interview

Nick & Chloé

26-11-13 question: PREVIIEW answer: Nick & Chloé
Back in 2005, Dubliner Nick West and Parisian Chloé Claverie joined forces to create Nick & Chloé, a project that has especially made a name for itself with its fresh, original approach to kids fashion photography. Fast-forward eight years and the twosome has worked with international superstars from Kanye West to Gwen Stefani and their colorful, fairy tale-like images have made it into renowned publications such as Milk and Vanity Fair. We had a chat with the dynamic duo via Skype, talking about inspiration, crying producers, and why celebrities are worse than kids.
Nick & Chloé, www.nickandchloe.com
How did you two meet?
 Nick: In Dublin. I was a poor, struggling photographer and Chloé an art director. I was showing a portfolio in Dublin and was very hung-over and Chloé is very impressed by drunk people (laughs). We did some jobs together and also hooked up as a couple for a bit. Chloé went back to Paris afterwards but in the end I convinced her to work together as a team. Do you remember the first project you did together? Nick: It was for Levi’s. There were loads of different aspects of the brand that needed to be incorporated and it really needed some art direction. When you have such a big job to do it’s much easier to work as a duo. It was very organic.
Chloé: It was very obvious right from the beginning that working together was very beneficial for both of us.
Why do you prefer to work as a duo? Isn’t it difficult at times? Nick: As a photographer I’ve always been very happy when I had someone to collaborate with - even before Chloé. It’s great to have a strong personality to bounce off. Of course we have heated discussions sometimes about who is right. But I like working with people and having someone I can discuss my ideas with.
Chloé: Being a photographer can be very lonely. I love working together. We push each other all the time and do things together which we wouldn’t necessarily do on our own.
What do you argue about? Chloé: About which caterer to get (laughs). Jokes aside, we mainly argue about what is a good idea and what is not. But in the end we always manage to find a compromise.
Nick: We are both feisty people, so it is very lively.
Chloé: But even though we disagree about some things, I don’t think I could work together with anyone else. We speak the same language and have the same vision.
So you have never come to the point where you thought »I wish I could just do this on my own«? Chloé: Every day! (laughs) But we still have our own personal projects on the side, so there really is no frustration.
Nick: We threaten to resign during almost every project! But you have to see it this way: Nick & Chloé has its own personality; it’s more like a third person. And even our personal projects sometimes become Nick & Chloé projects in the end.
What is it that you like about each other? Chloé: Nick is a very engaging and positive person. French people can be a bit depressed and emotional at times so he’s a very healthy counterpart for me.
Nick: Chloé is very good at getting things moving. I’m more of a procrastinator. She’s also very brave about pushing crazy ideas and she’s very quick with concepts: She’s like an ideas engine.
01/12 – Are We Hard Yet? A collaborative project by Nick & Chloé vs. Zeitguised
02/12 – Are We Hard Yet? A collaborative project by Nick & Chloé vs. Zeitguised
03/12 – Zahia In Wonderland
04/12 – Kanye West
05/12 – Henrik Vibskov
06/12 –  Fatou N’Diaye, »Lord of the beasts of the earth & the fishes of the sea«
07/12 – Fatou N’Diaye, »Lord of the beasts of the earth & the fishes of the sea«
08/12 – Papier Maché Magazine »Moon«
09/12 – Papier Maché Magazine »Moon«
10/12 – Lords Of The Dust
11/12 – Junior Magazine, Junior Magazine »BIRDS«
12/12 – Junior Magazine, Junior Magazine »BIRDS«
How did you get into fashion photography? Nick: I don’t think we’re classic fashion photographers. We use fashion to tell stories. How would you describe your approach to photography? Chloé: We like to create worlds and stories and imaginary characters. It’s located somewhere between portraiture and mise en scène. We try to see things through the eyes of a child. Last year we did a project merging erotic aspects with My Little Pony: There is always an element of playfulness in our work.
Nick: We have two different starting points. My interest is in shooting something that might be very ordinary but looks very heroic. But Chloé seems to always have this idea of making the story go further into the strange realm of dreams. Somehow these two approaches collide and create something together.
You’ve worked a lot with children but also with celebrities. Who is harder to deal with? Nick and Chloé: Celebrities!
Chloé: They are the biggest children! And they do have something in common: You have to be very quick and only have a few minutes to shoot them.
Nick: Celebrities have very big entourages and are surrounded by all these people who are very nervous. As a photographer you try to cut through all this. It would have been so great to see Kanye West in a private, quiet moment but it’s pretty much impossible.  
As a photographer you have to enjoy uncertainty and chaos or you’ll have a heart attack.  Nick & Chloé
You must have a lot of funny anecdotes to tell. What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened at a shoot? Nick: There was a shoot where everyone was flirting with each other and our assistant got together with our stylist. But that’s rather romantic. I also remember this crazy shoot in France for PlayStation. It was kind of fun but extremely chaotic and everyone was smoking. At one point the producer started weeping on set and this one guy said with a very French accent: »Welcome to shooting in France!« I felt as if I was in a British comedy. But these things teach you not to take shoots too seriously and to see them as a kind of circus.
Chloé: There were quite a few disasters. I remember this shoot for Gwen Stefani in Japan that was completely insane. It was so much work and then the assistant lost the images and we had to do it all again.
Nick: As a photographer you have to enjoy uncertainty and chaos or you’ll have a heart attack.
What’s your advice to younger photographers on how to deal with situations like that? Chloé: Smoke a lot of cigarettes and drink a lot of coffee!
Nick: Become a bank manager. Much easier.
You’ve also worked a lot for advertising. Some people criticize that as selling out. How do you respond to them? Nick: All art is commercial at some point. People who make art and sell it in the Saatchi Gallery are not much different than us. Somebody is buying their stuff somewhere. It’s just a longer process. I don’t think advertising is a sell-out at all. It’s quite a challenge for a photographer to learn how to apply his ideas. And through advertising your images go everywhere. Of course there are sometimes creative problems with clients and sometimes you can’t do it as pure as you want to, but art and commerce are always in bed with each other.
How free are you when you do advertising? Nick: It depends on who you’re dealing with and on the strength of the advertising agency. They are the ones who introduce you to the client and have usually really thought about why they want to use a certain photographer. So when everything is properly established right from the beginning, it’s much easier. But it’s difficult these days because the world is very corporate and it is harder to find people with strong convictions.
Chloé: It is great to use your skills to help someone else realize his ideas. It is a bit like consulting and can be a very creative process. We’ve worked with some amazing people at advertising agencies.
Which other photographers and artists inspire you? Nick: For me it’s definitely Jeff Wall and also Cindy Sherman and Philip-Lorca diCorcia.
Chloé: I really like Viviane Sassen.
Who would you like to work with one day? Nick: There’s this great set designer, Shona Heath. We’d really love to work with her.


Interview by Sarah Schug
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