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Style Interview

Interview with The South China Morning Post


Fashion photographer Paul de Luna shoots strong narrative stories with a poetic slant. He grew up in California and started his career as a model before making his way to New York. 

“I taught myself photography during my time in front of the camera, and when I felt somewhat ready I moved to New York to survive as a photographer.

I quit modeling as I felt that not giving myself an exit strategy would force me to make it. I can’t say the transition was easy; people generally don’t take models too seriously until you really prove yourself.

Having said that, the experience in front of the camera was vital to my expression, and I consider the models to be as much members of the collaborative creative team as anyone else. Hopefully, I also empathize more effectively when giving them direction.

Everyone thinks the model is the one in the spotlight on stage, but in reality they’re the ones watching the real show unfold. 

Actually, I dreamt of being a film director before doing photography, so I consider photography to be just a warm-up for what’s to come. It’s wonderful that technology and the media platforms now available, with a direct line of dialogue with the audience, allow us to explore new expressions of the moving image, and I think we’re still trying to find out what that is.

When studying writing at university I was attracted to the short story and poetry, and short film falls right into that realm; now with fashion film we finally have a worldwide audience.

Between growing up in California and living in New York, I was in Europe for a decade, which influenced my aesthetic more than any other place.

After the fall of the Soviet Union … there was this fresh feeling that anything was possible 

The difference between the two US coasts is simple: in LA the weather is warmer, the culture is sportier, we like to chill out and be comfortable and it shows in the clothes. Back east you can put more on, and in the hot summer, less. My daily personal style is more west coast, but I also love to dress up classically elegant when called for.

Nothing beats Parisian elegant nonchalance when it comes to female fashion. For men, it’s Italy. I own maybe three pairs of jeans, so fashion guy I am not. I love shooting fashion though, especially when it’s really well made. That’s the nice thing about fashion; you don’t have to be fashionable to appreciate it.

I entered the industry in 1994. Obviously the aesthetic has changed but also, more importantly, the mentality. Back then cellphones weren’t in common use. That made your world more immediate and the world beyond your immediate surroundings more mysterious and romantic; we were more naive, or maybe I was just younger. That was also still the era of supermodels, and models were expected to have personalities to match.

I think the industry was more adventurous, willing to take risks, to try new things – it was more confident. That was also after the fall of the Soviet Union. Europe was unifying and there was this feeling that anything was possible. Now we know how advertising works. The fashion industry is still too cautious coming out of the recession and, due to the unstable geopolitical situation, to take risks or explore.

Romance in fashion is a matter of perception and mood – sometimes I think none, sometimes I think it’s full of it. Overall I think there’s not much in the American fashion industry; it’s more about shock and getting attention. Europe tends to have a more romantic approach.

What do I love and hate about this industry? You’re asking so many loaded questions!  I love the creativity, freedom of expression, innovation, ability to live in fantasy and make that fantasy world become reality. I hate the egos, the egos, the egos, the posturing and pretentiousness and the commoditization of art.” As told to Jing Zhang 

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