Nick Knight speaks exclusively about moving from Hasselblad to iPhone, the rise of Instagram and app culture
Digital culture has inspired and motivated both Nick Knight and Nicola Formichetti since the beginning of their prestigious careers. Having collaborated on a number of projects, Formichetti chose to enlist Knight and SHOWstudio to create campaign imagery for his inuagural capsule collection at Diesel, which plays tribute to the brand's 35-year archive and precedes his highly anticipated show debut in March 2014. It's a campaign in the most modern guise – rather than shooting six months before and running them in print magazines, the latest visuals were shot a few weeks ago. "Created purely for the digital community," explains Formichetti, featuring non-models such as performance artist Mykki Blanco. Fitting then, that Knight chose to shoot the entire campaign using an iPhone and a couple of image-manipulation apps.
In an exclusive interview with AnOther, Knight speaks candidly about the transition from Hasselblad to iPhone; his favourite apps and his fascination with Instagram.
Nick Knight on... the freedom of a phone camera
"Photography was always introduced as a people's medium, but actually it wasn't at the start. When I first picked up a camera, it was quite unusual for a household to have more than one camera. Now everyone has one. Essentially, an iPhone camera is as good as the Hasselblad I used to use. There's a weird judgement that comes involved with imagery in that people think every image needs to be 'high resolution'. One doesn't apply that restriction to a painting. That criteria isn't used for anything except for photography. But I don't say I create photographs anymore, I prefer to say imagery. If the image works, then who cares how many pixels it has? There doesn't seem any sense in having limitations on what kind of image capture sources we use. I'm increasingly using an iPhone – it gives me so much freedom. For twenty years, I shot on an 8x10 camera which is physically very difficult – it's a heavy piece of machinery not intended to be moved around. In the early 1960s, photographers such as William Klein were taking 35mm cameras and going onto the streets to photograph girls. It was a new sense of freedom – literally the Swinging Sixties if you think about the movement a small, lighter camera enabled. The image capture device debate is both interesting and not interesting. I'm not that interested in the camera, more in the human engagement between oneself and the subject. What is really key is the person and what you are trying to convey about that person or get from them."
"The image capture device debate is both interesting and not interesting. I'm not that interested in the camera, more in the human engagement between oneself and the subject"
Nick Knight on... the appeal of Instagram
"Having a phone and an Instagram account means that I can create images on my own. When I first started using it a couple of years ago, it reminded me of the 70s, when I first started out in photography. It felt very direct – it was about me taking the image. It felt really authentic. I don't have a Twitter account because it's essentially about writing and my focus has always been visual. Instagram felt like the most appropriate way for me to communicate. I also really enjoy the instantaneous nature of it – you can publish images straight away – and get feedback from people across the globe. And I'm really interested in figures who have huge followings – such as Kim Kardashian, Cara Delevingne and Lily Allen. People have so much power to put out a message direct to their fans. It's almost like when magazines were in their heyday – a printed publication would be where you could get celebrity images. Now it's been reversed and the next generation is one that is used to getting information from digital mediums. The Diesel campaign acknowledges that and feels completely relevant. This is an exciting time – things are changing and I always think change is good."
Nick Knight on... his favourite apps
"Recently, there's been advent of a couple of really good apps which allow me to do even more interference and intervention with my imagery. I'm always happy to be open about which apps I'm using. At the moment, it's Glitché, created by Vladimir Shreyder and Boris Golovnev, which offers a full range of tools and options to change images. It's free to download compared to £300 per hour for a post-production suite. Nicola Formichetti introduced me to another app called Mega Photo which offers so many strange and unusual effects for stills and films. A lot of them are 'tacky effects – but then again, one man's tacky is another man's art. A lot of these effects were only previously accessible via Photoshop or After Effects. Now, anyone can do it and I like that democratisation. With these apps, suddenly anyone is free to create all sorts of unique imagery very quickly and very easily."
"With these apps, suddenly anyone is free to create all sorts of unique imagery very quickly and very easily. I like that democratisation"
Nick Knight on... the generalist movement
"There's a term called 'generalism', which is really applicable in these current times. If someone asks me what I do, they would expect me to say photography, but I'm not going to say that. Being a photographer doesn't take into account that I make films, create sculptures and a whole range of other things that just aren't photography. We're all generalists – we all do lots of different things. Lady Gaga is one of the people that brought forward a range of different mediums that could be used, along with Nicola. She's very good at promoting a new idea; she pushed a new frontier for music and fashion. Of course, her phenomenal success wasn't based on magazine support; it was about her millions of followers on Twitter. It wasn’t based on people buying the magazines saying ‘Oh she’s on the cover of American Vogue and that establishes her fashion credentials’. She already had a huge fan base before that. She was accessible, and it was inspiring."
Nick Knight on... working with Nicola Formichetti
"I've known Nicola creatively for a long time – from the days when he worked at Dazed & Confused and with Gareth Pugh, and then later, when he worked with Gaga. He's always been someone who has pushed a new frontier. He's half Japanese, half Italian, and his Japanese side pushes into that virtual world which is actually reality in Japan; fantasy is reality. A lot of people live their lives through their screens and live their lives with people made up of pixels. He's completely embraced digital media. It seemed wholly appropriate that when he arrived at Diesel and started to work with me on the campaigns, we would create something that would be delivered across Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. He's taking the communication of Diesel into that new realm and it's a clever move."
The denim #DIESELTRIBUTE capsule collection is in stores now. The leather #DIESELTRIBUTE capsule will follow in February 2014.
Text by Laura Bradley