With a camera in his hands since high school, Lonny Spence is someone you can trust to capture the essence and spontaneity of others. Always with an eye ready to see the details, he is able to make of each editorial or portrait a soul print, an intimate moment. This year he framed some fashion weeks’ backstages, showing to the planet that, if well-known publications have faith in his lent, it must be for a reason.
When did you realise that you wanted to be a photographer?
I have been involved in photography for as long as I can remember. I first picked up a camera in high school growing up in Canada, and haven’t put it down ever since.
Do you consider yourself a fashion photographer? What challenges does the fashion world bring to the photographic work?
I guess I would consider myself a fashion photographer mainly. But I like to blur the lines between fashion and portraiture. I think there can be similar elements in both areas. When shooting fashion, it is all about the clothes. So you have to put a lot of effort into making them look perfect and showing them in their best light.
How has the experience of working for well-known magazines been, so far?
I use the same approach for whatever magazine I’m shooting for, whether it’s a big international publication or a small independent magazine.
What makes a good portrait? And, by the way, which one do you think is your best?
The challenge with portraiture and celebrities is that these people have been photographed thousands of times in their life, so getting something new and different out of them can be really difficult. I always try my best to interact with them and hopefully they will lower their guard. It’s then that you can capture a little bit of their personality. I wouldn’t be able to choose one in particular as my favourite, but if I can capture a little of who they are and have them feel relaxed in front of me, then I guess my job is done.
How important are the surroundings in your photographic sessions?
It really depends on what it is I’m shooting. If we are trying to set a scene for an editorial then the surroundings are very important. Whether it is a location or set build in studio, it plays just as an important role as styling, hair, or make up as part of telling a story. On the other hand, it is a real challenge to photograph someone on a plain background and get something interesting out of them.
Do you think a lot before shooting? Do you usually practice or is it always spontaneous?
I tend to be quite spontaneous on the day of shooting. I don’t like to over think things too much, I just see where things can go. Of course leading up to the shoot there is a lot of time put into developing the concepts and ideas, but on the day I like to use my instinct and see what I can get.
How and when do you decide to use black and white?
Some images are just meant to be in B&W and you know it when you are shooting. Other times, like when you have flat light outdoors, B&W tends to look better, but it really depends on what you are shooting.
What are your main inspirations?
I draw inspiration from everywhere. Cinema, books and magazines. Sometimes you can be inspired just walking down the streets in the city.
Can you describe the experience of being at fashion weeks’ backstages?
Backstage is a pretty crazy place. When I was approached by Love magazine to shoot images for them, they told me that they really wanted me to capture the atmosphere and energy of what is happening there. A lot of the photographers backstage are press photographers and they are there to get each outfit head to toe. I often found myself off to the side doing portraits of the girls as they were hanging out. It’s these little intimate moments that made it an interesting project to work on.
From Versace to Dsquared2, Bottega Veneta or Prada. You have seen it all closely. What was your favourite collection and why?
Being in the presence of all this amazing clothing you really get a sense of the quality and detail. My favourite has to be the Marni SS16 Menswear collection. I love the colours and simplicity of the design.
It’s been a few weeks since you opened a professional Instagram account. How do you feel about new social media, like this app?
I have a love hate relationship with social media. I shut down my Facebook account five years ago because I felt that I was wasting too much time on it. But now Instagram has become a powerful marketing tool for photographers, almost like a mini website. I also have a personal account, so I can share things with friends in different parts of the world. It’s great for keeping up with people.
Where will we see you in short and long term?
I just take things day by day, so short term I see myself here in London. Long term, I am working on some personal projects that I am really excited about.
And do you have a dream model that you want to photograph?
I have always said that my dream would be to shoot a young Mick Jagger.