thomas de kluyver and sharna osborne on the relationship between make-up artist and photographer
As Thomas releases his new book ‘All I Want to Be’, featuring work from his good friend Sharna, the pair sit down to discuss all they want to know... about each other's respective jobs.
Thomas de Kluyver is smashing it right now. From his celebrated work within the pages of i-D, Vogue and System, to his looks for shows like ASAI, Sies Marjan and Kenzo -- and not to mention his new role as Gucci Beauty’s Global Make-up Artist -- he’s fast become one of fashion’s most in-demand make-up gurus.
So it’s no surprise that his new book All I Want to Be is a feast for the eyes and a tonic for the soul. Bringing together a handful of his photographer friends, who just so happen to be some of the biggest names in the biz -- Sharna Osborne, Zoë Ghertner, Oliver Hadlee Pearch, Fumiko Imano, Lea Colombo and Harley Weir -- Thomas has worked with each to create a unique and personal beauty story. As IDEA books succinctly puts it: “It’s a tour de force of identity politics, representation, individual expression and other buzzwords that basically add up to people simply being people.”
Here, we sat down with Thomas and his good friend Sharna, to discuss the work they’ve created together, what they always wanted to know about each other’s work, and what it would be like to swap jobs for a day.
Thomas, did you always want to be a make-up artist? Did you ever consider photography?
Thomas de Kluyver: It definitely wasn’t my initial plan when I was a kid. I wanted to be an artist or a politician (a slightly terrifying thought looking back now). I got started in make-up when I was around 15, because I was going to all these underage rave parties and was doing neon face paint on my mates. I met a guy who worked at the MAC counter and convinced me to apply for a cashier job over Christmas. I was really into music, fashion and art so it kind of seemed like a nice way to combine all three. Perth, where I grew up, is pretty isolated so to be able to do anything creative and be paid for it seemed like a real bonus to me. It was kind of pre-internet, or certainly before the internet became what it is today and I remember how valuable magazines were to me – an insight into a world I felt so far away from but weirdly felt connected to. I do love photography but my interest in it came later down the line once I moved to London. Was it similar for you growing up in New Zealand, Sharna?
Sharna Osborne: Totally. I have a scarce few fashion mags etched into my mind from that time, I would read them front to back about 200 times. I guess consequently the natural aspiration was to be a designer. I feel like where we are from there is such limited need for the things we have now found ourselves doing, so it’s hard to imagine where you can end up, let alone understanding what is needed to create the imagery we were looking at. I studied fine art, majoring in moving image, which in hindsight awarded me the most necessary skill set for what I do now.
Thomas, what’s something about photography that you’ve never really understood?
TDK: The way a photographer can emotionally connect through an image. How do you make someone become more than or change who they are?
SO: With the help of make-up.
Sharna, what’s something about being a make-up artist that you’ve never really understood?
SO: Compared to me (the voyeur behind the camera) you are so close to people’s faces, and all the decisions you make have to happen while being confronted by someone’s presence. It’s so intimate and personal… does that get easier or do you have to almost detach and just focus on the model as a canvas?
TDK: In the beginning, yes, for sure, but now I’ve been doing make-up for so long it just comes as second nature and I’ve learnt to disconnect myself from taking on too much of people’s energy. It takes a very strong personality to throw me or put me off guard, but it definitely does happen. I can get a bit starstruck when it’s someone I was obsessed with as a teen, much more than people who are really famous now. Sharna is it the same for you?
SO: With celebs -- not that I shoot many -- yes! It’s a weird battle between wanting them to be in your world and wanting to see them as this elusive idol you want to keep coveting. It’s hard if you burst that bubble and also scary as hell.
Thomas, do you think you’d make a good photographer?
TDK: I love taking pictures but maybe not for fashion. I might just leave that one to Sharna!
Sharna, do you think you’d make a good make-up artist?
SO: Without the safety of the camera between me and the subject I would hate it. I’m too shy. But I feel like there could be a real rush from making someone look or feel really good or transform them somehow.
TDK: It is really wonderful when people feel like that. There must be a similarity taking pictures?
SO: I guess at the point they leave you they are still them -- after make-up you really see how they are with your face on. When you take a pic you almost immortalise someone in a space of your own choosing, so there is sometimes more to be said about me than them by that point.
Thomas, do you think Sharna would make a good make-up artist?
TDK: Yeah definitely! I love Sharna's makeup style. She's got me hooked on quite a bunch of her favourite items of make-up.
Sharna, do you think Thomas would make a good photographer?
SO: Probably not now: he’s too obsessed with faces, you wouldn’t see any clothes or bodies.
TDK: Haha, kind of true though. I feel like when we edit together I’m always making you zoom right in on the make-up.
Thomas, what do you most envy about photographers?
TDK: One of the annoying things as a make-up artist is that I always need other people to bring my visions to life. What I love about photography is that it is so instant and you can just go and take pictures and create work whenever you want.
SO: If the work you want to create doesn’t require a team -- mine does. I always want to make something that is a bit of a constructed reality. I guess we are in the same boat with that one.
Sharna, what do you most envy about make-up artists?
SO: That they don’t have to edit anything after a shoot!
TDK: I do have to edit sometimes... that’s how this book happened! It does give me a lot more respect for the process though.
Thomas, what’s the most enviable thing about being a photographer?
TDK: I don’t know... maybe the power!
Sharna, what’s the most enviable thing about being a make-up artist?
SO: What you can do at Halloween or dress-up parties. Thomas, why have I never asked for your services on these occasions?!
TDK: Haha ok, I promise to do your Halloween make-up this year.
SO: Ok, that means I have to actually do something for Halloween then!
Sharna, if you could give your 16-year-old self one piece of career advice what would it be?
SO: Trust the feelings that excite you and give you a sense of meaning -- the rest will work itself out. I think me and Thomas still work like that; going with your gut vs. realising a preconceived outcome.
TDK: So true. I think just follow your instincts. I always feel our work is best when we just follow what we think is beautiful and love, rather than getting too stuck on any specific references or ideas.
Thomas, what stresses you out on set?
TDK: When Sharna hates the make-up.
SO: Do I ever hate the make-up?
TDK: Not really, but I’m still stressed when I’m doing it that you might.
Sharna, what stresses you out on set?
SO: When someone isn’t into what’s happening and it doesn't feel like a collab. People being excited and giving is what makes a good shoot for me.
TDK: I totally agree and I think both of us try to surround ourselves with people who are passionate and excited. I always want to work with people who make my work better -- Sharna definitely being one of them -- and when people hold you back it can be very frustrating.
SO: Totally. Finding something new because everyone brings something to the table.
Thomas, how did you get about choosing collaborators for the new book?
TDK: All of the photographers I worked with on the book are my very close friends and people I’ve worked with on specific make-up projects before. The work in it is quite personal and so I wanted that connection with all the people that have ended up being part of it. Some of my best shoots have been with Sharna, so it was a no brainer to have her involved.
'All I Want to Be' by Thomas de Kluyver is published by IDEA, designed by Ben Keyway Studio and features a poem by Wilson Oryema. Thomas is donating his share of the books proceeds to Mermaids UK.