It shouldn’t necessarily correlate that a long-term immersion within the worlds of fashion and photography would render a fashion editor capable of becoming a uniquely talented photographer. Yet this is exactly the case with Tyler Udall, whose first – and ongoing – career was as fashion editor for the likes of AnOther Magazine, Another Man and Dazed & Confused in London, and Creative Director for Fred and Associates in New York. Having returned to his native Canada to take up the role of Fashion Director at the Blanche Macdonald Centre in Vancouver, he started taking photographs two years ago as part of a process of chronicling his own life, and that of his friends and loved ones, in a highly personal way. It is this intimacy, the connection with his subjects, and the sense of both the chronology and abstraction of life, that gleams through the first exhibition of his works, currently taking place at the Little Black Gallery in London.
To celebrate this latest addition to Udall’s extensive CV of achievements and talents, here AnOther speaks to the photographer about what taking up photography did for him, and which images make him the happiest.
What inspired you to start working in photography?
I started taking photos during a difficult time in my life. My friend Andrew Volk (whom I still photograph regularly) gave me a little point and shoot camera and a few rolls of film to play with. Sensing that I needed an outlet to flush away some of the demons I was dealing with, he encouraged me to start taking pictures. I have always been quite taken with the power of the photographic image but I never really had the courage to jump behind the lens until then.
Your photos are very personal, of friends and colleagues, often in quite intimate positions. You've also described your work as a sort of video journal. What made you want to take it further, to make it something for public view?
It all happened quite organically and without intent, to be honest. I started posting photos on my website, telling a new story each month. I had kind of checked out of the races temporarily and I guess that was my way of showing people who I had lost contact with what I was up to. My friend Jen Brill talked with me about publishing a book through OHWOW Gallery in New York and it all started moving from there.
How do you think your extensive experience in the fashion world has influenced your photography?
I was extremely fortunate to have collaborated with such amazing photographers. Seeing how they worked and how they saw the world through the camera was a really charmed learning experience. Despite my background in fashion, many of my photos end up being nudes... not intentionally, mind you. I think my previous career as a ballet dancer really trained my eye for a certain kind of theatrical composition.
"I shoot very quickly and erratically. Usually it's just an hour or so while hanging out. The photos magically happen somewhere in-between."
The fact that the images are of people very close to you – friends and lovers – does this mean that much of the work is very spontaneous, or is there a lot of planning and preparation involved? What is your working process?
It's all very spontaneous. I shoot very quickly and erratically. Usually it's just an hour or so while hanging out. The photos magically happen somewhere in-between. I shoot on film so the surprise at the end is actually my favourite part.
Do you have a favourite image from the exhibition?
Full Moon and Feather Tree is one of my favourites, as is Shade in the Bathtub. Two very different subjects, contexts and emotions but they both make me happy to look at.
How was it returning to London after so long? Did you miss anything about the city, were there things that you remembered as irritations too? Was it a positive or a melancholic experience?
Returning to London was absolutely wonderful. It had been far too long though some of my best friends were in NYC for Fashion Week. London just isn't the same without my partner in crime Sylvia Farago. My boyfriend Cole came with me on this trip so we explored the city as tourists, which is something I never did while living there. We had a lot of fun... cheesy fun. I miss my London friends and colleagues terribly but my Spidey senses tell me I will be seeing a lot more of them.
Tyler Udall is at the Little Black Gallery until March 16.