David Newton is a still life photographer and editor based in London. His clients include Armani, Dior, and Harrods, with editorial commissions from The New York Times, Elle,
WSJ and Wallpaper.
You are a successful still life photographer, how did you start?
Strangely enough, I started out as a computer illustrator and did quite well at it for a good ten years. Then I started having fun with scanners (especially laying 3D objects on them) and using the results in my illustrations. I got commissioned by magazines like House and Garden and Harpers Bazaar to do their food pages, by actually scanning items of food instead of photographing them. I even scanned an octopus once! However, the results were very photographic looking and I think they started to view me as a photographer and gave me commissions that could only be carried out using a camera. So I purchased a very early digital camera and taught myself to take photos. So you are looking at one of those rare photographers who never did a photography degree or even assisted. I’m completely self-taught.
Your photography is rooted in a strong idea. What influences you?
I really do think my background as an illustrator has a big influence on me. I think very conceptually when creating an image. I also think, like an illustrator or artist, that there is only one solution to a brief, rather than the classic photographer’s response of producing many different options. As far as visual influences go, I am, like most people, influenced by a million different things at any one time. Things I’ve seen on television or at the movies. Old record sleeves, posters, book covers. Things I’ve seen out on the street, on public transport. Something someone has said to me. It’s endless!
Do you get to do an equal share of artistic versus commercial work to keep it interesting?
I definitely need to do a fair amount of the “artistic” to keep my sanity and self-respect! What I hate most of all in the commercial world is being asked to do the same old thing over and over or, even worse, to copy someone else’s work. I kind of understand how this happens: the editorial staff at a publication have to somehow convince their editor that this picture idea is a good one. So it’s easiest to show them something that already exists. However, in the independent magazine world you tend to get totally free rein (because you’re invariably not getting paid!) and that’s usually how I get to do the fun, experimental stuff.
You are also the creator and editor of Wylde magazine. What made you want to create Wylde?
Wylde was originally set up purely as a shop window for my still-life work and the photography and art of other people too. And it’s been very successful as that. I’ve had lots of work from people seeing it. The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was that it would be really popular with the public! After all, you don’t expect people to pay to look at advertising! But it’s been a big success sales-wise. We have doubled our sales with each issue. And I love getting fan-mail from around the world!
What have you learned about the competitive world of publishing?
God, I’m still learning with each day that goes by! I was so naive at the beginning that I thought anyone I approached to be in the magazine would leap at the chance to have 12 big glossy A3 pages all to themselves with no editorial interference. Quite a few people (and these were really young, recent graduates) said no! I just don’t think they realised, at that early stage of their careers, what a rare opportunity they were being given. Also, I thought any fashion house we approached for clothes would throw stuff at us. How wrong I was! You have to get down on your knees and beg! And then you often don’t get what you want! However, we’re getting there slowly. It’s a great learning curve and each day brings a little victory of some sort!
What are the future plans?
It’s a tricky one with Wylde because I have always wanted us to cover both the mainstream and the underground so I have to be careful not to alienate our “edgier” fans by having something or someone they might consider too commercial. And conversely, I don’t want to repulse big names with, shall we say, some of our more challenging imagery! Having said that, I think we’ve cracked it for our 5th Issue. We’ve got a global superstar on the cover channelling the movie “Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!”
As our theme is the dark side,What’s the most wicked thing you’ve ever done?
Does burning a hotel room bible and throwing it out of the window count?