We’ve had our fair share of featured photographers here on two + seven, and we must admit that it’s difficult not to be enamored by a man with a keen eye wielding a camera. Oliver McAvoy is no exception – captivating us with his photographs, film (and, albeit, a subtly-sexy English accent). Did we mention he also speaks French? N’en dites pas plus! But we digress…
Infusing fashion photography with a fine art aesthetic, Oli’s work is both dark and intrinsic, yet altogether, candidly beautiful. As one reviewer describes, his artistry is a “contradiction between unearthly light and mundane places…the figures that inhabit these spaces give raw energy to his narratives.”
With names like Marc Jacobs, Italian Vogue, Ann Yee, and Volt magazine (just to name a few) under his lens cap, it’s no wonder this Brit has such an acute eye for style. Having shot our Ryan Jordan interview, as well as the lookbooks for featured designer Megan Marie Dodge’s Sobotka, McAvoy is no stranger to two + seven, and (somewhat) willingly obliged to an interview. Oli sat down with us, answering our probing inquisitions, and leaving us with only one question: please sir, can we have some more?
two + seven: What inspires you?
Oliver McAvoy: I connect with most things that are uncomfortable and heartbreaking. When I take photos, I like the subject to go to a place that’s very sad, a place when they were unhappy, lonely, etc. I try to find that, so I can capture it. I try to make it as awkward as possible, so they really find something in themselves. It’s in this place of discomfort that they really come out of their shell and do something different.
2+7: You went to film school in Paris. How did this affect your approach to photography?
OM: Because I went to film school to study cinematography I defintiely have a cinematic apporach to my images.
I love that isolated, abandoned feel that Gus Van Sant has in his films and have always loved Wong Kar Wai’s style and approach. I hate strobe lights! I hate that I can’t see the light before and I think that is why I will always be comfortable in shooting constant lights and that certainly helps to add the cinematic aspect to my images.
2+7: Tell us about We Were the Lights in the Desert. What was this for, what was your inspiration?
OM: We were just messing around in the studio, conceptualizing, seeing what would happen. It took on this womb-like element, in the dark, secluded… we didn’t know what we were doing, we just want to see where the day would take us, and what we would get. I get really excited about these types of projects because when the outcome is unknown and out of your control you get something genuinely pure.
2+7: What is the story behind your project, Mandragoras?
OM: Mandragoras is an organization of young entrepreneurs dedicated to the research, experimentation, and promotion of new approaches in performance. It focuses on exploring the medium of theatre beyond it’s entertainment value. At first, it was just a project that I supported with friends, but after paticipating more recently I have been getting involved and experimenting with bringing the exploration of performance to the camera. I think capturing an image based on performance is unique, as there are no rules.
2+7: You’ve done lookbooks, editorial work, and of course, stuff for two + seven. Is there a favorite type of project you prefer to work on, or do you like having a mix of different things?
OM: Although I love conceptualizing an idea, I love to work on a project that presents a real challenge. There are too many people out there that do projects just for the sake of being done and I don’t think anyone really challenges themselves anymore. The internet has become so accessible for artists and because of this everyone is now a photographer or film maker. Unfortunately that means a lot of crap is out there and we have to be careful that we don’t miss something genuine.
2+7: A lot of new photographers assist established ones. Do you have any advice for novice photographers?
OM: I wish we could go back to the ‘apprenticeship’ means of working with a photographer. I think having someone that will teach you not only about the technical aspect but of the business side is very important. You can only go so far relying on artistic and technical merit. I have always believed that you should not assist someone you admire. I think that it’s important, if you are going to assist, to work with someone that has a completely different style from your own, so that you don’t end up emulating their work. You don’t even have to like their style, just do it. It’s easy to get caught up in and influenced by this person that you respect, and to lose all sense of individuality.
2+7: What is the one thing people should know about you?
OM: Let’s keep a little mystery here.