my own tunings a little bit, and it turned out to be just what I was looking for. The sound that I ended up with in that song makes me so happy because everyone asks what instrument it is. No one can quite tell, but at the same time, they describe the feeling of the sound exactly as I wanted them to feel it. I like that bit of mystery in blended sound textures like that. It’s one of the few ways left in songwriting that you can still be quite experimental, and that makes it such an adventure.

Creating music is such a catharsis. How did you feel once you completed the album?

When I finally finished this album, honestly it felt like a huge part of the search for myself had finally been completed. I had felt my whole life that I was this musician who could make this album… And yet I had never done it. I had nothing to show for what I had going on inside. So in that sense it was beyond satisfying. When I first played the whole finished thing for myself, that was one of the happiest moments of my life. Even if it didn’t have massive success or didn’t have a ton of fans, I just knew that I had finally done something that I had always desperately wanted to. That deep part of me that I held close to my identity was finally real. I could finally feel like who I was on the inside matched on the outside. At the same time, a lot of this album was written at a really sad and dark time for me, through a lot of heartbreak. Finishing this album was kind of like sealing up all of those emotions into this kind of goodbye love letter. That part of my life was over. I could move on. And I felt so fucking excited just for the present moment and whatever comes next. Between both of those things, it felt like such rebirth for me. I could finally breathe and be excited for who I am now—not what once was.

What can we expect from you next?

Between traveling and modeling, you can expect me to start playing this album live in and around Los Angeles soon. I am also still writing and working on new stuff. You can expect new covers on my social media and possibly some new singles in the future. I am also working on a music video for one of the tracks on the album, so I’m really excited about that. We’ll just have to see what the universe has in store for me next. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it.

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How ‘Gucci Girl’ Georgina Grenville Went From Farm Life To The Fab Life

From a small town in South Africa to the pages of Vogue, Georgina Grenville was the archetypal blonde bombshell during Tom Ford’s tenure at Gucci. During the period in fashion where quirky, off-kilter looks dominated runways and magazines, Georgina’s classic beauty offered a refreshing respite. Although she has scaled back on modeling to focus on family life, Georgina is still very much in demand. I spoke with her via email at her home in Paris.

Tell us about your childhood growing up in South Africa.

I had a very simple, “normal” upbringing in South Africa. I was born on a farm in the Eastern Cape that is close to a town called Kokstad, which at the time was a small farming community. I was born before the end of apartheid to liberal British parents who decided to farm in South Africa instead of staying in Kenya, where boarding schools would have been a must. I have two brothers, and I was the piggy-in-the-middle but have none of the middle child complex. Being the only girl, I was in a pretty privileged position. My brothers and I were, and still are, very close. When I was about 5 years old, we moved from the farm to the city.

Durban was a great city to grow up in. It’s on the Indian Ocean, and I spent most of my childhood on the beach. It’s a small city, and as youngsters we all had a lot of freedom. Being a model was never really an ambition of mine. As a child, I wanted to be a nurse, then a teacher, and then a race car driver. I never felt pretty, and I don’t think anyone put money on me growing up and becoming a model. I was awkward and quite shy.

When I was about 13, my mum decided to enroll me in a modeling school. It probably took some nagging on my part. She did it mainly as a way for me to have some fun, but also to help me feel more comfortable in my skin. At the school they taught us how to apply makeup and walk on a runway. The course culminated in a competition that I won, and that was the beginning of a long career in modeling for me.

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You won the South African round of Elite Model Look. How did your career take shape after that?

The big competition I won in South Africa was called Rooi Rose Supermodel of the Year. It was actually the idea of the owner of the modeling school, Leigh Downing, that I enter. When I entered, I never in a million years thought that I could win it. At just 14 years old, I was the youngest competitor, and then I went on to be the youngest winner of that competition, which was televised live. I won that competition in 1990, and in 1991 I flew home to crown Charlize Theron.

I remember crying my eyes out the night before the finals because I was still battling how to walk in high heels. I spent hours walking up and down the hotel corridors trying to master a walk. I was crowned Supermodel of the Year the next evening.

It was all pretty amazing stuff for a little girl from Kokstad. To be honest, I still pinch myself from time to time to make sure I am not dreaming. Part of the prize was to go on to the international part of the competition and compete with girls from all around the world. This part of the competition was in Ravello, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. On the way there I did my first real photo shoot in Rome for Rooi Rose magazine, the sponsor of the competition.

