Dennis Freedman: Understand the Craft

Dennis Freedman is the award-winning Creative Director behind Barneys New York. Freedman is responsible for providing leadership in the areas of all photographic and video images, graphic design, store design and image, and visual merchandising. He also serves as creative curator of the Barneys New York windows, engaging various artists, designers, and creative partners for a constantly evolving mix of style influencers. 


What makes a good photograph?

A photograph should not reveal itself easily. The best photographs are images that you can come back to over and over again, and question certain things: the mean- ing of it, the ambiguity. For me, the best photographs are ambiguous.


What advice would you give to emerging photographers?

Put down your camera. Put the camera away! People who want to be fashion photographers, many of them don’t even understand what that is. I think they want to be “fashion photographers,” as in, they want the life, but what they don’t really understand is the craft. It’s not just about taking a picture. I would say to 99 per cent [of people]: put your camera down, because you’re just going to keep taking the same meaningless photograph over and over. If you take it 300 times, you’re just going to repeat this very banal idea of what a fashion photograph is. So, put it down and observe. The first thing you must do is somehow get your foot in the door with a fashion photographer. Watch and observe, and see what hair and make-up really is, then you will have understood that it’s really about a team and the stylists. If you don’t have an idea about that, you shouldn’t be taking pictures because you are just never going to be very good. There are very few people who have a voice; that’s hard, I could never do it.


An emerging photographer is lucky enough to get to you, what should they have in their arsenal? What would turn you on?

It’s not about numbers, although I’d certainly like to see more than one [photo]. Someone has to be able to look at their own work and know whether it’s interesting or not. I would never expect someone who is 22 to have that faculty. I would never have known, but I was beginning to know. To be honest, I didn’t see that much when I was working at the magazine that really impressed me. I didn’t have to open up the book, I could have a conversation and then I’d know if it was even worth opening the book up. I would just talk about photography and ask whose work they were interested in. Eighty per cent of the time I wouldn’t get an answer, or it was a fashion photogra- pher, which was a let down because, come on, if you’re interested in photography and all you can come up with is one of ten photographers that we all know, it’s over, it re- ally is over! Those photographers that they will mention, Juergen or Bruce, they could tell you a hundred photog- raphers whose work they are interested in. If you know nothing, you are never going to be anywhere. Come back when you’re serious.


Read more in Musée No. 5 Vol. 2 Interview and Photograph of Dennis Freedman by Andrea Blanch

All other photographs courtesy of Barneys New York 


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