MERT ALAS: A FASHION ICON INTERVIEW by Navo
“A lot of great pictures happen spontaneously, no matter how much you plan ahead, In fact our favourite pictures are those done with almost no preparation at all…”
- Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, Face of Fashion 2007
MERT & MARCUS
(UK) In an article I wrote last month: “THE TEN GREATEST FILMS ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHERS”, my first sentence was: “Why did I become a photographer?” I attempted to honestly answer the hard question. I was thinking so hard that I forgot that one of my favorite memories growing up was browsing magazines. ARENA HOMME+ was one of my favorites in the late 90′s and early 00′s. The beautiful photos inspired me to want to take photos. From the very start it was the magazines that served as my connection to the two most influential and photographic geniuses of my time.
In the 2007 book “FACE OF FASHION”, photography duo Mert and Marcus were two of the five featured photographers. The others were Corinne Day, Steven Klein, Paolo Roversi, and Mario Sorrenti.
“FACE OF FASHION”, was truly an amazing book for photography and fashion photography enthusiasts. It was one of those bookmarks in my life that remind me how I wanted to be a better photographer, why I fell in love with photography, and why I lust for the art like little children do.
When I think of Mert and Marcus, I think of powerful women: sexy, graceful, and sophisticated. The duo has immortalized almost all the most unforgettable beauties of the past decades. While I was influenced by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott’s work and style, they, were influenced and shaped by the work of photographer Guy Bourdin.
The dynamic duo are pioneers of contemporary fashion photography; influencing and shaping the look of the fashion world in the most recent decades. The team’s works have graced magazines such as Vogue USA, Vogue Italia, W Magazine, Pop Magazine, Numero and Arena Homme Plus. They’ve shot fashiona ad campaigns for blue chip clients Louis Vuitton, Missoni, Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi, Kenzo and Miu Miu. The team has also captured images for perfume houses Gucci, Yves St Laurent, Givenchy and Lancôme.
In 1971, Mert was born in Turkey and Marcus was born in Wales, their lives collided in England in 1994, as classical musicians and graphic designers in different periods. Later Marcus became the assistant to Mert Alas and the rest (as they say) is pure world photography history.
This is my first world-exclusive one-on-one interview as the interviewer and it almost felt like talking to a Bob Dylan or a Pedro Almadovar: people who have single-handedly shaped the future of their own industries, in their own time.
I am nervous. I am star struck.
Through the interview, I discovered that these gods who influenced and inspired me to choose the photography are, at the end of the day, also people who enjoy sailing, traveling, watching movies and being inspired.
ATATURK, LIZ, MARQUESA, & MARILYN
LOPE NAVO: I would like to thank you for having time for Naiveboy.com readers, I know it’s almost impossible to catch you these days for a Q&A. The first thing I always wanted to know about photographers is the first photo they’ve taken and with what camera?
MERT ALAS: You’re welcome, Lope. Thank you for having us (in your blog). The first photos we’ve taken was with a second-hand Hasselblad we got from our friend, Lula, we did a nude sitting in our flat.
NAVO: What do Marcus Piggott’s and your family think about your craft and your profession?
ALAS: Our families love our work and are in constant watch. Most of the time we sit back and criticize our work with them. It’s fun!
NAVO: What are your top 3 favorite cities in the world?
ALAS: 1. London 2. Istanbul 3. Barcelona
NAVO: What’s a regular ideal weekend for the very busy Mr. Alas?
ALAS: Working out, r&r, dancing and spending time with close friends.
NAVO: Do you surf? Is Mert Alas an adrenaline junkie?
ALAS: Not surfing! But I love swimming, I love speed, and sailing! I just got my sailing license.
NAVO: Congratulations! Based on some of your work I can see you love sailing. What’s the last book you’ve read and what is it about?
ALAS: “Marquesa Casati”, it is a biography of an early 20th century eccentric Luisa, the Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino in Italy.
NAVO: Speaking of the Marchesa Casati, if you’ll get a chance to photograph a dead icon, who will it be and why?
ALAS: Marilyn Monroe. Mainly, because I love the enigma that surrounds her amazingly beautiful body and unforgettable face.
NAVO: Who’s your favorite historical figure?
ALAS: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938), a Turkish army officer, revolutionary Statesman, founder of the Republic of Turkey, and its first President.
NAVO: Favorite diva?
ALAS: Liz Taylor.
(more q&a below)
A GUY ON THE STREET
NAVO: Why did you become a photographer? At what point did you know you wanted this career?
ALAS: In the early 90s we had a great bunch of friends, we would go to clubs and, on our way back, we would dress-up and take silly pictures of each other in our studio. It all happened like this! One morning we just found ourselves shooting the Dazed and Confused Magazine cover.
NAVO: What is your favorite part about being a photographer?
ALAS: It is great that as a photographer, we are given an opportunity to showcase our visions and desires in the form of the magazine pages.
NAVO: What do you think of the disappearance of a lot of magazines (367 magazines closed in 2009) for the past years?
ALAS: It is a shame for those who work in those magazines, but don’t you also think there are too many magazines out there? Less is more sometimes, Lope!
NAVO: Your work has been influential for countless young photographers like myself. One of my fondest memories in college was collecting most of the Mert & Marcus’ magazine editorials, ad campaigns, and even your photo books. Those gave me a certain visual rush. I’m curious. What inspires you guys?
ALAS: Life itself inspires us: our dreams, a guy on the street, a movie, a song, our antenna is wide open to receive.
NAVO: What are your top-3 favorite films of all time?
ALAS: 1. Arizona Dream (1993) by Emir Kusturica, 2. Cabaret (1972) by Bob Fosse, 3. Kika (1993) by Pedro Almodovar
NAVO: I know this will sound cliché, but I’ll ask it anyway. What advise can you give the young men and women all over the world reading Dangerously Naive and want to make a living photographing the most beautiful and interesting people in the world?
ALAS: Be yourself and work for your dream. If you are good, you will be noticed!
NAVO: Boxers or Briefs?
©2009 Dangerously Naive