Nick Knight: A New Dimension

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Nick Knght, Photographer

My name is Nick Knight. My photography started by making a complete cross from the world of science into the world of the arts. And now I work with a lot of fashion clients like Christian Dior, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. The people that are interesting and exciting now, I’ve found, are in the fashion world so that’s where I’ve found most of my body of work.

There was a certain period in my career, I felt I’d had enough of fashion in my life and I wanted to get out of it for a while. Like every other child in Britain, I’d been to the Natural History Museum and the V&A and I guess, naturally, I wanted to do something that had a larger relevance in life.

There is one gallery I particularly like, which is the mineral gallery. It’s one of these old fashioned galleries where you have specimens in glass cabinets. Through studying these and looking at them, I’ve become increasingly aware of looking at things in three dimension, with isn’t how, as a photographer or a filmmaker, you look at things.  Actually just having these specimens and walking around and looking at them from different angles, actually started me start thinking about a different way of image making. Coincidentally to that, there’s been, in the last ten years now, the advent of something called 3-D scanning. Going to the Victoria and Albert Museum and looking at sculpture in there started my thinking on how classically people had approached sculptures. I looked at a lot of different sculptures and I didn’t focus down onto one particular one and say I want to emulate this, there’s no point. All I was trying to do was see how different artists over the years had approached sculpture and representation of the human form. Because they’re not film they’re not coming at through the idea of it being a photograph; they’re coming at in the way of it being a sculpture and that’s all their training.

My fundamental belief is that fashion is important to society and for the last ten years I’ve run a website called Show Studio. The advent of the internet is enormously important. It gives us one of the truly two-way mediums. Interactivity is something that hasn’t really happened very much in the art world. One of the first projects was a 3-D scanning film, I’m trying to create a fashion sculpture. Which in a way is like a fashion photograph. It’s a moment condensed down. It’s a particular collision of shapes and form and emotion. As a sculpturist as opposed to a 2-D project.

I was asked by the Natural History Museum to do an exhibition that had to do with man’s relationship with plants. To offer me a thank you for doing the exhibition, they asked me, “Is there anything you’re like to do with this.” And throughout doing the research into plant power, I discovered the Natural History Museum's Herbarium, which is a fantastic resource. It stretches the whole length of the museum. They have six and a half million examples in there and I was shown some and I fell in love with them. I thought they were incredible. For the next three and a half years, Charlotte, who’s my wife, and I spent every bit of spare time we had going through the herbarian samples and then at the end of it, we whittled down from however many thousands samples we looked at and hundreds photographed, to forty, and they were published in a book called “Flora.” It was a very, very, very enjoyable time for me. It was a sanctuary for three and a half years. There was this whole sort of range of things there and I just found the whole thing joyful and fascinating. It affected the rest of my career quite profoundly. After the part specimen, I thought that I wanted to make fashion socially relevant and I wanted to change things. Working in that way feuled me to try and say something important. One of the things I feel when I go to a museum is actually you’re there in front of other people’s lives. You’re trying to understand how basically, people have approached the same sorts of dilemmas, problems, question marks that I have in my life that I look at through my work, how they’ve approached them in their way. To try and see life through other people’s eyes is the most in


Photographer Nick Knight first made a mark in i-D magazine with a series of photographs he produced of skinheads. Since then he has become one of the world's best-known fashion photographers, working extensively with Christian Dior, Yohji Yamamoto and the late Alexander McQueen, to name a few. Here he talks about his life and the impact of the V&A Sculpture galleries on his work, and why he spent three-and-a-half years in the Herbarium of the Natural History Museum.

Nick Knight he talks about his life and the impact of the V&A on his work, and why he spent three-and-a-half years in the Natural History Museum...