Digital FeaturesJulianaJames Meakin
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James Meakin


Photography:James Meakin Model: JULIANA @bossmodelsa, Cape Town Styling: Chrisna de Bruyn @chrisnadebruyn Hair and makeup: Richard Wilkinson @richardpaint, @herocreativemanagement, Cape town  Assistant: Gerrit Olivier caption:Fashion by$ Witchery and Country Road
Hats by Crystal Birch Produced by North South Productions with Special thanks to Kersefontein Guest farm Western Cape, South Africa Camera: Leica S (Typ 007) with Elmarit-S 45 f/2.8 ASPH. (CS), APO-Macro-Summarit-S 120 f/2.5 (CS)

James Meakin loves nature – and fashion photography. While shooting his series in Cape Town, South Africa, he let expansive farmlands and unexpected dust storms imbue his images with a distinct prairie feeling.

What role does nature play in your life?
I grew up surrounded by nature, and am increasingly aware that this is where I feel most contented and myself. Spending time in nature is a unique and grounding experience. I try to eek out at least a few moments to connect with nature every day, wherever I am. I’m aware of it at all times – it’s the timeless constant from which we have all emerged.

What connection do you see between fashion and nature?
So many of the textures and designs you see in fashion have been inspired by nature. Fashion is as much about fantasy and emotion as it is about tangible reality. You could say that nature represents the ultimate escapism: it can be raw, harsh, beautiful, fierce, subtle…. all of which are emotive qualities that translate into fashion design. We wear clothing as our armour, our camouflage. I believe that the core essence of creative fashion is very much rooted in nature.

Most of the images in this series were captured outdoors in open fields. What drew you to this expansive space?
I think that wide open spaces can give you a real rush and sense of magnitude. There’s an intense feeling of living completely in the moment – no phones, no distractions. We were working with a model who is at the very beginning of her career, and this environment really helped create a space that was not in any way intimidating. At the same time, it provided a completely blank canvas: I always want viewers to project their imagination onto the picture, which is why I don’t like being too specific about where a story is set. This farm is like a time capsule, and I think I let that influence the way in which I presented my protagonist’s character.

If the series is to be read like a story, I wonder what the narrative might be?
That’s exactly what I’m trying to achieve – I want you to make up your own story; I leave gaps in the narrative that you need to fill in for yourself. MY version is a daydream, and these images are the illustrations I created as I went along.

Your images look like they’ve sprung from a different time, rather than the age of Instagram & co. They seem like something out of a fine-art fashion catalogue, with colours and monochrome tones that bring to mind the fifties and sixties. What was your intention here?
This is a project I conceived entirely in my own mind, without any outside influences, and this is how it unfolded. The team I put together shared a willingness to follow their imagination. I dream up characters like this all the time; I’ve long harboured a secret hope that there is more to our existence than this physical reality, and am still fascinated by the intangible and the mysterious. I’ve known this beautifully eery location for years, and I always thought of it as somewhere you might capture a ghost from another time. You could say that haunted dreams have led me in the right direction.  

The series was shot with a Leica S. What do you appreciate most about this camera?
The medium format pushes my images towards the classic-painting look that has become a signature style for me; it changes the way I approach a subject, compared to the fast shooting pace and digital feel of the 35mm SLR approach. The extremely low depth of field, methodical composition process and cinematic rendition of the Leica S make it my favourite camera, and it’s always a pleasure to return to after long, high-intensity advertising projects with SLRs. The S is a robust tool, both on location and during travel. Also, filming with S lenses can generate beautiful-looking footage that matches the stills – this is something I’m going to explore more closely in the near future.

What was your specific approach when creating this series – which techniques did you use, both on location and in post-processing?  
When working with a Leica, I rarely feel the need to adjust the curves, as the results already tend to look very natural. And I prefer to make sure that I shoot in good light in the first place. So with these images, there was little to no work to be done in post-processing. I like to shoot hand-held with fast shutter speeds and a low depth of field; in this case I worked with natural light, with some subtle bouncing and shoot-throughs using plants, and lots of lens variations to hone in on the subject.

What fascinates you about fashion photography?
For me it represents a blend of art, beauty, and highly accomplished artists who have dedicated themselves to succeeding in a surprisingly serious and challenging industry. Essentially, my work consists of chasing moments that I have envisioned but that I can never fully plan in advance. Combining the creative energies of different people is like doing a jigsaw puzzle – it is only when you put in that last piece that you truly appreciate the sum of your parts. There is a thrill and an almost addictive quality to chasing these unique moments and working with so many different elements. It’s a relentless business and there is rarely a moment to catch your breath, but that’s what I love about it.

The famous fashion photographer F.C. Gundlach once said, “Fashion is always an expression of the current zeitgeist, and maybe even its best indicator.” Do you see it the same way?
In my work I set out to represent my own internal experience and follow my intuition, but the fashion world has indeed always been closely interlinked with the music and youth culture of its time. These days it is more diluted, and has become more of a free-for-all. Social media is gaining ground while more and more magazines are giving up the fight – leaving you to wonder whether it will be fashion photography or influencers that will set the tone for the future. My hope, of course, is that fashion photography will prevail!