Our Autumn Exhibition is up and we’re totally in love with it 😍
Sonny Vandevelde, the man behind this exhibition, is a local photographer with a Belgian background and a very unique portfolio. Sonny specialises in fashion photography and you’ll find him back stage at the ‘big four’ fashion shows in Paris, New York, London and Milan. Sonny has unrivalled access to the shows and loves to capture models as they rush off the runway and into their next outfit, so his photos exude the energy, excitement & exhilaration of the shows. For this exhibition, Sonny has selected 16 of his favourite images from the last 4 years of the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Australia.
We sat down with Sonny recently to chat about the fascinating world of fashion designers, models and music. He also talks to us about where it all began, what continues to inspire him and the challenges of professional photography as a career in the iPhone generation. He’s also a mad keen surfer and a lovely guy, so it was a fun interview to do!
BCW: WHAT DO YOU DO AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO IT?
SV: I’m a photographer and I specialise in fashion photography. When I was 6 years old, I pulled my Grandad’s Kodak Box Brownie camera apart to see what it was all about. I loved the mechanics of it and the images it produced and I just never put it down. I wanted to be a travel photographer and started off taking action shots of freestyle skiers in the Australian Alps. Companies (like Quiksilver) and magazines (like Dolly & Cosmo) were keen to add some personality and lifestyle into their images (rather than the static studio images everyone was producing at the time), so I ended up making a name for myself in fashion photography. Now I shoot backstage at all the big fashion shows and I try to capture the exhilaration and excitement behind the scenes.
BCW: WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
SV: I love always meeting new people. I’m in the vanguard of design, innovation and new technology too. Every day is different. Every show is different. I have so much appreciation for the effort and the hours that go into fashion, but I’m definitely a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy.
BCW: TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXHIBITION AT BEACHES COWORKING?
SV: My exhibition features the highlights of the last 4 years of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia. I have chosen 16 images which give you an opportunity to go behind the scenes in the fashion shows. I think everyone is accustomed to seeing models being so serious, almost glassy eyed, on the runway, but in reality, that’s just because they’re focused on where they are walking. When they come off the runway, they’re full of adrenalin and rushing to get into their next outfit. I love nothing more than to capture that fleeting moment of exhilaration and excitement.
BCW: IS IT TRUE THAT MODELS ARE ALL HIGH MAINTENANCE, LETTUCE-EATING TYPES?
SV: haha, well if I was going to generalise, and I mean generalise, that describes Russian models. In this day and age, there is literally a model to fit every description – some eat like a horse, some eat hummus & carrot sticks all day; some are super chilled whilst others are so serious I can barely get them to crack a smile. I feel so sorry for them. How sad would it be to go through life without smiling?!
BCW: ARE THERE ANY MODELS OR DESIGNERS YOU REALLY LOVE WORKING WITH?
SV: I love any model who never says no to smiling. As for designers, I work with 160 designers a year so it’s really hard to pick just one. Back in the day, John Galliano was my absolute favourite – his shows were just incredible, but he doesn’t do them anymore. I miss the free flowing champagne after the shows too.
BCW: WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE WITH YOUR BUSINESS?
SV: Trying to convince clients that quality and experience are worth so much more than a quick turn around. These days everyone with an iphone thinks they’re a photographer … but giving someone an axe doesn’t make them a lumberjack. It’s so hard to convince the ‘instagram generation’ that comparing the images taken by a professional photographer versus those taken by their mate with an iphone, is like comparing chalk with cheese.
BCW: WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN?
SV: A long long time ago, a good friend (who ran a video production company) told me:
“do what you love and you’ll excel”
BCW: HAVE YOU GOT A FAVOURITE QUOTE OR SAYING?
SV: “Fashion should be fun”. I know fashion is a business and obviously you need to make money, but the whole experience should be fun.
BCW: WHERE AND WHEN DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FOR YOUR IMAGES?
SV: Most of my fashion show shots are taken in a split second, so I’m inspired by the model, by her clothes and by the fashion show. For my editorial work, so much depends on the location – I love working in nature much more than in a studio. And then it comes down to the clothing and props brought by the stylist, along with the model herself.
BCW: WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO WHEN YOU’RE EDITING YOUR IMAGES?
SV: ohhhhh … I’m a music junkie. My girlfriend says I’m a hoarder – I have 12 crates of vinyl records and about 20 boxes of CDs just in storage. I used to DJ and I love pretty much any type of music – although I can’t get into punk and opera. Michel Gaubert and Ryan Aguillar are the gods of fashion show soundtracks. I love The Vinyl Factory playlists and Radio Reverberates too.
BCW: HAVE YOU ALWAYS LIVED ON THE BEACHES? WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT LIVING HERE?
SV: I moved to Narrabeen from Belgium when I was 12 years old. I got on the plane with a belly full of Belgian chocolate and waffles and arrived into a completely different world. To a 12 year old boy, the land of sunshine, beaches and girls in miniskirts was just heaven. I moved back to Europe for 10 years to hone my photography skills, but I missed the surf. I always came back to the Beaches for a couple of months over December/January and would surf every day. Even now, I travel to Europe 3 or 4 times a year to cover the fashion shows and the moment I get back, I go straight to the beach. To me, this is paradise. I love the beaches, the surf and the lifestyle. You really need to travel to truly appreciate what we have here on the Northern Beaches.