The lovely editors at ERRR Magazine selected some of their favorite images of my work and published them in the November issue. See the entire issue here.
Deborah Turbeville, RIP.
If you are of the generation that became visually aware in the early 70s, there were 3 names: Newton, Bourdan and Turbeville. They were the wild ones, the Dionysians that were pushing against the Apollonian structure of Avedon. To me Turbeville as the hardest to grasp. Everything was in a female decaying dream scape. There was the smell of old roses. It all felt like a scene from Mann’s Death in Venice. It was a point of view that I didn’t comprehend, but was powerful none the less. However, it was her use of multiple figures in the frame that I loved most. There is something about having a group that inhabits a world so much more validating that a single figure.
DT, you were great. I am sorry we have lost you. Although I think the place you are now is not all the different from what you were seeing beforehand.
Why? To be able to contribute, to share, to create, to be part of. That’s why.
I was taking pictures for an ongoing project last night, (more on that soon), when a nice fellow and his wife approched me. He asked if I was selling the pictures I was taking. I was genuinely puzzled by the question, telling him no, but that if I had made a photo of him I would be happy to send him one. He was puzzled. Why would I not want to sell these images? I responded saying that this was simply fun for me, that it didn’t really cost much and that I would be happy to send anyone a copy. Walking away, I could tell he thought my business accume could stand some improvement. But why would I not contribute this simple kindness?
I take pictures. I don’t save lives, I don’t cure disease, I don’t found culture changing companies. This is the thing I do really well. In order to do this thing that gives my live so much fillfullment, I need other people to photograph, people who have spent their entire lives becoming who they are.
When I do a photo of someone, they are doing me an honor by allowing me into their world. For them to share this time and moment with me is something I am grateful for, even if they are professionals being paid considerable money to be there. Because even if that is the case, there is a moment that is shared between us that is not to be trifialized.
This shared moment is something that I honor. It is a privilage to be able to be let in, even if the subject doesn’t recognize it as such. For me to want to sell back to someone something that they made possible to happen, something that gives my life great pleasure, seems morally unsound, especially since as soon as the shutter is pressed, it is I who has the power to revisit the moment over and over at will.
This goes to the core of how I work. It is something that often perplexes the people who hire me, my agents, or even the people I photograph. Unlike some photographers I have read about, the final image is not the main motivation. I will not do anything to get that picture. I won’t. I will not do something that I consider karmically bad just for the case of making a picture. That doesn’t work for me. I am not Mr Bourdin. I am not that motiveated by money or fame or prestige to do anything to get that image. There are plenty of people who are, and if it works for them, great. Its just not me.
Which as I review my long, ongoing and wonderful career, is why after decades of doing this, I still so love it. If fame and fortune are the driving force, then there will always be a level above which will cause an unhappiness and a longing. This is fine for a few years of a younger person, but after time it leads to bittereness and disapointment as there is always some level of fame and fortune, some job, some something or other that is out of reach. But if the motivation is to be able to contribute, to share, to improve, now this is something that one can get a lifetime of satisfaction from. Yes, I want to win every job I am up for, I am not that egoless. But the motivation for the doing of the job is that I can share my talent, collaborate with whoever is there, and improve their circumastance, if it is only to give someone an image, or if it is to launch a huge global campaign. Its all the same for me.
I have learned the hard way to ask myself what can I give, rather than what can I get out of it. This is the key. If you want fame and money, great, go for it. But I wonder if after a few years, or decades you will still be doing it with the same satisfaction and love that I have.
Yesterday was worldwide Gratitude Day. This is what I am grateful for.
I have been working a lot recently in the sometimes drama filled world of fashion. I really love it, but at the same time its important to keep a sense of what the wider world is about. I spent a few days on an organic farm with my friends, a couple of run away Williamsburg musicians turned farmers.
Other than the actual work, it is an incredibly quiet world, entirely based around nature and the growth cycles of plants. This takes a bit of getting used to. Compared to my normal world, it is like a buddhist retreat, which was fine with me. Thanks to the Blue House Farm for sharing their secrets with me.
This is a short story about owning your power. In 1980 I saw The Pretenders play at a little club in Boston. The first record was still an import and no one really knew what they were about. A ton of new bands came out that year: U2, Echo and The Bunnymen, The Police on and on. At the club, after the warm up band cleared out, the house announcer comes on and says something like “Lets give a big welcome to The Pretenders”. To which Chrissie Hynde grabs the mic and snarls ” That’s Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders”. The band storms into Precious and we go wild.
That was 3 lifetimes ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Half that band died within 2 years, but Chrissie kept rocking. She was on a mission and she was not going to be stopped. It reminds me of what some of my young surfer friends say “Go big or don’t go at all”. I mean really, what is the most regretable thing a person can do in their lifetime: to go small and not claim their power, not really reach for it. Its what we don’t try that we regret most, not what we fail at.
When I am looking for models, what I want is fearlessness. I have had the honor of working with some amazing talents. What they all have in common is a williness to do anything, to fail, to look bad, to fall. These are the people that attract me. These are the subjects the thrill me.
I had that fearlessness when I was 19. I still have it now. I am blessed with being able to forget what is not possible. When people work with me they almost always say 2 things: how relaxed things are and how enthusiastic I am. This is after 35 years of doing what I do. To everyone out there today, this is what I wish for you. To stay the course of your mission and to go big every chance you get.
THIS IS A CULT is an uber-cool curated web site out of Germany. Shout out to Evelyn Dragan for including my work.
Check it out:http://thisisacult.org/david-harry-stewart/
New section of portrait work. Check it.
As my friend Donald Schneider explained to me when he was the AD at French Vogue: ” Fashion pictures are fun, but they fade. Portraits last forever.”
Shot in 2002 at Mike’s Condo in Maui. I have a fantastic story about this shoot, which is far to long to tell here. The short version is that big bad Mike seems really scary, but the guy is actually a sweetheart. We love Mike.
Welcome to My World
David Harry Stewart is a photographer and director. He comes from a small town in western New York. He started taking pictures at the age of 8, first with a plastic Kodak 126, then a Polaroid Swinger. He did his first national ad campaign at age 23, then moved on to Paris to work for fashion magazines. Returning to New York he has a successful and award winning career, working for magazines like Interview, GQ, Harper’s Bazaar, Esquire, New York Magazine, Time and The New York Times Magazine. Agency work includes Saatchi, Deutsch, BBDO, Leo Burnett, and Ogilivy, for clients such as American Express, Nike, Coke, Corona and Bank of America. Awards include Communication Arts, The Art Directors Club, Photo District News, The Living Photograph Motion Awards, and American Photography. He splits his time between Los Angeles and New York.