dm’ing willy vanderperre about his new book of instagram pictures

Given that he’s publishing his entire Instagram feed into books, we slid into Willy Vanderperre’s DMs for a chat.

by Ryan White
01 May 2019, 2:41pm


Sharp, detailed, clean, powerful, precise… Belgian photographer Willy Vanderperre has one of the most recognisable aesthetics in all of fashion. A contemporary of designer Raf Simons, stylist Olivier Rizzo and make-up artist Peter Philip, all of whom graduated Antwerp’s fabled Academy of Fine Arts back in the 90s, Willy’s distinct style has become synonymous with the Belgian minimalism that has permeated throughout the industry and changed fashion forever. Often imitated yet never bettered, after 20 years in the business (he first caught the attention of i-D founder Terry Jones in the late 90s at a group exhibition) Willy continues to create the most emotive imagery out there.

His new book, 865 (and its accompanying zine, 485) are the latest installments in his series of books. Comprising of all the images he’s ever posted to his Instagram, each of the three books and the zine are named simply after how many images are in them. From his campaigns for Calvin Klein, Prada and Raf, and editorials for Vogue, AnOther and i-D, to his personal images and irreverent screenshots of films and moments of note, it’s less an archive of his work and more a “testimony of time” -- an exploration of how Instagram can chronicle the slow changes in our lives. The ones we don’t recognise until we step back and appreciate them. While the accompanying zine compiles images of different “remixed” work published on other people's Instas.

Given that the book was borne out of Instagram, we thought we’d slide into his DMs and ask him a few questions. Hey Willy, u up?


Hey Willy, it’s Ryan. How are you?
Hey Ryan. All good, and you?

Good thank you. Thanks for taking a moment to chat.
You’re welcome and same to you.

Have you ever been interviewed by DMs before?
First time! Have you ever interviewed someone via DM?

No, never. Feels like the future.


So tell us a little about your new book 865. It’s part of a trilogy of books of images taken from your Instagram… With 485 as a remix zine that incorporates the art many have made out of your image.
Indeed. A conclusion to the Instagram book trilogy.
It picks up where 635 ended and it stops at 1500, also the day we launched the @wvwillyvanderperre account.
Weird, via DM I tend to answer shorter
And of course, the typos will slip in too.
I feel like there’s so much on Instagram, it needed a different approach.
635 came out when the square crop was lifted. 865 when the platform has become a selling tool.


Is it a way to exhibit your extensive archive in a new format? There is so much work that gets lost in an instant on Instagram. (I guess the clue is in the name)
Maybe not so much archive. I see it as more as a testimony of time. Sharing both personal and professional images.
We collected all the work that has been reworked (or remixed) since the launch of the @willyvanderperre account. Those works are swiped away and kind of lost. I wanted to combine them all together (chronologically) in this magazine. A thank you to all the artists who worked on them.
Wow, getting really messy with those typos. Apologies.

No worries. Do you think Instagram is a force for good in fashion photography?
Smartphones make everyone a photographer in a way.

On the one hand there’s endless inspiration, on the other hand it’s a hugely competitive area.
For some, the amount of followers is too important. To me not so much. And comments, for example. For some they can be, if negative, hard to take.
Yes everyone connected to everything, everybody has a voice. So if comments are about the work, all if good. But if they become personal, then they are hurtful. But luckily I have been spared from personal attack!
But the medium is still very relevant.
We live in a very competitive world, so even on a platform like Instagram, where fundamentally it is about sharing, it’s competitive. Does that make sense?


Yes! So do you ever take Instagram into account when you are creating an image for a magazine or a campaign?
Oh no.
I don’t take form of limitation with me on set.

This book contains your cover of i-D for the Raf Simons guest edit in 2006, one of my favourite covers of all time. Is there any work in here that is particularly special or meaningful to you?
Most of them are! Weirdly enough, posting an image is a validation of that image. Or a validation of the emotion of an event.

As in you wouldn’t post it to Instagram unless you loved that image?


Finally, what do you think makes a powerful, compelling image?
One thing: emotion.
Thank you.
And is this the future or just a one-off?

Maybe it’s just a one-off. It’s quite nice to talk over the phone on reflection.
Same here. Another reason we publish the books is so you can actually touch and feel paper -- it’s different. But always nice to experiment. Thank you.

'865' and its accompanying fanzine are available via IDEA Books and launches at Dover Street Market New York this Friday 3 May, with a signing by Willy. The first edition in 2015 sold out in two days so act quick!


Photography Willy Vanderperre

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

willy vanderperre
idea books