Tête à tête with Hans Feurer

Hans Feurer is a pillar of fashion photography. For fifty years, he's been travelling around the world, capturing the beauty of strong women in natural light. Yesterday in London, we organised a book signing with him for the launch of his first monograph "Exotic Eye" (Damiani). He accepted to answer a few questions about his work and fashion photography today.

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KENZINE: With the publication of your monograph “Exotic Eye”, images from early 1980s Kenzo campaigns are back out there. Can you tell us how your long-term collaboration with Kenzo Takada came about?
Hans Feurer: I was impressed with Kenzo Takada’s sensibility and “multi-ethnic” openness from his very first collection. The fact that he mixed African, Hindu, Japanese and Chinese features in his collection. That tolerance and generosity towards all world cultures. I was impressed with that right away, I loved his work from the start. I wanted to follow all his collections, all his shows. When Kenzo Takada asked me to do a campaign for his label, he gave me carte blanche. I don’t think there was any agency or team in charge of advertising at that time. He had no set concept in mind. Just a budget. So with the help of an amazing stylist named Françoise Havan, we decided to head someplace with a girl to experiment. From the start I wanted to do close ups (and Kenzo Takada gave me free reign there) of eyes and materials. So that was the direction we took. And we did it time and again, with wonderful models like Sayoko and Iman. It was ideal.
I’ve traveled a lot, I spent years in Africa, India and South America, and I always noticed how women, even in the fields, would be incredibly well dressed, much more feminine, with extraordinary colors everywhere. Today things have changed. Africans are trying to look like Europeans. Even Indians want to dress like Parisians.
In photography too, times have changed and it’s all very polished now. You rarely see ethnic features in magazine shoots or campaigns. The models all look the same. Their personality is erased. Or shall we say other personality types come through. But seeing people’s reactions to the publication of my book, I think there’s been a hugely enthusiastic response to using colors, so I think there’s a place for that kind of photography again.

K: You are often described as a pioneer of street styling. How do you feel today about street looks and the surge of fashion blogs?
H. F.: I’ve always tried to photograph women in real life, to give a sense of truth to street poses, so it’s true that I could be described as a street photography artist. But I don’t really have an opinion on those blogs, I don’t look at them. The virtual world is my enemy. I’m a big fan of the sensual, the human. I don’t have much interest in the digital or virtual world.

 

K: Why are you releasing this book now?
H. F.: I’d never released a book until now because I’ve always found that the majority of print books don’t do justice to the photos, and very few photos deserve to feature in a book. And then there were far too many books. But many of my shoots for Vogue and for English magazine Nova in the 1970s and 1980s had a flavor or particular idea, which went on to inspire many well-known photographers, and I wanted to show where and how some of these ideas came about.

 

K: Can you describe your work in a few words?
H. F.: I try to project dreams and desires. To show how a woman could look or wants to look.

 

K: What is your next destination?
H. F.: England for the signing in London, then Russia to do a shoot on the Olympics, and Kenya for a fishing vacation in between.

 

 

Portrait by Max Vadukul.

Photographs by Hans Feurer.