STORY AND INTERVIEW BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
PORTRAIT OF IVAN BY PAYAM
After 20 plus years working as Vogue’s photo director, during what was arguably the golden age of fashion photography, Ivan Shaw now plays the enormous role of Corporate Photography Director at Condé Nast Archive. But that doesn’t deter Mr.Shaw from taking on additional projects. Case in point is Ivan’s new book on iconic supermodel model Patti Hansen that hit the shelves this week. Patti Hansen also happens to be the wife of the legendary Rolling Stone’s guitarist Keith Richards. The book’s introduction is written by Karlie Kloss. Imagista caught up with the always on the move Mr.Shaw to talk about the current state of photography and about his new book.
Patti Hansen photographed by Author Elgort, Vogue, 1976, Condé Nast Archives.
Imagista: How did this project come about and how was did you became involved?
Ivan Shaw: I conceived of the idea for this book in the summer of 2016. I knew I wanted to do a book focused on fashion photography from the archive. My initial thought was that a model would be an interesting lens through which to view a period of fashion photography. The idea of focusing on Patti’s story was one of those “middle of the night” moments of inspiration.
Imagista: How familiar were you with Patti prior to working on this project?
Ivan Shaw: I was very familiar with Patti, since she is such an important part of Vogue’s history and I had spent twenty years as the photography director of Vogue.
Patti Hansen photographed by Mike Reinhardt, Glamour Magazine, 1974, Condé Nast Archives.
Imagista: How long was the process from concept to final and where there any hurdles to overcome during the process?
Ivan Shaw: It’s been a two year process and with any book project, there are always production challenges. The biggest challenge with this book was deciding on how best to edit the material to best tell Patti’ story.
Patti Hansen photographed by Jacques Malignon, Vogue, May, 1976, Condé Nast Archive.
Imagista: Was there anything surprising that you learned from working on the book?
Ivan Shaw: I didn’t realized how much amazing work Patti did prior to her first appearance in Vogue in 1975. The work that Patti did at the beginning of her career in the pages of Glamour was extraordinary as well and very different from her Vogue work.
Imagista: What was it like working with Patti?
It’s been an honor to work with Patti on the book and amazing to see already how positively people are responding to her story and what an inspiration she is to so many.
Patti Hansen photographed by Francesco Scavullo, Vogue, November, 1975, Condé Nast Archives.
Patti Hansen photographed by Mike Reinhardt, Glamour Magazine, October 1973, Condé Nast Archive.
Imagista: You’ve had an incredible vantage point over past couple of decades. There have been a lot massive changes in the area of photograph, and we could probably go very deep on this topic, but as briefly as possible, what do you like/prefer about the new realm of photography (digital, social media, and the actual cameras and software.etc) and what do you miss about the pre-digital era?
Ivan Shaw: I’ve always had an egalitarian perspective on photography, in that I think the more people there are taking more and more pictures, the better. So the idea of being able to take pictures on your phone and instantly sharing the images with your social network, is a wonderful thing and from an historical perspective, a natural evolution. If you look at the arc of photography since it’s inception in the mid nineteenth century, it’s been a steady flow of more and more images by more and more photographers, so it’s not surprising we find the medium in the state that it is today and I think we should embrace this evolution.
What I miss from the analog days, is the sense of craft. We aren’t really “making” photographs anymore, instead it often feels like we are just uploading and downloading files. On the flip side, printing processes have gotten better and better, so although we don’t need darkrooms anymore, photographers can still have the experience of creating physical prints, which I think is vitally important to the experience of being a photographer as well as maintaining photography’s place in the fine art world.
Imagista: Without getting too nostalgic what was better about the pre-digital era? What, if anything is better about the post analogue era?
Ivan Shaw: What I miss from the pre-digital era is the sense of mystery, in that you never really knew what you were getting on film and the sense of excitement and anxiety around that notion was exhilarating. A photographer once told me years ago that every photo shoot was an experiment. In some ways, I’m not sure that’s true anymore and that saddens me.
What I love most about the digital era, is the speed. To be in New York and have a photographer shooting for you in London or Paris and then send you the edit on the same day is extraordinary. It was an enormous evolution in the editorial process.