All in all, it was an incredible experience, and I ended up being a runner-up in the international competition. By the way, it wasn’t the Elite Competition but one organized by Why Not Model Management, Milan. The next stop after that was Milan, where I was expecting to be signed by Why Not Model Management. I was still 14, and although my parents did not come with me, I had support in the form of five other South African girls and our managers/chaperones, Gianfranco and Roberto. They had an apartment set up for us and were in charge of making sure we got signed to an agency.

Why Not Model Management never signed me, which was my first experience with rejection in the fashion world and was pretty hardcore for baby me, but it also led me to some good luck. The good luck came in the form of an older Italian lady named Marcella who had a small modeling agency called Marcellas’ Studio. She was wonderful, supportive, and protective. She took me on the very same day I was rejected by Why Not Model Management.

My modeling career began with me traipsing around Milan doing go-sees and castings. You have to remember that back then we had no cell phones, so I spent a lot of time staring at maps and trying to get from point A to B on various forms of public transport. I remember plucking up the courage to call my booker for the first time. I had no previous experience with adults apart from friends’ parents and teachers, so when I called I was very formal and asked to speak to Ms. Whatever-Her-Last-Name-Was and made the whole booking table laugh. I was mortified. I was very formal as I had never called an adult by their first name before.

It was an amazing and fun time in my life. It was the end of 1990 and I was 15 and living it up in Milan. I went out too much, and Hollywood and Lizard—the trendy clubs at the time—were second homes to me. Having fun was a huge priority for me back then. I obviously had to do some pretty quick growing up, but overall I was lucky and things went well for me. I wasn’t doing anything incredible workwise, but I was making enough money to support myself. Mainly, I shot catalogs and quite a lot of bridal wear, which is crazy considering my age at the time.

I also met some amazing people. The first stylist to really take me under her wing was a woman named Lucia Rafaelli. At the time she was working for Lei magazine, but before that she was at Vogue Italia. She was an incredible stylist and a great teacher, and I’ll always be grateful to her because she was one of the first to believe in me. Through her, I met Barry Lategan and Alex Chatelaine, both wonderful photographers and interesting people.

I also met and became friends with photographer Aldo Fallai and had the luck and pleasure to shoot a lot with him. These people were my teachers and friends, and I believe I was lucky to have met them as they all played a hand in creating this amazing career for me.

How did you deal with the isolation of being in New York so far away from family and home?

I spent about 3 years building my portfolio between Milan and Paris. There were times that were difficult, but I think that because of my age I was resilient and never took anything too hard. Milan was my happy place and Paris was more difficult, which is funny now, considering Paris is where I settled.

After those 2 years I began to set my sights on New York City and got there via Tokyo. Tokyo at the time was a great place to go and work. I managed to make enough money in 3 months to get me to New York. At this point, I had also changed agencies in Milan and was now represented by Fashion Model Management, who set me up with Faith Kates at Next Models. There I was at the end of 1994, the little girl from Durban, SA, feeling all grown up and on top of the world in New York City.

From then on, things happened pretty fast. A chance encounter with Tom Pecheux in a NY restaurant led to a meeting with Mario Testino and shooting an early BCBG campaign. Another chance meeting with Enrique Badulescu led to a shoot for French Vogue, still a favorite of mine. I had already shot a story with Steven Meisel and Joe McKenna for Italian Vogue around the same time. All these little things added up to the beginning of a really amazing part of my life. Meeting these three photographers was one of the most important events of my professional life.

Then there was also meeting Tom Ford, which was the thing that really turned my career into something extraordinary. Being the Gucci Girl was what brought me the most opportunities. I also was lucky to enjoy the support of both Liz Tilbiris and Anna Wintour. I regret that, because of my youth, I never fully appreciated the opportunities while I had them. I don’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it, I just regret not taking more advantage of the position I was in.

I battled with loneliness throughout that time. It was a lonely life, mainly because of the travel and hours. Even though I was surrounded by people most of the time, I didn’t always deal well with things and at a certain point I ran away from everything. I needed to.

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Who were the greatest influences on your career in the beginning?

The greatest influences on my early career were all the people I mentioned above. I also had a great friend and wonderful agent named David Milosovich, and we worked together throughout my career. He put up with a lot but always remained true and real, as well as loyal.

When did you realize that you had made it?

Sadly, I only realized I had made it after the fact. No, I’m kidding. I had different experiences over the years that made me realize I had made it. One was my first American Vogue cover, in which by the way, we flew down to shoot in the Florida Keys. We flew on a private plane and were back in NYC in time to watch Dawson’s Creek, a guilty pleasure of someone on the crew, and the agency threw a surprise party for me that included a cake with the Vogue cover made out of icing!

