Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Bruce Smith - Beyond The Girl
Bruce Smith's 30-year career of bringing vitality and life to fashion springs from an inner energy that erupts in his on-set enthusiasm and animation
For Bruce Smith, making a photograph is more than setting up a camera in front of a model and releasing the shutter. It's about the moment, the energy and the spontaneous, intimate connection that happens between people. He shouts out his encouragement as he moves around his model, responding to the subtle changes in shapes and expressions that appear before him. He erupts into joyful laughter as he revels in the exciting juxtaposition of shape, color and gesture. These are the moments he lives for.
“I feed off it for my inner energy,” says Smith, who was born and began his career in Liverpool. “For me, it's always refreshing, always new. Doing what I do gives me self-respect and respect from other people. It has value, and I love it. It's all about the feeding of that inner self. For me, it's all about a journey of enlightenment.”
That journey is rooted in fashion photography, a world that's more readily recognized for its worship of the external rather than the internal. The promise of world travel and beautiful bodies certainly provides its allure, but for Smith, that was only the starting point in his 30-year journey as a premier fashion photographer. It's a career cultivated by his own personal way of seeing his models, the clothing and the world. It's a career that has blossomed and thrived, not because of some well-thought-out plan, but because he remains true to himself and his work.
“I've always shot the way I wanted to shoot to the point that I've become a bit of a flavor,” says Smith. “People look at your work and they respond to it, and it's like a pebble in the water; it ripples out, and you never know where it's going to go. There are people who make plans about where they want to be. I didn't plan it that way. I do the pictures that I want and I've worked with the clients that have come my way.”
Smith brings a sensibility to his work that demands more of himself, his assistants and his models than being satisfied by yet another beautiful, but emotionless shot. “I think many photographers dominate their images too much, and I think that comes out of insecurity,” says Smith. “Take a look at fashion spreads today, and models are being turned into nothing more than showroom dummies. There's no life in these pictures. If you're going to take pictures of people, you have to take pictures of life. Even if it's fantasy, it should be alive.”
Seeing Beyond The Girl
It's a lesson Smith learned after opening a small studio in a space behind his brother's hair salon. There he eked out a living taking portraits of children and families, but with aspirations for doing much more. He began taking pictures of attractive girls, shaping a portfolio that he eventually hoped would launch an exciting fashion career. His mother had other thoughts, however.
“I remember my mother looking at these test pictures that I was shooting, and at the time, I was thinking of myself as some kind of fashion photographer,” Smith recalls. “Now, my mom may not have known much about photography, but she knew a lot about what life was about and she had seen fashions change and she was a very fashionable person herself.