“I think it’s the interactions with my subjects that make photography the medium I truly connect with,” says fashion photographer Rhys Frampton. Whether it's capturing someone on a wall of death, or meeting the Compton Cowboys, the photographer displays this quality through his many meetings with interesting and unique characters.
Originally from Northampton, Rhys' interest in photography stems from spending Saturdays with his set builder father, watching photographers buzz energetically around the studios. Entirely self-taught, and although well versed in both film and digital photography, he made the decision to shoot strictly on film around seven years ago: “I realised I needed to reinvent myself as I wanted to have my own signature style, so I gravitated back to film,” he tells It’s Nice That.
This decision is obviously something that has contributed to his aesthetic, which he has carefully refined over the years. “My photographic style is essentially based around colours and traditional darkroom methods. I opt for warmer tones which I feel have depth and gives imagery more life. I shoot on medium format too, as I love the way it has more information in the final print. I also feel it suits editorial layouts, and gives you more detail.”
As Rhys mentions, it's the interactions with people that makes photography so special to him, and his decision to shoot film facilitates this further: “I believe in connecting with the subject and find that shooting digital breaks the energy flow between photographer and the subject – this is the main reason why I shoot on film. The connection does not get lost. There is a constant flow and energy on set, which reflects in my work.”
Continuing his hands-on DIY approach, Rhys and his team always handprint in the darkroom, and generally shun the use of extra equipment, such as multiple flash guns. “I favour natural rather than artificial light, as it keeps things simplified and makes it more about the moment and being present, rather than trying to create something false – which often feels unreal and forced,” he says.
All of the aspects mentioned are visible in Rhys’ two fantastic commissions for Wrangler that, although a commercial project, allowed a huge degree of autonomy. “They are quite distinctive in the sense that they are commercial and art at the same time – it is not about the product, but about the subject,” he tells us. “We researched groups of people who are doing quite unique things, and go out to document them and immerse ourselves in their environment. By highlighting and bringing a subject to life at such a personal level, it becomes something more raw and connected.”
His first commission documented the Compton Cowboys, a group of people who created a ranch in a notoriously violent part of Los Angeles. It ultimately helps people to escape the draw of gangs, and Rhys went to see it first hand, documenting those within it. The unique subject-matter, coupled with the LA sunshine perfectly complementing Rhys’ signature warm tones, resulted in a series of beautiful images. “This work was very important to me,” he says of this project.
His latest Wrangler commission was in Marfa, Texas, where he was tasked with capturing the Wall of Death group – America’s original extreme motorcycle show. “It is a big wooden barrel 30 feet in diameter and 16 feet tall, in which daredevils ride vintage motorcycles on a wall at speeds up to 40 miles per hour, while doing tricks,” he explains to us. “I submerged myself within their community for a week – producing imagery that highlights the remarkable connections I made throughout my stay.”
Although an aesthetic-led project, Rhys felt it was important that he documented the bravery and character of the people he met, accurately portraying their stories. “I found this important, and wanted to make sure I was bringing their stories to life,” he says. “This type of show is only one of 11 left in the world, whereas back in the day, it used to be a very popular attraction. I believe it is my duty as a photographer to help highlight something that is a dying art form,” he says.
Having worked on such interesting projects and telling some unique stories of late, Rhys wants to continue in this line of work. “In the future, I would like to work on projects that are close to my heart. Especially with the stage of the world, I feel it is my duty as a photographer to be a voice for people. I want people to truly connect with the subject, and want them to understand the emotion behind the image – connectivity is everything,” he explains.
“Overall I want to leave a legacy and be recognised for my work, creating iconic images that live on, and most importantly make a difference.”
GalleryRhys Frampton: Wrangler
Rhys Frampton: Wrangler
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.