Markus Klinko on Icons, exhibits, skinny models, Model Mayhem and more!
Since my first interview with celebrity photographer Markus Klinko, many exciting events have happened in his and Indrani’s careers. Markus and Indrani have worked together for nearly two decades, producing an admirable body of work. Their portfolio includes stunning images of the hottest A-list stars like Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, Mary J Blige, Kate Winslet, Katie Holmes, Eva Mendes, Anne Hathaway, Will Smith, Elijah Wood, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Keanu Reeves, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Val Kilmer, Serena Williams, Jay-Z, and Kanye West.
Markus and Indrani have also collaborated extensively with The Honourable Daphne Guinness, also known as the couture queen. The Legend of Lady White Snake: Tribute to Alexander McQueen is a great piece directed by Indrani, summing up these collaborations.
An inspiration to many photographers, not only is Markus Klinko a true artist and a great talent, but he is also a man of integrity. I have talked to very few people who’ve achieved his level of success and yet remained so grounded.
I’m honored to have had the pleasure of another interview with Markus. It was great to catch up again and find out what two of photography’s biggest talents have been up to in the last couple of years. In this interview, he not only gives praise to modeling sites like Model Mayhem, which have provided many models with the opportunity to enter the industry, but also he takes a firm stand against anorexic models. He also told me more about his new book, Icons: The Celebrity Exposures of Markus and Indrani, the upcoming exhibits, and more.
Aviva: Could you tell everyone a general outline of what has happened in the past year in terms of your show, additional agency representation, and other significant events in your career?
Markus Klinko: We are really in the beginning of a new chapter. We’re breaking away from that time when we initially entered the industry, found some initial success, becoming kind of well-known, the TV show Double Exposure. The book is summing it all up. Now, we are moving to Los Angeles from New York. We are also going to be on the West Coast like you. That has several reasons: I think that Los Angeles is becoming more and more of a global fashion city; many big brands have relocated their head offices to Los Angeles; in addition to shooting stills, Indrani and I’ve also started producing and directing short films, commercials, videos, and we might actually produce and direct a feature film; we’re also engaged in creating a fashion line and a lifestyle brand; we have all these new ventures that we are involved in. Of course, the photography we do will still be at the forefront of our activity, but we are branching out into all kinds of new and different things related to fashion.
We are open-minded in the style of photography and our style has relaxed itself quite a bit since we started. In terms of production, we’re a lot lighter now and we don’t necessarily need those gigantic productions that we used to put up. We can still get great images, in fact even better images. I’m actually really excited.
I mean you’ve seen the shots that we did with Daphne Guinness. She is a spectacular subject. She is a celebrity but is also an artist. Daphne is really a fashion icon and she has a huge following. We’ve done the film and it won a lot of awards, although the film is more of Indrani’s doing and responsibility. I am involved but just not in the center. I love still photography more and I’m not as much involved in video and film stuff as Indrani. That’s really her passion.
Definitely, I would say the book is a very significant milestone in our career, as well as the exhibits we have coming up.
We really want to produce images that are not just for magazines or commercial purposes, but that are also art which will be used in galleries and books. This is another big development in our career.
“Daphne Guinness is a spectacular subject. She is a celebrity but is also an artist. Daphne is really a fashion icon and she has a huge following.”
Aviva: Could you tell us more about your book, Icons?
Markus: Indrani and I have been working together now for 18 years. In a way, this book is a celebration of our 18th anniversary. It really looks back on all of our best work, which is very much focused on celebrities, like actresses and musicians, but it also includes a variety of models, like Naomi Campbell, Natalia Vodianova, Laetitia Casta, and Iman. They have transitioned from being models to becoming famous actresses and TV personalities. The book is doing phenomenal right now. I am happy that it has been well received all over the world. We’ve been working on this book very, very hard and it’s really a labor of love for us. So much work goes into making a book. Even though the images in the book were not specifically shot for it, they were all shot for other opportunities that have come along, to put it together along with the text took a lot of work. The text in the book is about each photoshoot. There were hundreds of hours of interviewing with our writer. We’ve described our entire career when we were writing about these photoshoots, some of which were done 12 to 13 years ago, although quite a few were done six months ago. It really spans our entire career. This book has been one of our main focuses this year, in addition to growing our activity in film and commercial.
We’ve got fantastic feedback from all the people who are in the book and their publicists/managers. We are pretty close with some of them. Actually, Iman wrote the foreword for the book and so did Fern Mallis, the founder of New York Fashion week. We have two forewords in the book. Fern is a very important person in the New York fashion. We really appreciate the fact that they agreed to write with us.
One of the reasons we are so excited about Icons is because it is a wonderfully-printed book, and yet it sells for less than $20 on Amazon right now. Some of the other photography books are generally more expensive, some can even be above $100.00. We wanted to bring out a book that was very accessible to young people and to people of all income levels.
