Leon Mark’s photographs are refined, graceful and infinitely stylish. The London-based photographer has worked with the likes Vogue Italia and Chanel, cementing his name across the fashion industry. This is partly due to Leon’s ability to capture the distinct personalities of his sitters, extracting their idiosyncrasies with his lens. “I got into photography by studying film and cinema. I’ve always been interested in fashion and art so I started to focus more on the mise en scène of cinema which pushed me towards photography. That, in turn, let me to fashion photography,” Leon tells It’s Nice That. Working mainly across Europe and the US, Leon shoots both film and digital, and is currently working on short fashion films.
A particularly striking series is Leon’s photographs for Replica Man magazine, which documents a group of adolescents hiking around the rural countryside and exploring the local seaside. “I love the very over-the-top fashion stories from the 60s and early 90s. I try to bring some exaggerated poses of that era into a shoot but still keep it current through the casting and styling. Working on getting the right casting for me is a very important part of my work,” Leon explains. The Replica Man series combines the dramatic with the ordinary; a young boy, for example, stands emphatically at the edge of a cliff scanning the horizon yet his outfit and makeup are far from theatrical. Another image shows a seemingly normal boy in Breton stripes assertively standing in a field with one arm enigmatically raised. It’s this compelling paradox that renders Leon’s work so powerful.
“I hope my photographs can be considered timeless but with a twist, injected with something unexpected,” Leon says. Subtle moments of humour permeate Leon’s body of work, especially in his series for Ssaw magazine, which features a variety of eccentric characters in chic Chanel outfits. The series’ star is a young girl dressed in lavish ensembles – which include a transparent Chanel bucket hat – as if she had rummaged through the world’s most upscale dressing-up box. Another character in the series is a Little Edie-esque woman with bleached eyebrows, bright red lipstick and four cigarettes in one hand. Leon’s strength lies in his ability to capture beautifully elegant shots with an upbeat lightheartedness.
It is this distinct aesthetic that sets him apart from other photographers. Whether working on a campaign or shooting personal work, Leon remains true to his unmistakable style. “When you’re being commissioned the clients have chosen you for your style, so your aesthetic will come through naturally. It is harder when you’re working on a commercial project that needs to be shot in a simple way. But you can still make it a part of you, by selecting certain colours or through the casting. I love working with art directors as they offer alternative perspectives that can add some new elements to your work which you may not have considered before.”