Photographer Chloe Horseman on capturing tender moments and making her first book
The 22-year-old artist tells i-D about moving to New York, finding her style, and self-publishing Outtakes.
Photos by Chloe Horseman.
At only 22 years old, photographer Chloe Horseman has shot lookbooks and collabs for every designer from Bottega Veneta to Simon Miller, which makes her resume read like a who’s who among cool brands of the moment. Even though Chloe fell in love with the art form at a young age, posing for her dad who’s also a photographer, she never planned on making a career out of it herself. Let alone releasing her own photo book Outtakes, which she self-published last month.
Chloe grew up in Augusta, Georgia and went on to study photography at a small school in Nashville, but it wasn’t until she dropped out and moved to New York in 2015, with only $500 to her name, that things began to fall into place. “I spent a lot of my time in the dark room [in school], and I spent even more time being depressed,” Chloe explains. “On a whim I moved to New York. I thought maybe it would be for the summer, but I’m still here.”
In the years following, she developed a signature style all her own. The genuine tenderness in Chloe’s images stems from inspiring relationships with her family members, and by not taking life too seriously. Tasteful nudes, smiling models, and dynamic poses are only a fraction of what makes her work so vibrant. She wants people to know that just like anyone else, she’s a person with real baggage. Photography is her outlet, her performance, and much more than just her job.
Chloe’s book Outtakes features select images taken over the past four years of her life. They highlight the in-between moments and the inimitable intimacy she captures on film. i-D caught up with Chloe to talk about her new book, what it’s like to be on set, and how family is always the best place to look for inspiration. Read the full interview and see images from Outtakes below.
Tell us a little bit about your childhood and how you got your start as a photographer.
My father has always been supportive of me being free and creative. He gave me my first film camera around age eight. He was always taking photographs. My mom and sister found that really annoying, but I loved it. I loved posing and framing images with him. He forced me to go to a fine art middle school that really made me come out of my shell. He never had boundaries when it came to art or ideas. I tried all types of art, but photography was it for me. I acted and danced growing up, which helped me learn how to be on set working, and how to work with other people as a team. It took me a while to figure out that photography is actually a performance—that I am just as valuable to the set as the model, stylist, etc. I’ve always loved how fast the camera is; how I am the only person that is looking through the viewfinder. It’s like a solo performance that no one else is watching.
That’s such a beautiful way of falling into something. What’s your favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
All the photos of my dog are my favorite. He is my sunshine. I love having images of him in all of his different stages. He reminds me to not take life too seriously.
Who are some artists or people who inspire you and your work and why?
My great aunt Barbra. She’s just a really sweet woman with the best smile. I have a bunch of artists and photographers I look up to, but honestly, good people inspire me more. I constantly find myself looking up to people like her; people with great hearts and honest intentions. All I can ask is that people see both myself and my work in the same light.
I love how family is such an important theme in your work. What do you think of fashion photography at the moment?
I can’t imagine being a photographer in any other time. I feel so lucky to work as a female photographer, and be respected as a freelancer. I think we have a long way to go with the concepts of beauty and sustainability in film, but I do think we are moving in the right direction. Its growing really fast and it feels like everyone wants to be a fashion photographer which is really exciting. I’m constantly finding new work and meeting new photographers.
Do you think that fashion photography and art are similar or totally different?
They are the same for me at least. I never just want to take a photo to sell a product. Every image is a piece of artwork for me. It's hard to have this outlook, but I swear my work is better when I am thinking about each image going into my portfolio. As soon as I stop thinking like that I lose touch with the love I have for what I do.
Tell us about your new book and the process of making it.
Outtakes is a collection of my favorite images over the past four years of my life. It's a very personal piece of work, as these images have helped me find the style and voice I have in the fashion and art world. Over the years, many people have told me that my photos don’t say anything or 'move' anything, and it’s always hard to hear that. For a while I felt like I was forcing a style. One day my friend Hillary showed me a few artists online, and told me to just be myself—to figure out what I have to say or what I would like to say. I don’t think I have that totally figured out, but once I stopped trying so hard, my photographs felt way more genuine and people started to align with them more.
Can you walk us through some of the challenges and successes of making this book a reality?
It was kind of a shit show to be honest. Self-publishing a book is a nightmare and it’s really expensive. I’m really hard on myself when it comes to my own work, so I decided to make only three proofs and just do it—no book reviews or proofreading. The more I looked at my work, the more fearful I became so I quickly paid the invoice and sent the proof to make sure I wouldn’t chicken out.
The process of laying it out and getting it printed took around three months. I don’t know if I would do it again just because self-publishing is so expensive, however I would definitely love to make another book. Maybe one every four years?
I find that a lot of your work deals with themes of tenderness and what it means to be gentle. Is that intentional?
This has become a theme in my photographs by accident. I think it's the way I interact with models that makes my images gentle. Photography is a very intimate form of art. Being behind the camera is just as hard as being in front of it.