My first job was at The Body Shop Press Office. Under the leadership of Anita Roddick, I learned how to tell a story, that mattered. I was managing Product PR, and then we all pitched in on the human rights campaigns. It really pared down my perception of what’s important. I trained under Lynne Franks before that. Her team helped me get my eye in for how to get a handle on the landscape in terms of media, and also how to communicate through imagery. As a kid fresh out of college I watched how they handled their clients and that they were successful because of the passion they had for their brands. But Anita Roddick was the really impressive encounter of my life – absolutely penetrating my perception of what the world needs from business to thrive and how to provide it.
Art, and other influences
I love Tracey Emin, she’s a Margate girl which is a bit similar to being a Watford girl like I am, and she has such beautiful way of getting to the crux of things. Louise Bourgeois and Paula Rego are powerful feminist artists that I love. Also Barbara Kruger who works with text and sarcasm and always brings a smile to my face with her direct hits. Towering over all of them is Frida Kahlo. Actually they all deal with complexities and very personal phenomena with resourcefulness and wit. Maybe that’s what I love about them. Regularly connecting with these works, and showing my work at Claire de Rouen Gallery at the beginning of my career alongside Mapplethorpe, Damien Hirst and Helmut Newton, really gave me the confidence to continue communicating.
So you have these brands, and you get to know them, and as you do they get associations – you know, they represent something to the consumer, just the way you get to know people and you feel a particular way when you think of them. So for me, you can see a brand in personal terms. You like the way they dress, something catches your eye or stimulates your curiosity. Then they amuse you, or you somehow like the way they treat you. Then maybe you see them as beneficial to the world, so you feel proud of them, you feel good about being associated with them. So that’s what I focus on when I work on PR with fashion brands.
For a long time I was involved with London Fashion Week - I photographed backstage, and was involved in production. I actually started out doing a course at UAL in fashion marketing. But it’s through fashion and shooting endless models that I really got hooked on that middle ground between psychology and the image, and ended up taking a course in developmental psychology at Birkbeck. The late, great Alexander McQueen and the phenomenal Nick Knight chose me as a winner of The Independent Newspaper Fashion Photography Award in early 2000 which launched me into commercial world of visual communications. This current drive towards brand integrity is great(when it works) – we’re not looking for mystification, we just want nice people to relate to. And now that social media offers democratization, you can’t really justify the kind of stuffy, pretentious representations one associates with big brands of old. Even still, a lot of businesses are still in the mind-set that they need to get a message out - and that's fine, but I think there's so much more that visual communications can offer.