Catching Up With Steve Hiett in Hyères

The British fashion photographer presided over the photography jury at this year's festival.

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HYÈRES, France — British fashion photographer Steve Hiett, presiding over the photography jury at this year’s Hyères festival, described the work of this year’s Grand Prize winner Lorenzo Vitturi as “Pop art.”

This story first appeared in the April 30, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

An Italian national, Vitturi pocketed 15,000 euros, or $20,768 at current exchange, granted by Chanel, a major partner of the festival for the first time. He has a fashion series featuring Maison Martin Margiela pieces set to run in Dazed & Confused magazine.

At 73, the Paris-based Hiett, who started in photography while in a rock band in Swinging Sixties London, still dresses like a teenager. He is a regular contributor to Vogue Italy and also has a fashion series set to run in French Elle.

A book retracing his career is slated to come out next year, published by Prestel, and Hiett is to start recording a new album in July.

There were several exhibitions at Villa Noailles, where the festival was held, including one devoted to Hiett’s works called “The Song Remains the Same: Steve Hiett.”

WWD: What do you think of Hyères?

Steve Hiett: The ambiance here is very French. It reminds me of “Tender Is the Night.” It’s the Côte d’Azur, with restaurants, etc. It is a thing French people do very well. They have the savoir-faire.

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WWD: How has fashion photography evolved over 50 years?

S.H.: Everything is perfect now. I like my pictures to be clean but some things now are so retouched; it almost becomes illustrations. I do minimum retouching, because up until I started digital, which was about eight years ago, I had never retouched pictures.

WWD: What do you think of Instagram photography?

S.H.: I don’t know anything about Instagram. I know it exists and people like it. I don’t even know what it is for or how it works. But I know everyone is on Instagram. Maybe I should check it out.

WWD: Do you see fashion photography as separate from art photography?

S.H.: Art photography is a whole different world. I feel fashion photography is like rock ’n’ roll, whereas art photography is classical music. It is two different things. For me fashion photography is more instinctive. You have to take pictures in a day. In art photography, you can spend days and days working on an idea. It is a more intellectual pursuit.

WWD: What is required to take great photos?

S.H.: In photography, all you can do is push a button. It is mechanical.

So there has to be some strange magic thing that happens. It is something you cannot teach. I never taught photography and I never was taught. All I ever learned was how to use lighting.

WWD: What makes a Steve Hiett photo?

S.H.: Beautiful girls and beautiful light. If I have my light with me, it takes me 10 seconds. It is an exaggeration, but you know what I mean. But I need the whole process. The girl has to be transformed with the hair and makeup before I take a picture. In the Eighties, there was a girl called Claudine Clouet. She knew exactly how to make makeup for my flash. These days, I work a lot with a hair stylist named Alessandro and Carole Lasnier for makeup. There are a lot of talented ones.

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