Photographing Lee: Working Process

Nick Waplington on His Collaboration with the Acclaimed Fashion Designer Alexander McQueen

In 2009, renowned fashion designer, Alexander Mcqueen, produced what would be his final Autumn/Winter collection, Horn of Plenty. To help document the process, McQueen employed the talents of noted photographer, Nick Waplington, to provide a candid and thought provoking insight into the development of the iconoclastic collection. 1 3 2 Here Nick talks about his experiences of photographing the legend and his team at work.

‘This project first came about two years before I actually started the work. Lee contacted me in 2006 to see if I would be interested in working with him on the making of a photographic book around the idea of ‘working process’. He was worried about his legacy. He liked what he called my messy and dirty style, so he wanted me to take some messy, dirty photos of him.

Knowing me, and my work, and being a very shy and guarded person, he was only going to open up his studio to someone that he had a relationship or some empathy with.

One thing that was very apparent was the professionalism of Lee’s team: everything would be prepared for Lee to come in and have his moment of genius and creation, and then everything would settle down again and he’d disappear off somewhere else. It was important for me to capture the downtime as well and then be ready for those moments of excitement when everything kicked into gear again.

From the outset we wanted the book to be unlike any other book that had dealt with the fashion world. We knew that at some point there would have to be some sort of intervention within it to create something different. During the editing process we knew that we had to add other elements to the book to make it work. The images of landfill and recycling plants are part of my working process. It’s as much my working process of making a photobook as it is Lee’s creative working process.

Showing the two different types of images together creates an air of mystery and possibility for the viewer to bring their own interpretation to the work and move out of fashion photography, and into a conceptual art landscape. The recycling pictures are talking about the political state at that time. It was 2008, so we were just after the banking crisis and we were in recession. These were all things that were coming into play at that time, because Lee did see his work as a mirror on contemporary society. He didn’t work in a vacuum. He was interested in the world out there.’ 4 We spoke interests, hobbies, and memorable moments with Nick:

The Plus: Since coming from an art background, and working with McQueen, have you found your interest in fashion has grown ?

Nick Waplington: No I still have no interest in fashion. (laughs) Though I am friends with Jürgen Teller and Terry Richardson, who are two of the most interesting and noted fashion photographers in the world.

TP: What was the most memorable moment of working with McQueen?

NW: Just after the show, we hopped in the limo, 5 minutes later we were on the roof of the hotel, looking at the moon. I loved it. That’s when I knew it was really over. Those images are right at the end of the (Tate Britain) exhibition, just as you’re coming out.

TP: What do you do in your spare time?

NW: I skateboard with my son. Yes, even in my ripe old age I can still do a few tricks, although I can’t do everything I could do when I was 20. 6 5 Nick Waplington Footnotes: 1. Nick rose to prominence with his Living Room series: a reaction to “the grainy, downtrodden, black-and-white interpretation of working-class life. 2. Nick has exhibited globally and his work is held in major museum collections around the world including The Museum of Modern Art, New York and The Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 3. Nick lived in Jerusalem between 2008 and 2013, visiting over 350 distinct Jewish settlements in the West Bank, for his acclaimed book, Settlement. Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process opens at Tate Britain, 10 March – 17 May 2015 7 Photos: Nick Waplington (Untitled from the series ‘Alexander McQueen Working Process’ 2013)