Imagista: You were the photo editor at Vogue for many years and now you are the corporate photography director (please correct me if I have the wrong title) at Condé Nast. Can you contrast the two positions? What do you miss about being at Vogue and what do you prefer about your new position?
Ivan Shaw: That is correct. I was Photography Director at Vogue for twenty years and in July of 2016, I moved on to be Corporate Photography Director working with our Content Licensing group.
As Photography Director at Vogue, my responsibilities were solely with Vogue. My new position allows me to not only work with many of our titles, but to also support our corporate marketing and sales teams, since I am now part of our business group. This has been an exciting growth and learning experience for me. The more I am able to contribute to the growth of the company overall, the more fulfilling my day to day experience is.
Of course, what I miss most about Vogue are my colleagues, they are the best in the business, and many of them I consider to be close personal friends. With my new position, I am working with an equally talented group and making new friends, so it feels like a wonderful new chapter in my experience at Condé Nast.
Photography by Horst P. Horst
Photography by Horst P. Horst
Imagista: What advice would you give up and coming new photographers and/or videographers/film makers who want to shoot for Conde Nast publications?
Ivan Shaw: As opposed to advice, I will relate a quote I once heard that I have always lived by, “there is always room at the top for those who are willing to work hard enough to get there.” It’s not necessarily about being given an opportunity, it’s about earning it.
Imagista: What advice would you give to the older generation of photographers, those who had at least 5 years of analogue film experience before digital took over, many of whom are struggling just to get by now, to help them remain relevant or even to help make them more successful? Is there hope for that generation and if so where does it lay?
Ivan Shaw: It’s a tough question and honestly something that I have had to reckon with as a photo editor as well. Everything has changed and there is clearly a generational shift in progress. I can only relate my own experience and how I have dealt with it. I think the key is being in a constant state of willingness to learn. Tom Friedman wrote about this in his recent book. Accept the fact that we are all in a situation now where we are going to need to be constantly learning new things. The knowledge we have acquired over the last ten or twenty years is largely irrelevant. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone who is younger and less experienced than you. They know things we don’t, and a little humility will go a long way. I’m amazed at the things I have learned how to do over the last year or so, making a PowerPoint, posting on Buffer, and these are all things I learned how to do from colleagues who were at least ten years my junior!
On a more practical note, I think it’s important to see your career as a photographer as a 360 experience. It’s not just about doing great work and putting together a portfolio. You also need to think about your social media presence and what you are presenting to the world on every level. Unfortunately, the days of being able to hide behind your work are largely over.
Photography by Steven Meisel
Photography by Steven Meisel
Imagista: Who are your favorite 3 photographers who are no longer with us?
Ivan Shaw: These are always tough questions to answers but here goes: Helmut Newton, Irving Penn and Horst P. Horst.
And, I realize the potential political nature of this question, but who are your favorite 5 established photographers working today? I’m impressed with a lot of what is happening today but Steven Klein and Steven Meisel have always been personal favorites of mine. Of course, Annie Leibovitz is still making an extraordinary impact on our visual culture and Mert & Marcus are still hugely relevant. As well, I continue to admire Mario Sorrenti, Nick Knight and Tim Walker greatly.
Imagista: Name three or four new talents who you think are best suited to have thriving creative & commercial careers today and what if the common thread amongst them?
Ivan Shaw: Harley Weir, Petra Collins, Sofia Malamute and Alex Harrington(stylist). I think all four of these artists have helped define what is “modern” today and there is a direct connection between who they are, the lives they are leading, and the work they are doing.
Imagista: If you weren’t doing what you are doing now, and couldn’t work in the field you’re in what would you like to do? I.e in an alternate universe Ivan Shaw is…?
Ivan Shaw: Well, I have always had a passion for architecture and interior design, so I probably would end up in that arena in some form.
I also considered going to film school when I was young but something tells me I wouldn’t last five minutes in Hollywood, I’m too nice.
Imagista: You’re a very busy man but what do you like to do in your down time?
Ivan Shaw: I do enjoy going to the gym, particularly taking yoga classes. One thing I have noticed among super successful people in middle age (I’m 49) is that they are often in peek physical condition. Not only does it seem to help with having the stamina to continue to work hard, but it also seems to stimulate creativity, a positive outlook, and overall focus.
Above Portrait of Ivan Shaw by Payam.