20 Years Of Passion Behind The Lens

SOME MIGHT SAY CANADIAN-AMERICAN FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD BERNARDIN IS MOST AT EASE BEHIND THE LENS. AFTER ALL, HE’S SHOT CELEBRITIES LIKE NELLY FURTADO, JESSICA PARÉ AND CONTRIBUTED TO NUMEROUS INTERNATIONAL FASHION MAGAZINES. HIS EDITORIAL WORK DRAWS HEAVILY ON MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE AND THE CINEMATIC PANACHE OF DIRECTORS LIKE KUBRICK AND HITCHCOCK, AND HAS BECOME A PERMANENT FIXTURE IN DRESS TO KILL MAGAZINE. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE TURN THE TABLES ON OUR MUCH-ADORED PHOTOGRAPHER IN CELEBRATION OF HIS 20TH ANNIVERSARY IN THE BIZ HE KNOWS BEST.
- By Sylvain Blais    

How do you feel about celebrating 20 years in the business?

Actually it's not something that I had marked down in my agenda and God only knows how bad I am with remembering anniversaries. I was speaking with my great friend and makeup artist Genevieve Lenneville while on a shoot last year and we just got to reminiscing about how far we've come and how long we've known each other. And after doing the math and counting the years, we realized that we've been working together for 19 years! Anyway, it stuck in my mind how time literally flew by, and consequently, how I was nearing my 20th anniversary. I've been in photography for much longer if I include my time assisting the greats in NYC or the time I spent exploring and developing what would eventually become my "style" but 20 years working in the business is certainly something.    

How did you fall in love with photography?

I first discovered photography when I was 15 and explored it briefly but only came back to it several years later. My first passions were architecture and film, but somehow the Universe slowly pushed me towards photography. What made me fall in love with photography was its capacity for perspective storytelling. Simply put, I the creator could have intended a very specific narrative for the photograph but without the distractions of motion or sound, the viewer can have a completely different experience and interpret the narrative through the lens of his/her own experiences. I first discovered this listening to a discussion that a couple were having while viewing an image I had exposed in one of my first exhibits and was completely enthralled by how each had a completely different interpretation of the same image. And both couldn't be farther from the actual narrative I had intended. It was then that I discovered that unlike cinema which uses motion, sound and editing as tools to push a specific storyline, as a photographer, I could use the uniqueness of a single image to vehicle multiple ideas at once... I was hooked!        

Which photographers inspire you most? How did Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton's work influence your style?

I could talk for hours about Avedon and Newton but will limit myself to saying this. What I love most about Avedon is that he did not conform to the standard technique of taking photographs, where his subjects stood emotionless and seemingly indifferent to the camera. He developed a close rapport with each and found ways to evoke reactions not typically captured by others. While just as prolific a fashion photographer, Newton's genius came by his intentional creation of highly provocative, stylized and iconic images of elegant, powerful and sensual women. Both are giants of photography and greatly influenced my work. They are my personal measure for excellence against which all fashion photography is measured – period.

You love to capture the sublime beauty of women in both your commercial and fashion photography work. Why is the female form of such interest to you?

The concept of the muse can be traced back to ancient Greek mythology, where Zeus and his daughters presided artfully over different aspects of culture and were able to inspire many artists. More recently, the term has come to define those who nourish creative imagination. I think a woman's beauty is captivating but it is the inner self that pervades her every aspect that I find truly inspiring. It is that which I aim to immortalize.

For the full article on Richard Bernardin, be sure to check out the DTK MEN Power Issue available now.