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Serge Leblon's Soft Touch

The Belgian photographer and Dazed & Confused collaborator just launched a new book retracing 10 years of his striking photography

Playful, sensual and elegant are some of the words that describe Serge Leblon's photographs. His images are anything but harsh, opening up an evocative world of fantasy and desire. In fact, the Belgian's romanticism is somewhat at odds with the aggressive sexiness found in mainstream fashion imagery. Even though he has a spark in his eyes, Leblon comes across as a discreet and humble man.

Having shot for Elle US, Harper's Bazaar Russia, Vogue Spain, AnOther Man and - of course - Dazed & Confused, he also photographed campaigns for Delvaux, Sonia Rykiel, Kenzo and Miharayasuhiro. Recently Leblon also teamed up with Base Design to launch a new eponymous book, retracing 10 years of his striking photography. We caught up with him at the book launch...

Dazed Digital: How did the book project come about?
Serge Leblon:
It was Dimitri Jeurissen - Creative Director and CEO of Base - who offered me to do it. I was not too sure at first, having only been in this business for about 10 years, but I wanted to capture some of the freedom I had when everything started. I don't think I could enjoy that kind of independence again.

DD: In what ways has it changed?
Serge Leblon:
I remember we used to create stories out of nothing. I worked with stylist Cathy Edwards on shoots where we didn't even have credits. It was all “stylist's own”. You can't get away with things like that now. I guess creative freedom is a problematic notion when it comes to magazines. They have evolved and changed.

DD: What was it like putting all these pictures together for the book?
Serge Leblon: Well, I guess there was some sort of career assessment going on. It also made me think about my style. It took six months to make it and I was happy with the outcome. One of my intentions as a fashion photographer was to do a book on images and not models. It's more about the mood and composition of the photographs than another volume on Kate Moss.

DD: How would you define your style as a fashion photographer?
Serge Leblon: Evanescent and colourful. I think that's it. I love contrast and a sense of humility, too.

DD: What I like about your images is that there's no vulgarity in them...
Serge Leblon: Don't even get me started on the current state of fashion photography... How much time have you got? (he laughs) I cannot stand the tactlessness and vulgarity you see in so many fashion images today. What makes me crazy is the fact that women -and men- are not treated respectfully by these photographers. I hate that.

DD: Do you think we're heading towards more modesty then?
Serge Leblon: I'm afraid we're not. I see more grossness and stupidity everywhere. I really think the times of Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton have gone.

DD: Are you based in Brussels?
Serge Leblon: Yes, I am. I travel often for work, but this is where home is and I try to be here as much as I can. I know that my work does not have this glamourous, commercial and instantly sellable quality, which is fine by me. That means I can have a selective approach and only work on projects that truly excite me.