James Meakin, what can we say – the guy lives a charmed life; super cool vibes, a dream job taking images all over the world at the most exotic locations, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in his portfolio. All that aside, the guy is straight up grounded – read on.
KA- I know that this is a typical question, but I find it only typical when the subject is average – in your case it is a magnificent question. What is your inspiration?
JM- I just have a real hunger and fascination with moments, a kind of obsession with beautiful things. I love the form of adrenaline you get, creating something on the verge of fantasy, of total escapism. The thrill it gives me to capture a fleeting moment, that perhaps could never have been planned or repeatedºit just feels like we are doing something unique, and I love the glory in that.
KA- From the minute I saw your Rosie Huntington-Whiteley shoot in South Africa, my response was, ™Who is this person taking such incredibly beautiful images?∫ When it seems that the new trend is ™anti-beauty∫, how do you stay firm with your vision?
JM- I just don’t really look at the other side. If I skim through a magazine, if I’m being honest, I don’t even register images that don’t grab me, no matter who the model is, or what she’s wearing. I’m firm on the fact that the image comes first; it represents the culmination of
everyone’s effort and talent, without a strong image, everything is dulled down. I’m pretty sure that those outside the inner circle of fashion probably react in the same way. I’m
convinced that the average person, taking the time to look through a fashion mag, is
simply wanting to fantasize and dream a little about something beautiful; referencing it somehow back to themselves. Just as a man looks at say sports cars, or sporting heroes and daydreamsº.anti-beauty just makes the world seem like an ugly place, and we don’t need reminding of that! I look specifically for creatives from the old guard, who reached the top of the industry; when the image was everything and the photographers were kingºand from the new school who LOVE imagery, and are inspired to see their work done justice, and shown in all its gloryº. If everyone copies a trend, there’s no one doing anything original. The beauty in nature and light is always a strong foundation for spontaneous original work.
KA- You seem to really love shooting against the backdrop of infinite sky, why is that?
JM- I love the idea that you could be anywhere, in any time. I have a natural tendency to produce graphic images that appeal to the aesthetic eye. I love isolation and desolate places; the stage is already set for you when you arrive in a place like that, no matter how hard it is to get a shoot there in the first place.
KA- Why do you think there are so many creatives living in London?
JM- My personal opinion on that, is that the grey skies and the perceived negativity that this imposes, is in fact, the most inspiring thing. It forces us inward and together; it generates character and the desire to be somewhere else, through music, art, writing,
whatever. I think the sun can be a big distraction, having lived in relentlessly hot countries on my travelsºit is somehow something that should never be taken for granted! On top of that, in a town with such a pedigree in creative heroes, it’s a massive motivation to produce something to shine out, in such a competitive placeº.the bar is very high, so you have to dig very deep, and have real courage to reveal yourself.
KA- What are you currently reading?
JM- I’m getting blown away by the culture Sci-fi novels by Ian M Banksº.for me it’s all about the future or the hindsight of the past; the present is pretty boringºI love his books for the decadent, dark twisted, highly sexualized existence, that has come the undisputed normºmore escapism I guess!
KA- What is on your playlist?
JM- Totally depends; I love emotion in music. This can come in so many genres. I react to quite tripy stuff most; funny enough, I’m quite secretive about my music taste, I always get others to DJ on set! Again, I hate trends, even in music…
KA-There must be so many interesting and exotic shoots under your belt, but is there one in particular, that stands out the most?
JM- Shooting Rosie was mind-blowing. There was an electricity on set in the desert; complete silence from all involvedº.including herºit was such a perfect combination, that we knew it was gonna be specialº Also my journeys through India, with Vogue India in the monsoon, were very emotionally satisfying experiences. Any shoot in Namibia is mind blowing; it really is like visiting another planet.
KA- Helmut Newton said (badly quoted), ™When I am surrounded by such beauty, it is very hard to take a bad picture.∫ What is your take on this statement?
