The Photography of Lynette Garland


We Folk: I have known you for a long time now, first as a stylist way back and now as a photographer and we went through your work together recently - just as the news of this virus was spreading. Was a really poignant moment somehow. Firstly, how are you feeling etc – it’s weird huh...

Lynette Garland: Like everyone else, I move between anxiety and acceptance. Trying to stay calm, but the immensity of the situation can be overwhelming. I’m staying in and keeping myself occupied. Luckily, I have a garden.

WF: The thing I noticed in your work straight away was the detail. It feels like your whole career has been about detail. Tell us how you got started as a stylist firstly and what were your seminal moments.

I guess the attention to details comes from my background in styling. I was always interested in details that suggest the bigger picture — a ribbon or a bow on a dress, a collar, even a heel of a shoe. I’m also interested in physical details of the body as well as the clothes: curves, lines, shapes. I started by working for Vivienne Westwood in the mid-1980s, when I was still at college and continued after I graduated. I worked with her for 6 years in all, mainly at World’s End. It was invaluable in terms of being around a true original and seeing how her mind worked. It was quite a liberating time for me and part of that was feeling that I was somehow expressing myself by wearing her clothes.

Towards the end, I met Katie Grand, who was still at St. Martin’s at the time, and, when she left to work on Dazed and Confused with Rankin, she asked me to style a few shoots for her. That’s how it began, really. Apart from that, my seminal moments were working with the designer, Jessica Ogden, who was inspiring because of her craft and attention to detail, whether it was embroidery or hand-stitching, appliqué or hand-dyeing. It was very hands-on.

WF: Were there any photographers at that stage that really helped shape you as a creative?

LG: Photobooks have always influenced me. I like a narrative. 'Almost Grown' by Josef Szabo; 'Storyville' by Bellocq ; 'Les Femmes aux Cigarettes' by Lartigue, Nan Goldin’s work - they were the early influences that have stayed with me. I’m more drawn to photographers outside of fashion photography who create a sustained mood and a sense of intimacy: Germaine Krull, say, and Mike Disfarmer. I also like certain documentary photographers who again have an intimacy with their subjects: Bruce Davidson, William Gedney, Ed van Der Elsken, Saul Leiter.

WF: When did the first thought enter your mind about taking pictures yourself? Was it something you were always restless to do?

LG: For quite a while, I was shooting on my iPhone backstage at the shows. Just homing in on things that caught my eye. I started posting some of the pictures on Instagram and the response was really positive. That’s where it started. I’ve always had an interest in photography, but it was more from a research point of view. That has changed hugely.

WF: We can’t really ask you questions without mentioning Katie Grand and your long working relationship with her. How was it coming out from your usual role with her to working as the photographer?

LG: It was quite seamless actually. Katie encouraged me having seen my Instagram feed. On the strength of that, she commissioned me to work on a shoot for Love magazine. I continued to work with her on shows and campaigns and then Marc Jacobs and Miu Miu commissioned me to photograph behind the scenes on the above. It’s grown from there. I’ve since shot various editorials for Love and my work has appeared in window displays worldwide for Miu Miu and on fly-posters for Marc Jacobs around New York. I recently shot part of the Miu Miu Spring/Summer 2020 campaign. Katie has been a constant throughout all of this.

WF: What do you think is important in fashion design and photography now.

LG: I think things are changing for all sorts of unexpected reasons. We’re going to have to address sustainability for sure. The world is changing right now. It’s hard to know how that will impact on what we do. In terms of the current state of fashion photography now - it’s such a broad church and I think that’s a good thing.

WF: The model/girl is very much part of your pictures, even when you don’t see her expression that clearly – do you find that because you are backstage a lot, you have a trust and an intimacy with them that makes it easier for you to direct them?

LG: I think that is definitely the case. I like to capture the girls when they are off-guard, sometimes when they are dressing or undressing. Or, I’ll quietly photograph something small that catches my eye. It might be a gesture or a detail. I’m a quiet presence and that helps. Plus, I know many of the models now so there is a relaxed element to it. I think that comes from trust. Sometimes, I direct them but it’s usually to get them to be more natural.

WF: Can you select a few of your favourite pictures and tell us why you love them?

LG: This selection is a mix of backstage and campaigns. The first photograph of Patrycja is an example of me taking a model aside and creating an intimate portrait. It was shot during fittings at Miu Miu with a small amount of direction from me. I think we had about a minute before she had to change into another outfit.

Elsewhere, it’s about detail and mood. In some shots, the cropping is obviously very important so you see fragments of the body. It’s a way of homing in on certain details, whether it’s the transparency of a blouse or the detail of a neckline or nape, sometimes the images can look sculptural. I try to shoot in this way, though sometimes I’ll crop in to the image afterwards.

The image of the girl with the straw handbag, taken from behind, was used in the recent Miu Miu campaign. Interestingly, someone on the shoot said it was too confusing, but I trusted my instinct and included it in my edit anyway. Which just goes to show…

Another image from that campaign that I personally love is the two girls climbing over the wall. It’s almost perfect for me, because it doesn’t look like it came from a fashion shoot. It’s just a tentative moment that could be from a film or from life. That’s the kind of feeling I’m aiming for most of the time.

The two slightly blurred photos are from backstage at a Marc Jacobs’s show, where it can be quite frantic. To me, they look timeless in a way. The head shot in particular could be from the 1920s. There is something sexy about the girl putting on her shoe. It’s an intimate moment captured amid the frantic energy backstage at the show.

The last two photographs of Jean were shot behind the scenes on a Miu Miu campaign in Montana in 2019. She was really easy to work with. I just asked her if I could shoot her getting changed and she was totally relaxed about it. Again, it’s about trust. A lot of what I do is about creating a space for stillness and calm in what is a pretty frenetic schedule.