We shot our seventh collection, Lighting Momentum, with the photographer Aart Verrips, whose work has been featured in Time, Vogue Italia, Harper's Bazaar, Sunday Times Edit, and GQ South Africa. We chatted with him about his dream subject, working with Time Magazine, and the importance of collaboration...
You were initially studying to be a pastry chef in France – what inspired you to change paths to photography?
While studying pastry in France about 10 years ago, I fell in love with photography. One of my good friends - I met on the course - was an avid amateur photographer shooting interesting portraits and landscapes of her travels. After my studies, I returned to South Africa where the first thing I did was I bought an entry-level DSLR (camera), from there I started shooting mostly interesting landscapes and experimenting. Lighting Momentum, FIELDS Collection 7, F|W 2022
What draws you to photograph someone? Who is your dream subject?
We work in an industry where beauty is seen in many different ways, often capturing so-called non-conformist beauty. I have no definitive answer on what draws me to a person but rather it's in the moment and depends on what the brief is or what I have in mind. Sometimes I wander the streets to take personal portraits and I look for people - for characters - that stand out from the crowd. Something out-of-the-ordinary and non-conforming intrigues and excites me, and gets me thinking. If you have a quirk, something different to show - and that's what we are meant to do - tell the unconventional stories that set you apart from the rest! I would love to photograph Viola Davis - she has this incredible strength and power, and I find her so beautiful. The roles she’s played and how far she delves into the character fascinates me, and I would love to sit down and spend a day with her and take her portrait - I think she's one of the most iconic, powerful women of our time. I would also love to photograph Adele and Beyoncé - who wouldn't want to work with these incredible women?
Whose work do you find yourself most drawn to? Who or what has had the biggest influence on developing your own aesthetic?
As a photographer, I have a few favourites but that is changing as I grow, but at the moment I would say Rafael Pavarotti. But the person that has influenced my style the most must be Kristin-Lee Moolman, as I assisted her for two years. I love her static portraiture.Office Day, featured in Bricks Magazine - selected for PhotoVogue Festival, February 2022
You recently shot the cover of Time Magazine – for their headline story ‘Inside Facebook’s African Sweatshop’ – could you speak a little bit about the experience of working for Time?
The Time cover was my second assignment (for the magazine) but each one was so time-sensitive. Working with Time Magazine has been one of my best experiences - they trusted me with my style and let me play around. It was a whirlwind as I travelled to two off-the-grid locations in our beautiful country. Capturing someone that went through so much is humbling and also an honour to play a role in fighting back against corporate greed and helping Daniel speak out and stand up for hundreds if not thousands of others that are still going through it.Inside Facebook's African Sweatshop, cover story for Time Magazine, March 2022
Do you prefer shooting digital or film? Could you explain why? Which avenues of photography/image-making would you like to explore more?
I entered my new world within a digital age but I do like to mix mediums and shoot on both film and digital. They both have a very different look and feel and I love both but I do prefer mostly to shoot on digital as my colouring is for a personal signature in my imagery. But with that said I'm experimenting more and more with film, I love the fragility that is film. Working with a medium where you need to be so precise gets the inner mad scientist out in you.FIELDS LIFE, featuring Felipe Mazibuko, July 2021
How do you evoke an emotion from your subject – or do you look to portray what’s already there?
It all depends on the end goal and what we are shooting towards but normally I try to work with what they have; if they have something that sets them apart from the crowd I celebrate that.Go Camp Goon, exclusive editorial for Fucking Young!, July 2021
To what degree is your process collaborative? How important is the team in making the final image?
I will say collaboration in what I do is key! I would not be here without the people around me and collaborating opens your mind more to other options. When I'm on set and working, everyone can have an opinion and workshopping things is sometimes necessary for the bigger picture and getting the most out of what your project might be.Heritage Dresses, Thebe Magugu, Capsule Collection 2022
Does the prevalence of social media influence the way you create imagery? Do you feel the pressure to ‘keep up’ has benefitted or hindered creatives? How do you feel about Instagram’s algorithm giving preference to reels over posts?
When I was a younger photographer, the pressure of social media definitely seeped into my creative process as we get bombarded with imagery and it always feels like you need to chase the next project; but in a sense that helped me figure out my style and experiment earlier on. But now my mindset has changed - if you don’t have new work to post for weeks or months that’s fine as long as you're strict with yourself and what you want the world to see - who you are as an individual and an artist.The Edit Man, featured in Sunday Times Fashion, June 2022
Favourite city in the world?
All-time favourite photographer?
What would you never wear?
Never say never as fashion and style are forever evolving
Being a photographer in South Africa is…
Challenging and rewarding
What are you listening to at the moment?
Jacob Banks always
What are you binge-watching at the moment?
What are you reading at the moment?
Everything is F*cked
Love me Nots, featuring Viviers Studio, April 2022
This interview has been edited for clarity. All artwork images are courtesy of Aart Verrips, via aart-verrips.com.