JM- It takes a certain kind of genius to get to that point, where you are surrounded by the right kind of beauty; if it was easy, everyone would get it right every time. I’ve seen plenty of dull pictures of top models. I think some people in fashion, actually believe this statement: you put a top model in beautiful clothes and job done, just needs to be ™lensed∫ and you go homeº.I hate this term, to me it sums up a lot of what is wrong with the industry right now. Yes, in terms of locations and light this can be true, but getting there takes huge effort and planning, and of course, almost every shoot is sabotaged by the weather in some form or another. You need to be adaptableºand let the day influence the shoot in its own unique way, thinking of it as a blessingºan unrepeatable set of coincidences.
KA- What would your ultimate shoot be?
JM- A trip, a journey, to shoot the model I want in the place I want to, with the stylist who gets it 100% right; the right undertone and appreciation of sexuality and the female form, produced with a group of creatives who love life and love what they doº.I have plenty of dream locations in my head. I still feel I haven’t even touched the surface of what I can produce- not yet.
KA- Do you think that the Internet will ultimately make everything digital, or will our need to touch and smell win out in the end (printed book)?
JM- Every time I see one of my images printed large, I’m taken aback. The impact is so much more powerful; I often realize I’m stuck in my view finder and a location laptop screen, and missing the power of my own images. So I’m already a victim of this change on a day to day basis. My career really has already been 100% digital; I assisted in the film era though, so it influences how I produce images. Small images read in a small way, so the internet is holding us back a littleºI also understand the move towards moving image billboards and accessible interactive online mediaº.and am embracing itºbut a photograph still seems to be what the fashion industry is all about. A moment that is not real; that has been manufactured, so that the viewer is forced to read an image exactly how a team of creatives wants you to. The model probably wasn’t that person you perceived in a glance at an imageº Literally, most of the fashion film work, does no more than reveal the clumsy, off balance and underfed model who actually can’t act; with the whole thing seeming really staged. I think fashion film is still finding its way if I’m honest. I hope coffee table books are here to stay, but in harmony with a wall projector, or a digital coffee table, or a hologram, or who knows whatº.but I don’t believe in hanging on to the past for the sake of posterity; the world has never worked this way, embrace it. Nothing illustrates like a photo; though photos could never replace art for me personally, abstract emotion in art is simply in a league of it’s own.
KA- What is your take on Instagram?
JM- I’m often shown an iPhone instagram image of an over the shoulder image of one of my shoots, with the suggestion, ™would love to see it in these colours∫ºit’s highly amusing. It’s great that people are really into it; it’s good to keep people focused on how quickly a cool image can appear before your eyes and be read into so much, and sharedº.but personally, I’d rather you looked at my website or news feed, than effectively my photographic doodlesº.has to be said though, the pocket phone camera has an amazing ability to be in the right place at the right time, which is half the battle with creating a good image.
KA- Is traveling as much as you do, glamorous like it might seem?
JM- We are very focussed; sometimes I leave a place, and realize I didn’t take any personal images, or really see much more than the set we created. What I love is absorbing as much local culture as possible; to me it’s all about experience, lasting memories and friends. Some of the places we get to see, you just would never have ever got there had it not been for the desire for a specific location. We are lucky to bond with genuine locals, who are proud to show off the magical places that they have treasured; it’s a rare travel experience to meet people like this, to be invited into a culture, but not as a tourist. I see so many
amazing sunrises in amazing places, you can’t buy that experience. Carrying the armour of gear we travel with isn’t that glamorous, I must say! But it’s a must.
KA- What do you do to relax after a long assignment?
JM- Sleep in! Then just stay very homely and behave very normally..salty homey foods and just be at home; forget all about fashion and photography, try to get involved in some sport (like skiing, snow boarding, mountain biking or surfing), and hopefully just hang with my lovely wife and not care about anything! I call that my weekend and I deserve it, whatever day it is.
KA- Who is James Meakin?
JM- A very positive, hard working, grateful photographer; who just loves the stage, a good performance, and the value and camaraderie of a good team. Someone who loves and respects beauty, in nature and humanity. Someone who knows we only have one go at our lives; so we should follow our dreams and not our Western career programmingº..kind of thing!