Aviva: How about models?
Markus: We typically don’t work too often with models, because celebrities are preferred for some of the top advertising campaigns and cover shoots. However, I feel that models will have a big comeback on the covers as well as spokespeople in big advertising campaigns. I am starting to see models coming back to land covers and I remember a period of about 5 to 8 years when almost no models were used on covers of big magazines. I feel that we will see a return to models being featured on magazine covers and in advertising campaigns.
Aviva: Wouldn’t it be cheaper to get a model for the same advertising campaign or a shoot though?
Markus: That’s absolutely true, but you have to understand that advertisers and magazines know that there is a worldwide interest in celebrities. I mean even with our book, the title is Icons, and it might as well be “celebrities” or the “unreachable Gods and Goddesses of our time.” But that’s what the public wants. The public really loves to put people on a pedestal. Therefore, the effect that an advertising campaign or a magazine cover has when it features a very well-known celebrity is a lot stronger than if it’s a model, especially if the model is new. Although the new model might appeal to some insider fashion crowd, the reaction of the general public is so much stronger if it is a celebrity. When we photograph Beyonce for a L’Oreal campaign, everyone talks about it, but when we photograph models, even if they are great models from Elite, IMG, and other big agencies, the reaction is not the same. If we do a shoot with a celebrity, it’s going to get picked up everywhere, from Perez Hilton, to New York Post, which is not the case if we just shoot a model. I think that’s why the industry shifted that way.
I hope that new supermodels are going to be created soon and that the public is going to accept them. We are certainly ready for it.
“The public really loves to put people on a pedestal. Therefore, the effect that an advertising campaign or a magazine cover has when it features a very well-known celebrity is a lot stronger than if it’s a model, especially if the model is new.”
Aviva: Can you tell us about the exhibit at Lincoln Center as well as any other ones?
Markus: Lincoln Center is not only the world’s most fabulous Center for The Performing Arts, it’s also the location where New York Fashion Week takes place. On December 11th, we opened Lincoln Center and then we will be in Zurich, Switzerland on January 6th, where we have another Icons evening, where we are doing Photo 13. It’s the biggest photography festival in Switzerland. Then, we are opening the same exhibit as Lincoln Center in Los Angeles at a famous art gallery on January 12.
The first day at Lincoln Center will be mostly for the Press, VIPs and celebrities, but it will be open to the public from the 12th to the 16th of December. It’s at Alice Tully Hall, which is the biggest hall at Lincoln Center. We are going to be displaying 8 foot tall prints that are all the highlights of the Icons book. We are very excited! Then that same exhibit will be in Zurich and Los Angeles.
We are also hoping that it will be in Hong Kong and that it will go around the world.
Aviva: Since she is on the cover of your book, I’ve got to ask, what was Lady Gaga like to work with?
Markus: Gaga is phenomenal. She is definitely, alongside with Daphne Guinness, and probably Britney Spears and Beyonce, Eva Mendes, and Kate Winslet, has been part of a handful of our favorite photoshoots that we have done. Of course, some of them we’ve worked with many times. Beyonce–we worked with her over and over again. Lady Gaga–we only shot her once and that was for Hello Kitty. It was a fantastic experience. She has actually used those photos as part of her album package. Gaga is one of the most interesting stars in the world right now; I was fascinated with her intelligence, the level of artistry and knowledge that she has, not just in her domain as a singer but also photography, fashion and general art. She is very, very educated and really smart.
Lady Gaga is one of those women, who, like Madonna, have these super glamorous careers, but they are very intelligent and very much in charge of their own careers. Lady Gaga more so than any other artist that we have worked with. Despite the fact that she has a large entourage of people that work for her, she is completely in charge and she dictates exactly how she works. It’s extremely clear after we’ve worked with her that nobody tells Gaga what to do, she tells people what to do. She was a great collaborator when we worked with her, we had a wonderful exchange of ideas, but she doesn’t have handlers that tell her what to do. A lot of artists have an entourage of people that handle everything for them, do everything for them, tell them what to do, what to wear, how to look, how to smile, how to talk, but definitely not Gaga. She is not contrived. Everything with Gaga comes naturally–that’s just who she is. She is not fake. She is super cool, fun, and is very, very passionate about what she does. I love her. She’s a great dancer, great entertainer, wonderful fashion leader, she’s a great superstar. The fact that she agreed to be on the cover of our book is a big deal for us. We are very proud to have her.
“Lady Gaga is one of those women, who, like Madonna, have these super glamorous careers, but they are very intelligent and very much in charge of their own careers.”
Aviva: Have you ever worked with Kate Upton?
