Q+A: Niclas Heikkinen.

January 29, 2010
Continuing in the ‘Fashion hearts Photography’ vein, I spoke to London-based photographer, stylist and co-founder of online fash/art-mag Underlining Colours, Niclas Heikkinen, on stellar shoots, famous photogs and the model who went (or jumped, rather…) the extra mile for a frappucino.

How did you come to be involved in fashion photography? How was your time at Central Saint Martins?

I loved every minute of it. I had always been
interested in cinema, photography and design, and I thought I could do
all three. But when I was in uni I was told that my illustration
wasn’t strong enough and instead I should focus on photography, and my
tutors really pushed me to show my work to people since I was a bit shy
to show my work to anyone. I’d call it a journey and while I was trying
to figure it all out in my head I suddenly got my first commission.

You’re primarily known for your photography, but you also dabble in styling – what lead you to add styling to your list?

I don’t like making categories too much or labeling anything, even though
I sometimes do it too – I consider myself more an artist and photography
is my main medium to express myself and styling is supporting it. When I
did my first shoot I didn’t know any stylists and had to do it all pretty
much by myself since I didn’t have much time; I think I only called in one
label and just made props for the shoot to make it look what I had in
mind. It was very DIY, I was spray painting latex gloves and masks and
stuff. But then again it wasn’t that I didn’t follow fashion, I always
liked the design aspect of the fashion; forms and how garments are

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^ From Underlining Colours Bone Deep Issue

A lot of your photography seems at once ominous and yet serenely beautiful, how would you describe your aesthetic? (Also, you’re Swedish-born, do you feel that carries through in your work? I sometimes think the icy palette in your photos is reminiscent of that…)

I’d describe my style as raw and perhaps a bit austere. As a person I’m quite
positive so a lot of people find it strange why my work is so dark. But I
quite like the dichotomy between these two. I think similar powers exist
in many other contexts, think nature or cities, for instance New York can
be very cold but beautiful at the same time. Being Nordic shows in my work
as being very organised, not too sure about the other elements.

5d362 cover cityslickersharvey

^ Cover for Ilovefake Magazine

044c8 brothersissuelowresd90ce brothersissue2lowres

^ From Underlining Colours Brothers Issue

Is there a particular shoot that proves memorable? Or a favourite shoot?

There are so many, but one of the most extreme ones was when we were doing
a shoot in which the model had to be jumping on a trampoline for 9 or 10
hours straight wearing autumn/winterwear such as furs and it was one of
the hottest days of the year and my neck got sun burnt so I can’t even
imagine how the model was feeling. Had to bribe her in the end with a
frappuccino to do some extra shots in the end. It was also one of my most
expensive shoots ever.

Do you have a muse or a particular influence which inspires your work?

I get inspired by exhibitions and watching films. Also, I enjoy talking
with my designer friends, these aren’t very fashion-heavy conversations
since it turns out that most of my designer friends don’t really follow
what the other designers are doing. I find this quite interesting,
actually. So we speak about books, exhibitions, music, travels and food.
When it comes to muses, it’s normally models who aren’t aware how amazing
they are, also I like models remind me of birds or have a bigger nose or
scars or they are just a little bit odd.

You’re one of the founding members of online fashion/art collective Underlining Colours, how did the collective come to be? What kind of work was involved in the establishment of the collective?

The whole thing was quite organic. It all started when Asami and I wanted
to use this guy who we scouted but didn’t know quite how since he wasn’t
your average model and magazines can be funny who you shoot with. We were
inspired by Araki and Diane Arbus and how they worked with their models
and the level of intimacy they had with the people they worked with and
thought it would be cool to do something similar and decided to do a
project with this guy who we’d scouted. We also thought it would be cool
to have some people who come from a different discipline to collaborate
with us and soon Salina and Hong joined us, they both went to CSM and were
both fantastic illustrators. It wasn’t until we finished the first
project/issue we thought we might as well continue and that was when
Underlining Colours was born, but this again is very different from what
Underlining Colours is today.

5bf33 indiemagazine

^ From Underlining Colours Bruised Hearts Issue

Do you have a favourite fashion film or a film that represents the intimate relationship between fashion and film?

The first thing that comes into my mind is Great Expectations with Gwyneth
Paltrow and Ethan Hawke – I loved the green shades in the film.

Do you have a favourite designer?

Nah not just one. But have to say I hope Helmut Lang would come back.

Any projects in the pipeline? What’s next for Niclas Heikkinen?

I’ve been speaking with Quentin Jones that we do something together,
separate from Underlining Colours, just to try out a different medium.
Also Max Parsons is more involved now with the whole magazine and we are
going to make some changes. I’ve always wanted to make a limited edition
print of the magazine.

  • Charleston January 31, 2010 at 10:24 am

    One of my favourite and most interesting fashion reads of the week.

  • Cillian January 31, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    ^ Glad you enjoyed it./Male-Mode.com