Anyone who has attended a fashion show can tell you there’s a great deal of waiting around: Models endure hours of hair and makeup. Attendees gather outside venues, and kiss cheeks. Hired cars idle. Champagne is passed. It’s these liminal moments—when many of us reach for our phones to pass the time—that interest the photographer Landon Nordeman.
“That’s this place where photographs can exist, in this sort of unexpected, in-between space, where it’s not like this big grand movement or onstage moment,” says Nordeman. “It’s just this little thing that happens on the way to that. And that’s where you can get an interesting picture.”
A consummate collector of killer details, Nordeman has photographed spectacles including the US Open, the Republican National Convention, and the Westminster Dog Show for publications ranging from Vanity Fair to National Geographic to the New York Times.
But the world of fashion lends itself particularly well to his lens. Nordeman shows his appreciation with the blast of his flash, and captures weird, wonderful moments and details: A guest moved by the energy of a Marc Jacobs show drops to the floor and begins to do push-ups; a lineup of pink and caramel-colored eclairs shines on a platter backstage; a woman swipes moisturizer onto a male model’s chiseled torso. “It’s not like this big grand movement or onstage moment. It’s just this little thing that happens on the way to that.”
These moments, and many more, from the Fashion Weeks of New York, Paris, and Milan fill the pages of Nordeman’s forthcoming photography book, Out of Fashion, to be released on September 27.
Here, in Nordeman’s own words, are the stories behind a handful of those photographs. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
“The fashion crowd is a great subject, because they like to be photographed”
This was backstage at Diane [von Furstenberg]’s show. All of a sudden Diane appeared from a little bit to my left, and came over to engage with André [Leon Talley], doing your sort of typical, “Hi, how are you,” kiss-kiss. I can’t remember what he was saying. I just remember that it was happening right in front of me. I’m holding the flash up with my arm, and I’m just shooting, shooting, shooting.
It was as though, they just didn’t even know—or care—that I was there.
The fashion crowd is a great subject because they like to be photographed. People at fashion shows know they’re going to be on display, and they’re expressing themselves with their fashion. When I’m photographing anyone who’s doing that, it’s my way of showing my appreciation. That part of it is a very honest and human reaction: When you see something you like, you want to photograph it.
“Everything is just nice and poppy, and that’s how I like it”
Those are the Beckerman twins. They’ve become a sort of known quantity on the fashion scene, Cailli and Sam. I didn’t know who they were. This was the very first time that I saw them, and I just went right up to them and said, “Can I take your picture?” I probably took a few, but this is the picture I knew I wanted. I just wanted the lips and the teeth and the mouth. It wasn’t about describing the fact that, “Oh these are two twins.” It was just seeing the similarity of the repetition of form.
[The flash] heightens the intention of a photograph. If you saw this picture without the flash, the intention would have been not as clear, not as focused, not as exaggerated. By popping the flash in there, it really lets you know, “Okay we’re talking about the mouth, the smile, the red lips.” Everything is just nice and poppy, and that’s how I like it.
“This is just one that is more of a gift”
That one is called Pink Pushup. That was at the Marc Jacobs show in New York. He turned the Armory into a total pink house, pink carpet, it was this entire pink space. I photographed before the show, people sort of silhouetted against the pink. I photographed the show itself. I had models walking on the pink floor, against the pink house. All of it was good. But this was the best moment.
After the show, people were starting to clear out. And this woman started doing pushups on the floor. It just kind of happened out of nowhere! I saw her and started taking pictures. It turns out this woman is a fitness sort of specialist, and she said the reason she basically dropped to the ground and started doing pushups is she was just so excited and inspired by the show. In other words, it was her way of expressing appreciation.
You could never plan for a moment like that. It’s just one of those things. When people spontaneously react, if you’re lucky enough to be there, you’ve got a great picture. There are pictures that you make, with your creative decisions: crouching down, the angle you choose, where you choose to stand, for example. This is just one that is more of a gift.
“Those are seriously the best eclairs I’ve ever tasted”
Okay, I had like six of those. This was Paris Fashion Week. I think it was last March. What show was this? I think it was Vionnet. This was upstairs where hair and makeup was happening. It was this very old, small cramped backstage. I just kind of ended up standing next to these eclairs. And then I had one. Then I took a picture of it.
I think in this instance I was responding to the color and the sort of graphic form, seeing the empty little packets, and the new ones. It’s kind of like, these eclairs were dressed up for the occasion in the same way that the models were being made up and dressed up, and it’s just sort of happened. But it’s not like I’m thinking all these things when I take the picture. I just react to what I see.
Those are seriously the best eclairs I’ve ever tasted.
“It’s got nothing to do with the clothes”
That was New York [Fashion Week]. There’s a lot of skin being shown at Jeremy Scott—both guys and girls. If there’s any skin being shown, I’ve learned that it’s always going to get moisturized. I don’t know who made that decision. You see people putting moisturizer on women’s legs and arms. This guy was wearing—either he was wearing no shirt, or he was wearing a vest, and she was putting moisturizer on him.
The person doing the moisturizing isn’t thinking about it. The model isn’t thinking about it. It’s got nothing to do with the clothes. It’s just this human interaction that happens, and if you look closely at it, it can sort of transcend the moment.
“I had never gotten a photograph of her that I liked, until this one”
It was Paris. It was last March, and this was leaving a show. I’ve seen Iris [Apfel] out, and she’s a very photogenic person. She’s used to being photographed, but I just had never gotten a photograph of her that I liked, until this one. She was being escorted out, and she’s in a wheelchair, which you can’t really see.
As they were leaving this show I was walking backward and taking some pictures. And in this case, with Iris, I’m kind of like walking, talking: “Hi Iris! Oh, I’m working for New York Magazine!” She was talking to me. It’s just one of those things that like, you just kind of engage for a little bit. And then she went through a doorway, and that was it.
“If you want to take interesting pictures, stand in front of more interesting things”
Iris Van Herpen‘s clothes are always pushing the envelope of fabric and form. There’s a lot of synthetic clear fabrics that just don’t look like anything else. This is backstage. I think this is before going out onto the runway. It may have been coming back in.
One photographer said, “If you want to take interesting pictures, stand in front of more interesting things.” That’s something I certainly appreciate and love about Fashion Week. This is something I just never could have imagined. I do love that it has this sort of faraway thoughtfulness to her expression. But I think this is about this fascinating design this person has created, and I’m just recording it.
In New York, you can hear more of Nordeman’s stories at his book signing at Rizzoli on October 11, 2016.