Anna Bauer is the portrait photographer fascinated with the fashion world and all who dwell in it.
Anna Bauer has spent the last four years roaming the backstage areas of London, Paris, Milan and New York catwalk shows. The German-born photographer has snapped everyone who’s anyone in the industry, from Kate Moss and Kanye West to Marc Jacobs and Mario Testino. The images, shot using a large format camera and Polaroid film, are not simply confined to the front row. Anna also explores the process of a show and the people who make it happen, with her portraits including photographers, make-up artists and even investors. The black and white portraits are subtle yet captivating, where the subject, amongst the hectic hustle and bustle of backstage, must stand still and look directly at the camera for at least two minutes. The result is a beautifully intimate portrait, wonderfully capturing segments of the subject’s mood and personality. These portraits have been bought together in Backstage, a beautifully crafted book by Angelika Books, the highly anticipated new publishing house headed by Angelika Taschen. Collating every one of Anna’s unique portraits from multiple fashion weeks, the book was art directed by Fabien Baron with an intro courtesy of renowned journalist Tim Blanks. Out in January, Backstage is a stunning project that both documents and pays homage to the world of fashion, showing that when it comes to such an industry, there’s plenty going on both behind the scenes and beneath the surface.
Why did you focus on the people in fashion rather than the clothes? I come from a portraiture background so I’m not really a fashion photographer. Before this I photographed a lot of musicians and chefs, so it felt like a natural next step for me.
What was the process behind you using a large format camera? I use large format cameras a lot. It can take up to four minutes to take a picture and the subject needs to really concentrate on the camera, they are part of the process and as a result they let you in more. You get a different portrait, a kind of intensity you wouldn’t get using a point and shoot camera and simply going snappety snap. The purpose was to get some kind of sincerity into the portraits, and capture people, just people as they are.
Are there any portraits in the book that stick out to you in particular? I do love the second to last picture in the book of Bardo Fabiani, the backstage photographer for Italian Vogue. The exposure time was super long so he had to focus even more than usual. He stood still while his cigarette was smoking away and he looks like a character out of one of those old French black and white crime movies. He really worked with the camera and it was a special moment. I also love the one of Alber Elbaz because it was completely hectic and really hard to focus because it was so dark. But all of that worked and it turned out to be this really nice portrait. It was like some kind of magic.
Why did you decide to include pictures of everyone backstage? I just wanted to show how much work a runway show takes. Most of the time people just see the show and not the crazy amount of work that goes into it. I wanted to show all of that.
Do you shoot before or after a show? I do both, because you can’t force the designers do it before. If I’m doing reportage it is mostly before the show. Afterwards the models just take their clothes off and go home.
What’s your favourite fashion capital to shoot in? London is probably the city that stands out. It’s got much more diversity and there are a lot of young designers. Other cities are more behind.
Do you hope that through your work people will see a new side to the fashion industry? I love being around fashion, at this stage I must do or I wouldn’t have done it for four years. I don’t know if my portraits are new, because people in fashion have been photographed before, but I think what might be different is that the photos are taken while the fashion was happening. The portraits weren’t arranged, official or taking place in a studio. What is different is that they are one on one. It might be a more serious approach as well.
What are you working on next? Will you continue doing backstage photography? Probably. Backstage photographers are a nice, dysfunctional family. I think I’m connected to that world now, really woven into it. I will also continue to shoot stuff for The Daily, which is basically how I started.
What was your highlight of the spring/summer 12 shows? Taking Gisele’s portrait because she’s never at fashion week. I’ve been doing this project for eight seasons and I’ve never seen her before, but this season she closed Givenchy. She looked fun and I was really pleased with the picture.
Who would be your ideal subject? I’d love to photograph tribes in Brazil!
Are there any photographers that have inspired you? Yes, many. My favourite being Lee Friedlander.
This is the Winter Warm Up Issue of i-D. How do you keep yourself fit and healthy? I go boxing, real old school boxing. It’s a pretty intense work out. I’m definitely warm afterwards. It’s a special combination of physicality and focus. I go to Gleason’s Gym, the oldest in New York, I believe.
Text: Rose Poole
Photography: Anna Bauer