There are fashion photographers, and then there are fashion photographers who have pioneered the very definition of the genre, branching out and experimenting where others wouldn’t even dare to tread and doing so 20 odd years before their time. Hans Feurer is such a one. Born in Switzerland in 1939, he worked as a graphic designer, illustrator and art director before deciding to take up photography during a trip to Africa.
He quickly fell upon the bold aesthetic which was to characterise his work throughout his career, drawing heavily on symmetry, sensuality and the natural environment to create some of the most groundbreaking imagery of the past 50 years. He has shot for Vogue, Elle, and Pirelli among others, and is perhaps best known for his innovative work with Kenzo Takada for his eponymous brand in the 1980s.
Hans’ work went largely unspoken of through the graphic, minimalist 90s, but has experienced a resurgence over recent years thanks in no small part to French Vogue editor Emmanuelle Alt. This has culminated in the production of a book of his most iconic work, designed by Fabien Baron and published by Damiani. In an industry saturated with Photoshop and references to the work of others Hans’ photographs are a breath of fresh air; every pore, hair and tear-duct is naked to the camera’s lens, and they’re the very first of their kind. We were fortunate enough to ask Hans, now at the grand age of 75 years old, a few fleeting questions about his work while on his way to Paris. He’s a man of relatively few words, but they’re all good ones.
What’s your favourite project that you’ve ever worked on, and why?
Kenzo in the 1980s. I had complete freedom of interpretation.
Your work has only recently been made into a book. How do you feel now when you look back over the photographs you’ve taken over your career?
You’re considered by many as a pioneer of contemporary fashion photography. Do you enjoy seeing your past work referenced in projects by others?
It’s always a compliment for me.
How has your work as a graphic designer and art director influenced the way you take photographs?
It’s all one thing: visual communication.
How has fashion photography changed since you first started out?
Digital techniques have created a huge new opportunity, but for me there is no change.
What’s your most unforgettable memory from a shoot?
A Masai shaman who didn’t want me to take his picture provoked a miniature tornado to appear in front of my camera.
You’ve worked with some of the most illustrious stars of the fashion industry. Who has been your favourite person to work with and why?
Kenzo Takada. He was the most open-minded.