Another was a limo ride I shared with Jack Nicholson and the guy I was seeing at the time, an amazing guy by the way. What about it made me realize I had made it? Come on! I was in a limo with Jack Nicholson! Other experiences that made me realize I had made it included being asked to appear on Absolutely Fabulous as the “Gucci Girl,” hanging out with John Galliano and Naomi in Madrid, and taking the Concorde frequently between NYC and Paris. Those memories are all very special.

In spite of all the buzz generated around Instagirls, models such as yourself are still very much in demand. What do you attribute this to?

An Instagirl isn’t really the same as a model is she? That is my explanation for models still being in demand. Models of my age still being in demand I think shows a very positive evolution of our society. It also makes complete sense as most advertisers and designers sell their products to a huge range of women, so personally I think all the different ages should be represented as there is certainly room on the market. I also imagine that it’s women in their 40s who have the most buying power, so I am super happy to be in a position where I can represent them.

We were also all pretty fabulous. In the 90s, models had strong personalities and lots of character. Those attributes were part of what you needed to make it. I hope that people enjoy working with me now, and that’s why I continue to work. I am much more comfortable in my skin, and at the risk of sounding Zoolanderish, I’m a better model because of that.

I haven’t met too many Instagirls, but in general, the younger models I’ve met seem really cool and together. I’ve worked with a doctor and an architect recently. Fashion seems to be getting its fun back.

What are some of your memorable moments from the height of your career?

My life is made up of memorable moments, some of which I’ve already mentioned. Shooting the Versace campaign with Steven Meisel in 2000 was another experience that I will never forget. Other memorable moments include so many amazing people I was fortunate to meet, but I would be writing forever if I tried to tell you all of them.

I did work hard, but I also feel that I was super lucky time. Again, to be in the right place at the right time is invaluable in the fashion industry. Then it takes stamina and strength to stay on the top.

In retrospect, what did you discover about yourself through modeling?

I discovered that I’m super resilient. I also discovered that it’s not what’s on the outside that counts but what’s on the inside, even in the modeling industry.

What are you up to these days?

These days I’m a mum and part-time model. Three kids have kept me pretty busy up ‘til now. They are 12, 11, and 6 now, so I’m finding myself with free time once again. I hope to one day finish one of the books I’ve started to write, that is, if I can ever get up the courage to put myself on the line and let someone else read them.

I have really been enjoying working again as a model, so at the moment that’s what I’m up to, and it’s keeping me busy. Weirdly, I enjoy my job now more than ever before, maybe because of my age and the fact that it’s taken me until now to like the way I look. I feel like I’m getting the chance at a do-over, so I’m just going with the flow and enjoying life as it is.

My heart remains in Africa, so I also spend as much time as possible there with my kids, and travel remains an important part of my life and something I enjoy sharing with my kids and my husband. I figure I’ll decide what I’m going to be when I grow up.

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Christina Kruse on Suprematism, Structure, And The Inspiration Behind Her Latest Exhibit

As one of the preeminent models of the nineties, Christina Kruse’s visage could be seen in every major fashion magazine, advertising campaign and on the international runway scene. The Teutonic blonde’s effortless cool garnered legions of fans in the fashion industry leading to a demand from photographers and designers that has endured two decades. I caught up with the model-cum-artist as she prepared to showcase her latest work in New York.

Tell us about your childhood.

I grew up in a protected nature area just outside of Hamburg, an idyllic place that is completely surrounded by forests and fields, which was great for my 3 younger brothers and I. We spent a lot of time playing in forests and fields…hundreds of tree houses later…

You seemed to take a pragmatic approach to modeling, understanding that it wouldn’t sustain forever. How does that pragmatism translate to your creative life?   

Modeling is clearly a time-sensitive job. I myself have thought of it as a summer job that has lasted 23 years. I am not sure if it was because of pragmatism or just a healthy dose of realism, but I was fairly prepared for each of the 23 summers to be the last one.

By nature, in my everyday life I tend to want to keeps things as practical as possible. I have found freelancers in general to be very pragmatic as work life is already unpredictable and at times challenging, so I think it helps to try to keep that at a minimum in one’s home life.

As a model you’re the object of someone else’s vision. Do you feel more or less vulnerable and exposed in front of or behind the lens?  

I don’t feel vulnerable or exposed by all means. If anything I think it is great fun being someone’s canvas for their vision.

