I had already had the pleasure of meeting Steve Hiett several times, on diverse occasions such as the making of a magazine; on a jury panel or a at a vernissage. What had always struck me was his apparent detachment, even if he was perfectly aware of what a « good picture » should be.
The same things struck me while casting an eye over his exhibition set in the Squash Room of the Villa Noailles in Hyères, during this year’s 29th International Fashion and Photography Festival: his pictures seem effortless, yet the framing is always perfect. Whether in his more sociological black and white photography from the 1960s, or his work from the 1980s in all its gaudy colorful glory, these elements of efficiency and composition always reign supreme.
Later, I ran into him on the stairs:
- Steve, did you start as a photographer or as a graphic designer ?
- I studied design and then I was in a band, but I started earning my living as a photographer.
That is so typical of Steve: always doing three things at the same time. I very often think that I would have loved to grow up in the ‘60s. There was more freedom; you could study art and then start something different and move on to another thing, without anybody making a fuss about it. Indeed in the exhibition, the showcases displaying the books, magazines and vinyl covers designed by Steve may offer the key to understanding it all: Steve is an art director who started crafting his own images. That’s why he can get away with being so playful in his framing. Whether he’s behind the camera, or as has been known, in front of the camera letting the models shoot him instead, it’s the work of a skilled artist.
Steve Hiett is more inspired by the outside world than by his own studio. In his pictures, you can see streets, houses and other urban backgrounds that are transformed into another dimension because of a red car or a lost-looking model suddenly appearing in the frame. His use of wide angles transforms each frame into a more cinematic experience.
By the way, the name of the exhibition is « The Song Remains the Same » and, the latest on the street is that Steve has reformed his rock band…
Steve Hiett, 'The Song Remains the Same', on view at the Villa Noailles until the 29th May 2014.
Montée de Noailles