Filled with influences of graphic design, pop art and early modernism, photographer Steve Hiett bridged art and fashion like few others
The path from getting sweaty on-stage as a member of psych/pop band Pyramids to fashion photographer – sitting alongside contemporaries like Helmut Newton and Sarah Moon, while shooting for The Face, Marie Claire and Vogue Italia – isn't as complicated as it might first seem. For Steve Hiett, it was the crossover of the collapse of his band and a run-in with a friend just as he was weighing up his career options when his friend asked, 'why don't you try fashion photography?' And that was the jump-off point to some of fashion's most stunning images from the past 50 years.
Initially wanting to be a painter, it was a fascination with an issue of American Art Directors Annual that he found in his college library that led him to pursue studies in graphic design at the Brighton Art School. Seemingly on track, it was there that he met Dermot Goulding, who taught a photography class once a week. Hiett was hooked and still cites Golding as one of his biggest influences.
Teaming up with friend and then-budding designer Zandra Rhodes, the pair shot a 'Woolworth Fashion' shoot, picking up items like roller-skates and school girl underwear from the store. Nova magazine published one of the images and quickly asked for them to produce more. It was around this time that Hiett decided to trip over to Paris where a friendship with Marie Claire's art director at the time, Émile Laugier – who Hiett would regularly visit at the office to chat – would turn into a 20-year collaboration with the title.
A pioneer of shooting with flash outside, it’s hard to deny Hiett’s impact on photography’s next generation. Mixing fashion and art, it’s Hiett’s early influences from his time as a painter and graphic design student that remain as present as ever. Pop art, early modernism, surrealism and abstraction sit visible throughout a rich oeuvre ranging from high contrast black and white shots, cinematic influences, incredible colour and geometric shapes.
In honour of these past five decades, and off the back of his major retrospective at the Hyeres Photography Festival last year, Prestel have released Beyond Blonde, a tome that traces the evolution of his first shots, taken in Bromley of "simple pictures of quiet empty places" to his time as art director at Arthur Elgort’s Model Manual and his ongoing work in fashion today. Peek inside here.
Beyond Blonde is available now