What makes this job so great is that it is never the same. Mind you I also had the great luck of working with people that did a lot of high-end editorial work and not German mainstream catalog work, which I remember was a little less exciting with the exception of the salary. So either way I was eternally thankful for having been able to do both at times, and always with wonderful people.

Do you have a formal art education? 

I left school when I was 16 for modeling and tried to do my baccalaureate via post correspondence while living in Milan (there was no email at that time). That failed after only a few weeks, as I was constantly traveling. When I moved to New York, I took a good amount of SVA sculpture classes either in the evenings or in the summers as that was the only time I could be guaranteed to commit, since I was again traveling so much. I think I probably had an unusual education, but to me it was a pretty profound one because I worked with the best of the best in the photography and fashion worlds, and so what better education is there than being on set with Steven Meisel—the master of both worlds. Makeup begins on a blank canvas, hair becomes a sculpture, the set becomes a different world, the lights, the camera position…to combine all of that to create iconic imagery is pretty incredible.

What artists and artistic movements have had the biggest influence on you?   

Someone who always has and continues to move me greatly is Kazemir Malevich, who said sometime around 1915:

Under Suprematism I understand the primacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist, the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.

That about sums it up for me, and I relate to the minimalistic visual language.

Tell us about the process by which you work. 

Whenever I set out on something new, my initial question is what am I dealing with, what is it I want to see happening, and most importantly why.

Once the why is answered, all of it somewhat falls into place, and I will create the drawing, then choose a model and the materials, shapes, forms, and colors (if any).

And then I start building all of it and assemble it—this can be a very lengthy process as it is a construction and not only do all elements need to make sense and fit, and but they also need to be stable, dependent, and connected to one another.

As an artist, you work primarily in mixed media and photography. What medium do you identify with the most?

In recent years, wood. Very recently, metals have replaced my camera to a great degree. When I used to take pictures, I also enjoyed building the sets for it very much—they were part of the whole process, and over time I became much more interested in elaborating on these objects, eventually taking myself out of the entire process and only concentrating on creating that idea or feeling as an object or set alone.

What about structure compels and informs your work?

To me, everything and anything has a structure, whether it be a conversation, a garden, or a piece of art work. I simply see it at such— I don’t know why; it is just the way it is .

Naturally understanding structure is the essence of anything I do…it’s a bit like a house—without some supporting beams, it will fall apart. I like to see these beams and understand what they are about.

How has your current living arrangement in upstate New York influenced your work? 

Upstate has been really good for me on many levels. I have my studio up here, it’s quiet, and I am surrounded by trees—a perfect place to de-connect from a rather stressed city.

The other day I talked to a friend and said, “it’s odd: this whole place here feels like I am back where I used to be when I was a child. I renovated the house mainly myself, built a studio out of the garage, and organized the landscaping, all things I did in the forests when I was little except they were treehouses or apartments on the ground created by branches and tree stomps.

I am finding myself in the same scenario that I loved to be in 40 years ago, which is kind of brilliant, and I suppose my very own structure has remained the same.

Tell us about your latest exhibition at Seaman’s House.

The show was organized by the curator Helen Allen and is really a show between my friends, their friends, and Helen’s artist friends, which has been great fun. It started out to be much about a minimalist and very structured tight works but then evolved into a grander scheme with perspectives coming from an architect, an environmental activist architect, and two artists that are everything but minimal in any of their works. It all worked wonderfully well together, which was really beautiful to see, as it was a great dialog between very different positions and views.

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Introducing Connor Newall

Connor Newall was plucked from obscurity and propelled into the upper echelons of the fashion industry after a serendipitous meeting with casting director Claire Catterson. Connor’s appeal is reminiscent of the wave of male models in the mid nineties when individuality was championed over convention. I spoke with Connor via email to find out how he’s adjusting to his newfound career.

Tell us about your childhood.

I was just a normal kid from Glasgow who loved playing and watching football and hanging out with my mates.

Tell us about how you were discovered.

I was discovered by a casting director who works in film. She recommended me to a modeling agency in Glasgow and they reached out to me and signed me immediately.

Growing up in Glasgow, had modeling ever entered your mind as a possible career?

Modeling never crossed my mind once.

You’ve expressed interest in an acting career. What parallels do you see between modeling and acting?

Modeling and acting are quite similar; both create a form of art and capture interesting images.

What would you be doing if you weren’t modeling?

If I weren’t modeling I’d be in the British Army.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The biggest highlights have been all the amazing jobs I’ve done, the people I’ve met, and the places I’ve been able to travel around the world.

What do you hope to get out of modeling?

I hope to start studying acting and work in films.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m not fashionable at all.

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