There was a time when street photography wasn’t yet the popular technique that anyone could practice just by owning a camera, and not necessarily knowing how to use it; at that time, someone was moving his baby steps into the discovery of this art. Someone who, nowadays, is better known as the photographer Alistair Guy.
It’s a sunny Monday afternoon when I’m waiting Alistair at the entrance of the Dock Kitchen, the restaurant of the British designer Tom Dixon, overlooking the Grand Union Canal in West London. “It’s one of my favourite places to come. The food is amazing and it’s just ten minutes from my place,” says Guy while dismounting from his folding bicycle. Alistair turns up in a total black outfit, which looks so smart and effortless on him, “I like to embrace trends and wear them. I think you have to look presentable, because appearance, especially in fashion, is very important.” The clothes dresses the body of a former model as well as a tennis player, and a yoga and cycling enthusiast. But modelling wasn’t exactly his dream job when he decided to study photography, starting with a foundation course at Farnham College of Art, and then going on with a degree course at Maidstone Art College. Alistair wasn’t the kind of person that always knew what he wanted to be, and the interest in photography gradually grew as he was studying it, and when he finished university, he realized that something was missing. “When I left university I didn’t really have any hands on experience as a photographer, so I started working as an assistant for a photographer, who was a friend of my sister. He worked in portraits for People magazine, one of the biggest publications of the time, and I was travelling with him around Europe, photographing people in different locations.” Her sister has been significant also for another chapter of his career; the one in the fashion industry. Alistair, “learned fashion from the other side of the camera,” as he tells while pouring some Earl Grey into a white cup: “I got into fashion while I was still assisting and it was again through my older sister, who’s quite a big influence for me. She insisted that I did modelling, so I swapped into few agencies and started doing it on the side as well as photography and assisting.” Combining the two things together, Guy ended up being a street-style photographer for Style.com, taking pictures of people for trend reports. This was just the springboard for Alistair, who then had some collaborations with brands like Barbour and Hunter, and started doing freelance fashion photography, all the way up to holding an annual exhibition and including in them inspiring people met during the course of the year: “ I found it fascinating; I wanted to explore them, went to their environments to meet them , and then put their pictures up on a wall.”
From 2008 to the early days, Guy has had in front of his lenses a range of personalities that includes model David Gandy and Kooks’ guitarist Hugh Harris, shot for the latest exhibition “White Shirts” (2014), or Style.com ’s executive editor Nicole Phelps and David Bowie’s stylist Jimmy King for the one named “Across the Pond” (2012). “I like to say that 90% of the time I’m happy with my work, but my last exhibition is my favourite one at the moment,” explains Guy when talking about “White Shirts”, “the subject came to me quite naturally. I think of a statement piece that anyone would wear. A white shirt is great, is versatile, and has a big emphasis on the last few seasons of fashion. It might seem an obvious choice but people wear it in a different way; a musician wears it differently from someone who works in fashion.” In order to make things even more fascinating, Alistair shot his characters on film in black & white: “everything worked out to make the shots look timeless.” When asked which particular subject he would like to photograph, Guy has no hesitations in saying David Bailey. His big blue eyes get even more astonished when talking about this icon, about the opening of his recent exhibition “Bailey’s Stardust” at the National Portrait Gallery, when the two met in person, and about how Guy surprisingly got star struck by this “cheeky old man”, a personality who has revealed to be nice, genuine and inspirational to him. Although fashion had a great influence on him for the past years, Alistair’s plans for the future are much different from what he has done so far. His mind is projected towards doing some more advertising campaigns and snooping on the backstage of Hollywood’s film industry: “I don’t want to make a movie, but maybe being a part of it would be quite nice.” Furthermore, Alistair is impressed by the work ethic that anyone is the US seems to have: “ I like to work with Americans, they know how good you are and they don’t try to modify you. They’re quite “yes people”. In New York, when you meet someone, be sure that the next day something will happen; if they say something, they mean it.” Not by chance, one of his latest American clients was the brand Tory Burch, that asked him to shot a portrait of the designer herself. And Tory will probably be in front of his lens again for the upcoming exhibition, of which Alistair gives us a sneak peek: “Is going to be about women this time and the idea is quite similar to the last one, so they will be wearing a staple piece, but I can’t say more than this at the moment !” Alistair has learned at his own expense that collaboration is crucial in being a photographer: “it makes you stronger, even though it doesn’t always pay the bill.” And with his charisma and approachable personality, he’s definitely ready to make it big, even on the other side of the Ocean.
All photos from http://alistairguy.com/staging/
I do not own any right of the pictures published in this article.