BoF talks to photographer Alasdair McLellan about his personal and professional path, from DJing and taking pictures of friends in the South Yorkshire village where he grew up to shooting covers for Vogue.
ONDON, United Kingdom — Alasdair McLellan is sitting in the corner of Bar Bruno in London’s Soho with a cup of strong milky tea. It’s an old-fashioned sanctuary from the neighbourhood’s self-aware cafés and stage-managed members' clubs. “It’s a locals’ place,” says McLellan, who prefers the casual setting to the table originally booked by his assistant at the upscale Charlotte Street Hotel.
The attention McLellan pays to the mise-en-scène of the interview offers an insight into his photographic style, which refers to early years spent growing up in the mining villages of South Yorkshire (where he took pictures of friends messing about and DJ’d in the local youth club), but nonetheless reflects a consciously created world. The same might be said of his outfit. “It probably looks like something you could pick up at the market in Doncaster,” he says of his zip-up, cropped houndstooth jacket, which turns out to be Prada Autumn-Winter 2013.
But McLellan is not some hokum pretender and both his artistic voice and heart are still closely bound to his northern adolescence. “I remember getting a camera, I think it was a Halina, for my thirteenth birthday and thinking, ‘Oh this is quite good.’ I took it everywhere. I took it to school. And I remember my mate and his girlfriend and my girlfriend all came to my house and I started taking pictures of everyone and I realised it was quite good fun. The girls liked Bros [a British band popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s] and they did my hair like Matt Goss and Jason Donovan and took pictures of it. We were listening to everything in the Top 40 at the time.”
His initial enthusiasm for photography became more serious when he decided to study it at school. “For my GCSE, again I took pictures of my friends, but it was more of a sitting. I think we were trying to recreate posters she had on her wall of Madonna — it was a Herb Ritts image. I shot it on black and white film, which I think is pretty cool for a 16-year-old. I remember watching the Ritts’s video with Madonna and the Pet Shop Boys videos and thinking, 'That looks really appealing.What is that? What kind of job is that?'"