While the photographic rat race continues and its participant population grows, a few still hold the now seemingly ancient belief of simply creating the work you love and letting all of the contemporary concerns about branding fall off to the wayside. Glen Luchford, a name that ripples through fashion with a clearly defined aesthetic association and sound of mythic accomplishment, is one of the said few.
CM What do the beginnings of Glen Luchford, the photographer look like?
When my sister started dating a punk called Carl (he’s in my book), he brought new magazines into the house that had terrific pictures from bands and clothes and that got my attention. A few years later when I was around 15, skateboarding surfaced in a new way in the 70s. It was kind of cheesy, but in the 80’s it re-emerged as underground and punk-related, lots of west coast bands like The Circle Jerks, Dead Kennedys, Agent Orange, DOA, etc., surfaced with it and that led me to taking pictures.
A kid in torn clothes, skating 10 feet out of a ramp and doing flips to thrash music seemed like something worth snapping, so I got a small camera, only to find I wasn’t invited onto the ramp. A kind of tight hierarchy existed and I wasn’t welcome. So I stole packets of cigarettes as bribes and slowly bided my time until I met this wonderful black slalom skater from London called Dobey; he had all the kit and connections and he got me on the ramp, then it got very interesting. The pictures were instantly visual and exciting and I really became hooked. Thirty years later it’s exactly the same — still searching for anything to fill the frame that doesn’t look like a dot in the sky.
CM How long were you exploring the skater ramp before venturing off into other subject matter?
CM You poor thing… being used by a beautiful fashion student. Were you immediately a fan of the new subject?
These kids were so smart and sophisticated. On our first date she took me to see Betty Blue, which has this opening ten minute fucking scene, beautifully lit and done in one take; very intriguing. I sat there with my mouth open thinking “God, is this what fashion students do every day?” and then she explained the significance of it and how it related to the 70s cinema from France, etc. I had no idea what she was banging on about, but it sounded great, so I just swallowed it up.
Shall we divert this quickly to anything other than fashion? Ask me about reggae or something.
GL I wish, sounds exotic. I’m now wondering why I never started a subversive subculture? When I was 15 I got a job in a hairdressing salon in London with mostly gay men, many died of AIDS later. Fascinating characters one and all. One of them told me I was gay, and when I asked him why he responded “You just are, it’s obvious.” So I sat around waiting to become my new self, where girls became uninteresting and vice versa, but it never happened. So I’m a gay man that’s really into girls.
CM Fair enough. What was your big break?
CM I suppose that’s a luxury of longevity when it goes right, you’re able to really dip your hands and feet into some of the most pivotal pools along the way. Not to mention, you got to work in fashion during the 90s! Can I selfishly ask you for a moment how you would describe that time in the business?
CM Let’s just spend a minute here about the hotel. How did the idea of purchasing a hotel come about? I mean, we know you do love to shoot in that gorgeous Los Angeles light but… a hotel?
CM Life today seems to require a lot more of a balancing act than ever before. Personal life, career, maintaining social media outlets, and the list goes on. You now own a hotel, have a family, and of course continue to create incredible work as a photographer. How’s that working out for you? GL That part is true, the demands are so high now. The fashion seasons don’t end they just mutate, and I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to my iPhone — it totally owns me. Also unlike a lot of my contemporaries, I like to talk to clients and be involved. I don’t put up middlemen, so that drains an enormous amount of time that could be dealt with by others. My memory of my father is sitting in an armchair reading the Sunday newspaper with horse racing on the TV. My son’s memory of me I hope will not be me staring at this stupid flat hand device, rapidly clicking fingers, but it probably will. It’s all very obsessional and unhealthy. But all in all, I think I’m coping okay.
CM Has your reason for taking pictures changed at all from when you started?
The Giles project was a very nice surprise, it’s like music sampling, digging out things that are done and reusing them in new ways, I love that. Also the V&A put it in the permanent collection, which was nice.
I love this question regarding power! I’d have “Truth-Telling Wednesdays” where no matter whom you were with or what you were doing, you had to be honest. I hate this fear of retribution that overshadows everything, no one ever tells it like it is anymore. I envisage an important editor walking down the corridor and an intern saying “Good morning! Not sure about those shoes with that outfit!” Also I’d implement a system like the British football premiership where each year three photographers who didn’t perform get relegated and three from the lower tiers get promoted, that would keep everyone on their toes. I like the idea that a big brand would have to fire their photographer and replace them with a new kid from ID magazine because of the promotion system.