Yet more proof that the guys behind luxury Dalston boutique LN-CC are an incredibly nice and talented bunch, meet the store’s resident photographer Ben Benoliel.
The silk-lined pocket to Dalston’s grubby jeans, LN-CC has brought the fashion glitterati to Shacklewell Lane. In the 18 months since its opening, co-founder and art director Ben Benoliel has been busy snapping away in the store’s in-house studio. But this month Ben returns, in part, to his personal work starting with an exhibition at J&A Café. The last time i-D encountered Ben was for the 2008 Taschen tome SOUL i-D when he was Mark Lebon’s student. Three years on, Ben stops for a chin wag about beginnings, middles and the end in sight.
How did you get involved with LN-CC? John Skelton is one of my best friend’s brothers. I didn’t know a soul when I moved to London and he used to have me round for dinner and give me life advice! When I graduated and was looking for work, he had just been appointed as Creative Director at oki-ni. He gave me my first job there and that’s how it all began. Then I was lucky enough to be one of the founding partners of LN-CC and since then have been 110% focused on that project. My personal work slowed down considerably, but I am just starting to work with a few great clients like Nigel Cabourn and 1205. It’s lovely being able to cherry pick who I work with as it’s not my full time job.
You featured in the SOUL i-D book, when you were Mark Lebon’s student, what was it like working for him then? I would safely say that without Mark I wouldn’t be here today. When I first moved to London I was like a fish out of water. I used to have tutorials with Mark and be in a real state, he would invite me round to ‘Crunch Studios’ and let me do small tasks and just hang out. I was never in the head space to really take the opportunity he was trying to give me, something I still really regret to this day. He is one of the most gifted people I have ever met and was/still is unbelievably inspiring to me. Getting my submissions into i-D’s Safe + Sound and then SOUL i-D really has been one of the highlights of my career so far.
Analogue vs. digital… Go! There are obviously huge advantages to both, at LN-CC 95% of my work is digital. I was talking with a 70-year-old guy the other month and 50 years ago he was a forensic photographer with the police. He was telling me about the large format long exposures they would use and how they would shoot a crime scene on 35mm and immediately return back to the station’s dark room to develop the films! I could only imagine how technically beautiful those images were. I think this really drills home that before the digital revolution in order to take photographs one had to have a complete understanding of the process, every frame taken had to be considered. I wonder now with iPhones and Facebook how many frames are ‘considered’? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that anybody can take photographs, I just feel that this has sucked quality out of photography too.
Who’s the most interesting person you’ve photographed? My sister Cherry was amazing! She was 22 when I shot her for the launch issue of a magazine called WAR. Cherry has downs syndrome and autism, so I had to approach her slightly different than I would other subjects. In order to prepare her, I sent her a letter explaining that I wanted her to be my model for an upcoming shoot and would she mind. She was a proper diva on the day! I LOVED taking pictures of her and I think as we are family the pictures show a connection that no other work of mine ever possibly could.
Which photographers have influenced your style? I remember a funny story from my interview at LCF. They asked, what do you think of David LaChapelle? I replied ‘WHO’? I hadn’t really immersed myself in culture back in the North East, my attitude was….I love taking photographs, what does it matter what was before me? Obviously this has changed! I’m influence by all types of photographers, peers such as Neil Bedford and Andrew Malone. Mark Lebon will always have a very special place in photography as his work is so beautiful, unique and instantly recognisable. I really enjoy his son Tyrone’s work too, his fathers influences are undeniable. I love the work of Willy Vanderperre, Guy Bourdin, Bruce Weber and the late Corinne Day as well as artists such as Warhol, Damien Hirst and Keith Haring. David Hockney and his polaroids are also extremely influential and inspiring to me. Terry Richardson has become a brand and I admire the simplicity and playfulness of his work.
Ben Benoliel ‘Negative Archive’ will be on show at J&A Cafe for the next six weeks.
Text: Sarah Raphael