fabien baron heads for the icebergs with the help of leica and moncler

Frenchman Fabien Baron is an industry legend, best known for designing Madonna’s Sex book, creating Calvin Klein’s iconic campaigns and reinventing magazines including Italian Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Andy Warhol’s Interview. Now he's turning his...

by Stuart Brumfitt
15 October 2014, 10:50am

Photos courtesy of Fabien Baron, Maxine Poiblanc, Rob Kassabian

Fabien Baron is a creative dynamo who works with giant teams (sometimes numbering up to 150) of celebs, models, stylists, cameramen and crew to achieve his commercial goals. So it's little wonder that he needs some off-time, a chance to roam, far from the madding crowd. Baron has previously solo shot the sea and the sky (which ended up as his book Liquid Light), and this time he's found escape in Greenland, where he went to photograph the architectural, sculptural, monumental icebergs using the Moncler Edition Leica X 113. To Baron, Greenland is "so otherworldly - it's the kind of place you will always keep in your mind as an escape." i-D met him at the first ever exhibition of his work at Sotheby's in London, and here's what we found…

Where's the green in Greenland?
It's the most un-earthly looking place I've seen in my life. It's like being on the moon. These photos are colour, but because of the place, the sea is black, the sky is grey and the ice is white, so basically, the only slight tone you get is that blueish cast. During the day it's more colourful, but at night it's monochromatic.

Photos courtesy of Fabien Baron, Maxine Poiblanc, Rob Kassabian

Extreme locations
When I did my sea book, I'd been all around the world with my camera. Between shoots I would go to the coast by myself and it would be a process, to clean my mind. There's something very therapeutic about it. Greenland is ice, water, sky, and that's all you have. So I really enjoyed the process of going back to something really basic.

Second time round
I always wanted to go to Greenland, and I finally went there eight years ago. Because the landscape is moving all the time - and I didn't realise how fast - I had blur on all the pictures. I didn't use any of the pictures in my sea photo book, because I thought they were too normal. I wanted to go back and do them at night and light them with strobes. It's extremely complicated to do, and is quite an ambitious idea. When Moncler called me and told me about working with Leica, we said we should do something together and I told him about the iceberg idea. They gave me carte blanche to do what I wanted.

Nature as monument
What I wanted to try and convey was that this wasn't real. The place is so monumental that I wanted to light it like a monument. The first time I went to Greenland, I recorded what was there. With these, there's an interpretation of the light and the environment that means there is no scale. I like the idea that it's more of an interpretation than a recording.

Soft power environmentalism

I don't campaign, but I really love nature. I'm going to these places to show the extreme beauty of those places, how powerful and amazing these places are, and how much we need to protect the environment. I'm totally into nature photography. This is my separate life. It's something I've done for more than 30 years. I've always been into it. I don't want to share this, but people say, "You have to."

Next up!
I've been working on a project about forests for about five years now. I did the sea pictures for 20 years. I loved the process and the idea of being with the camera. It was a zen approach to taking pictures. I've been going to forests on weekends - the East Coast and West Coast of America - and everything is lit at night as well. It's technically quite demanding, because I'm shooting with strobe lights. It's almost like a theatre set. It's all in colour.

Keeping good company
This is my first exhibition and it's a very strange feeling. Yeah, I'm totally nervous about it, and I'm not used to it, because my work is usually team-work. When I went around Sotheby's this morning, I saw Picasso, Monet, Rothko, Fontana. Then you see Fabien Baron and it's like, "Oh my god!"

Learning from Greenland's Inuits
They're fantastic. They're so upbeat and positive and fun. They were laughing all the time. They don't speak English, but we got along really well. They do things where you think, "Are you sure we can do this?" You're there in the middle of the night and they go with their tiny boats and climb on the ice with the boats and break through it. There are noises, and there are bubbles. The iceberg you see above - well beneath that it's 10 times the size. Sometimes the icebergs break from under, so huge chunks rise up. One day we went hiking on the mountain that overlooks the bay where we were shooting, and we saw a chunk out of nowhere just falling in the water. The wave it made was huge!



Text Stuart Brumfitt
Photos courtesy of Fabien Baron, Maxine Poiblanc, Rob Kassabian

Calvin Klein
fashion interviews
fabien baron
stuart brumfitt
liquid light
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