Monday, August 13, 2012

This Is What Talent Looks Like: Meet Photographer, Erik Madigan Heck

When Life Imitates Art

A friend of mine once told me that life is like photography. He said you use the negatives to develop. I’d like to add something. The smart person will make positives from the negative, but only an artist can create something beautiful.

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Erik Madigan Heck, above behind the lens, has joined the ranks of photographers such as Richard Avedon…

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Helmut Newton…

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and Annie Leibovitz…

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He is this year’s photographer for The Art of Fashion, Neiman Marcus’s fall fashion campaign.

When I look at the photographs from Erik’s breathtaking shoot–provocative and iconic, drowning in juicy jewel-toned colors of green and blue and red–I see more than fashion. I see art.

Emerald City

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Alive with vivid iridescence and plush textures, Erik’s work elevates the fashion catalog into high art. It’s a seductive book filled with expressive portraits in peacock shades. Turquoise, rich navy, sapphire blue, and of course gorgeous greens–as seen in the silk and velvet Tom Ford gown above–drape elegantly over model’s frames like paintings on canvas.

Flights of Fancy

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Gucci, above, is resplendent with a rooster-feather jacket, plastron-embroidered silk top and velvet pants, while Alaïa Paris, below, shimmers in shades of tempting teal.

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The textures of the shearling jacket and calf hair skirt above are so brilliantly played off the light as to render the photo almost tactile. Erik’s lighting reflects on the garments like a lunar eclipse, yielding a near-metallic finish.

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I’m enamored of the Oscar de la Renta velvet lace gown above, which was handpicked by Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing at the fall fashion show. “I insisted it be photographed for The Art of Fashion,” Ken said.

And although the garments are glorious, the photography is at the very least just as spell-binding. Erik, 28, is the youngest photographer ever chosen to shoot The Art of Fashion for Neiman Marcus, and his mind is ripe with creative visions in a painterly style. Perhaps that’s because Erik was weaned on fine art as a child with a father who collects art and a mother who is a painter. Erik’s own affair with painting was replaced by photography after his mother gave him his first camera, a manual EOS Canon.

“Painting was great, but I wanted a more time-relevant medium to express my ideas,” Erik stated. He still looks to paintings for inspiration, by artists such as Vuillard and Degas. “I like the way Vuillard and Degas portray women. They’re not sexy. I try to stay away from sexy, glamorous women,” he said.

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And yet the models do look both sexy and glamorous, but not deliberately so. It is Erik’s aversion to such qualities that make their demeanors more demure and slightly austere, like displaced figurines painted onto other-worldly backdrops, as seen above with a flurry of flowers for Alexander McQueen, and below, for Chanel.

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Color and texture are braided together in a playful world of haute couture that would astound even the savvy art collector.

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Neiman Marcus’s September 2012 book, The Art of Fashion, is available now at Neiman Marcus stores.

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