Susie Cave and photographer Matthew Thorne tell AnOther about their collaboration on The Vampire’s Wife’s latest campaign, which began with a serendipitous encounter in Australia
Last year, Matthew Thorne, a young Australian photographer and filmmaker, found himself documenting the making of Justin Werzel’s upcoming Ned Kelly biopic, True History of the Kelly Gang. At the wrap party he met Susie Cave – her son with musician Nick Cave, Earl, stars in the film – and showed her the photographs he had taken while on set, including several of the young actor. Cave was enamoured. The pair struck a quick friendship – sharing obsessions such as gothic art, pre-Raphaelite painting, and the work of photographer Miroslav Tichý – which culminated in Thorne photographing the latest campaign for The Vampire’s Wife, Cave’s fashion label, which was revealed via Instagram this week.
“I first saw Matthew’s work on the set of True History Of The Kelly Gang, which my son Earl was acting in,” Cave tells AnOther over email. “It looked like an extraordinary film with wild costumes and dramatic locations and Matthew’s photographs beautifully captured the surreal, otherworldly feel of it all. We became friends and I have taken a keen interest in his photographs ever since – he captured some wonderfully atmospheric reportage photographs of my husband Nick.”
When it came to photographing the Autumn/Winter 2019 collection – which continues in the darkly romantic vein synonymous with The Vampire’s Wife, albeit with a renewed sense of lightness – Thorne felt like the natural fit. “There is this soft, mystical feel to Matthew’s photography that would perfectly capture the ethereal feel of some of the new collection,” Cave says. “Sometimes his photos reminded me of Victorian spirit photography, only in beautiful pastel shades.”
Styled by Another Man’s fashion director Ellie Grace Cumming and produced by Another Man’s commissioning director Thea Charlesworth, the resulting images were captured among the gardens, woodland and beaches of England’s south coast, where Cave lives with her family. Each location was purposeful, imbued with what Cave calls “the mysticism of nature”, whether the garden of her home in Brighton, which she calls “the spiritual centre of my world”, or local woodland renowed for supernatural happenings. “Legend has it that in the particular part of the woods where we did the photographs, the birds don’t sing and a spirit girl roams around at night,” Cave says. “I think we may have scared her off!”
For Cave, “nature in all its fervent intensity” is the driving force behind all her designs. “My dresses are at once bursting with life, in the way that the beautiful female form is a life force, but there is also a dream-like, spirit-like feel to the dresses, as if they have emerged from someone’s darkest memories,” she explains. Thorne agrees. “There is this deep sense of mysticism [to The Vampire’s Wife]; the mythic come alive in the world of the real,” he says. “I think Susie’s dresses are imbued in some way with that.”
The campaign marks the first time that Thorne has photographed fashion; previously, his work has consisted of art and reportage photography (projects have see him him document the inhabitants of Batu Karas, West Java, community groups in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and life in rural Australia, on both photograph and film). “I think the journey is always just about working within the required machinery of a shoot to find a rhythm and an intimacy,” he says of the shift in subject. “It’s almost like a ballet – a movement between you, the subject, the light, the darkness, and the dresses – and how you find that time to dance together, talk together, and lean into that feeling together. That felt like something new to uncover.”
“There is a great Saul Leiter quote about working in fashion and art which I love,” Thorne continues. “He talks about how when he worked in fashion, if the work had integrity, and that he was invited to make images that reflected his art, that the work was always – in his own unique humility – ‘nice’. In that sense, I am just very lucky to haven been invited to work with Susie, and her mystic dresses, in her kindness, and in her excellent sense of taste.”