month at the Dublin International Film Festival.
Even those fairly familiar with the photographer’s renowned projects – all of which replete with understated, tangible beauty – will marvel at the sheer breadth of his output thus far and relish the anecdotes that snake through each series of photographs. Who else but Ogden can rightfully claim to have interviewed Diana Vreeland before wrapping his last year of school, or to have scored recurrent campaign work with Ralph Lauren on the back of photos he’d taken of his Connemara neighbours? Much like Nic Chormaic, however, Ogden’s tone is modest to a fault; his every creative move fuelled by an inherent fascination with people over product. “For me, it’s always been important to use ‘real people’, as opposed to models, as much as I can,” he muses. “Sometimes it’s horses for courses in terms of what you’re doing. I’ve always loved the street: growing up in London, I was about 15 when Punk happened, which was a huge thing, and Punk was on the street. So, for me, it’s always been a touchstone.” For a native Londoner who, by his own admission, despised going to the countryside as a teenager, Ogden’s ardent love for Ireland, especially the West, is serendipitous. “I’d always wanted to come here, but my knowledge of Ireland was very much ‘The Troubles, Beckett, and some sense that the West of Ireland was a romantic place’. Those were my references when I first came over in ‘85, to do a recce for a possible shoot. I was living in New York then, so [Ireland] was such a different place. I remember there was only one motorway at the time! But no, it was quite magical for me. Everything was exciting, I quickly felt very at home.” Skin+Soul, much like its starring subject, is bereft of gimmicks or tricks. It lucidly captures a photographer who is leaps and bounds ahead of his time, who worked against the grain (or rather gloss) of archetypal fashion shoots to produce something altogether more authentic, appealing even to those usually unfazed by this sector’s machinations. Through his characterful lens, high-fashion stories turn from aspirational, distant illusions to evocative, tangible spreads; the latter sprinkled with just enough fantasy. Whether he’s capturing the Pony Kids of Dublin 7’s housing estates or photographing at Navajo reservations near Monument Valley, Ogden’s subjects – many of whom, plucked straight from the street, have never previously modelled – exude depth and personality, each transcending a model’s archetypal role as clotheshorse or vessel. Another snippet from his Snáithe interview testifies thus: “I like models to look as if they’ve dressed themselves; as if they’re a character.” Lest one think he may infringe upon these cultures and communities, nothing could be further from the truth – through watching him weave these visual narratives, one gleans a strong sense of the respect and compassion that colours his craft. As he calmly, if resolutely, remarks near the start of the film, “I’ve always been on the side of the socially marginalised.” For someone who has spent a sizeable percentage of his life behind the lens, Ogden seems incredibly at ease in front of one – though when I voice this thought, he stresses that Ni Chormaic and her crew should take full credit. “I hate being photographed, so it was a challenge! But Ciara had a great team of people – they made me very comfortable. It’s that whole thing of being in front of the camera for a change, and not particularly enjoying that, but they all made it very easy for me.” Ni Chormaic, for her part, is filled with praise for her latest subject: “It’s an absolute pleasure to have made a film about Perry, because he is very giving, very trusting, very open. I suppose we’d have quite similar aesthetics, so we worked well together in that way – and of course, the crew were as much a part of the process, like Colm Hogan (DOP), Sharon Whooley (Producer). It was a very easy shoot, as we all got on.” For those yet to experience Skin+Soul’s subtle brilliance, I will stop myself short of spoiling all; instead leaving you with a drop of Nic Chormaic’s infectious fervour. “The junction between fashion and art is something that’ll always fascinate and excite me. I think I’ll always continue to make films – or try to get films made – that circle around that theme. It’s very rich, so that’s where my heart lies; be it a topic or an individual, a designer, or diving back into history again… I have lots of different ideas!” Opposite: A still from Skin+Soul This page, clockwise from top left: Sadhbh and Cadhla O’Reilly, for D magazine; Audrey Marnay for Vogue Italia; Nimue Smit for Wonderland; Andy Connors, from Pony Kids Snáithe’s six episodes are available to stream on tg4.ie; Consult perryogden.com for updates on Skin+Soul screenings 21