Markus: No, but I would love to work with her. She’s very cute and sexy. She definitely embodies the kind of new model that is exactly what I was talking about earlier. Those kinds of girls are going to bring the models back onto the magazine covers and into the advertising campaigns because she’s more relatable to women. I like to talk about this actually. Maybe we’ve talked about this before, but specifically about the body shape of a girl like Kate Upton. She is a real woman with curves; she’s not a skinny, anorexic, 90-lb 6ft tall girl. Let me be more clear though. I am not against skinny girls. If a girl is naturally skinny, they can be very sexy and very beautiful, but what I don’t like is all these modeling agents and all these designers pushing these poor 14 and 15-year-old girls, who happen to be very tall and very thin already, to become anorexic and be so unattractively skinny. I just don’t understand why and who wants that. I think that this is why celebrities have taken over the covers of fashion magazines because I think that people aren’t interested in skeletons. People want real women.
I can tell you for sure that women with curves are hotter than women that are sticks. But again, when Kate Moss first started out, she was very skinny and yet attractive. However, when you look at girls who are naturally a little bit curvy and they are forced to become so skinny that they are no longer themselves, then I get very upset.
To all the designers out there: If girls don’t fit the sample size, just make the sample bigger. That’s it. That’s the solution. Why do the samples have to be so small that no normal woman can fit into it? I just don’t get it. Take the biggest stars of today–none of them are super skinny and they look fantastic in designer clothes. Why do we need girls who model them to be insanely unhealthy? This is another reason why we dedicated our book, Icons, to celebrities and women who are real trendsetters, like Beyonce, Eva Mendes, Lindsay Lohan–those are real women with real bodies.
I wish that the modeling world would be a bit more diverse. I think that it’s good that Model Mayhem exists. I think at least it gives a chance to girls who are not necessarily 5’11” and ultra thin to start modeling and they can do different kind of photos and maybe even get discovered. They may end up on the cover of Sports Illustrated, because clearly they are not looking for skeletons and I think Kate Upton is a very good example. I’m sorry for the long answer, but I’m very passionate about this.
“I am not against skinny girls. If a girl is naturally skinny, they can be very sexy and very beautiful, but what I don’t like is all these modeling agents and all these designers pushing these poor 14 and 15-year-old girls, who happen to be very tall and very thin already, to become anorexic and be so unattractively skinny.”
Aviva: That’s great. I wish that more photographers would be like you when it comes to thinking about this subject.
Markus: I think that we need to speak out about this. The editor of Italian Vogue, Franca Sozzani, actually started a campaign within Italian Vogue, with many of the Vogues following her, because she is absolutely against skeletons. She has made very strong statements in press conferences that Italian Vogue will not publish sick-looking skinny girls and that they are showcasing beautiful healthy women. You can’t ask girls that are already skinny to keep losing weight–it’s unattractive, unhealthy, and it traumatizes the rest of the world. Young women all over the world develop this complex that they can’t live up to that standard of having a size zero body when it’s really a non-issue. Some of the sexiest actresses I’ve shot, that are in the book, are a size 4 or 6-not zero. Why should they be?
Aviva: I agree. I think that it’s good to have a well-taken care of, healthy, proportionate body and it doesn’t matter if it’s a 2 or a 4 or a 6, and then find clothes that complement the best features.
Markus: I fully agree. We are on the same page. I’m not afraid to talk about it.
Aviva: Do you foresee doing another book, exhibit, or TV show in the next few years?
Markus: Yes. Absolutely. We’re already talking about another book and we’re negotiating a new TV show. This is only the beginning of some of the new activities that we have undertaken over the last two years.
Aviva: What are some upcoming plans for you and Indrani in the near future that you can talk about?
Markus: We have just signed a contract with the Gucci Group, which is a company that owns all of Gucci and other brands. Our partner in the exhibit at Lincoln Center is Girard-Perregaux, which is the watch brand owned by the Gucci Group. They are the most high-end watch brand in the world. They’ve just recently been purchased by the Gucci Group and before that they were an independent Swiss watch-making brand at the highest level. We’re actually going to be shooting all of their campaigns right now, and we just started with an initial contract with them. They’re going to be announcing it soon and they are actually the official sponsor of the Lincoln Center event. We’re very happy and proud, as this is a phenomenal partner. It’s phenomenal to be working with the Gucci Group.
We are also getting offers from galleries all around the world to join their roster of artists, so it’s a very exciting development for us.
We would like to once again thank Markus for being so generous with his time and stunning photos. We wish him and Indrani continued success and look forward to attending one of the upcoming exhibits. See more of their work at www.mkibook.com and Markus and Indrani’s Facebook page.
Their new book, Icons: The Celebrity Exposures of Markus and Indrani, is on sale now.
All images on this page have been used with the permission of Markus Klinko. Copyright Markus & Indrani.