Photographer Gavin Bond
In 2007, British-born fashion and celebrity photographer Gavin Bond boarded an interesting flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. It was a Virgin America Boeing, destined for Los Angeles, City of Angels… except in this case the angels – Victoria’s Secret Angels like Selita Ebanks and Miranda Kerr – happened to be on board, in their PJs.
‘Richard Branson had been kind enough to lend Victoria’s Secret a plane, which had been entirely done up in pink, with the line “Here Come the Angels” down the side of the aircraft,” says Bond. ‘I was on board to take a few pictures, but it was basically just this unprecedented party plane, a never before or since event.’
For the past decade Bond, who turned 44 this year, has been behind the scenes at the legendary annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, compiling catalogues of unposed, informal shots of some of the world’s shapeliest women, which sell on auction for tens of thousands of dollars. That makes him just about the world’s pre-eminent lingerie photographer, though this is almost certainly a crown he would refuse, given that his oeuvre extends far beyond underclothes.
‘It’s a small part of the photography work I do, really, but always an interesting challenge because what you’re trying to capture is moments,’ he says. ‘One click and you move on, as in the days of film photography. I do some formal lingerie and swimsuit work, too, but I prefer the backstage stuff, which feels less voyeuristic somehow.’
Bond was born in London studied fashion design at St Martin’s College of Art alongside the likes of Stella McCartney, Giles Deacon and Alexander McQueen. Two years into his studies Bond realised he ‘was not so good at pattern cutting’, and switched streams to graphic design, where he began working with cameras. Conveniently, the person who produced the design students’ final year fashion shows also happened to produce shows for superstar designers like Vivienne Westwood and John Galliano – so Bond and his mates were provided with a very rare backstage access to the heart of the Paris fashion world.
‘I had this golden opportunity to photograph backstage at these extraordinary shows,’ he says, ‘and since there was a big demand for material of this nature from the major British newspapers of the time, specifically their supplementary weekend magazines, I very quickly built up a strong portfolio of published work.’
Bond continued to shoot backstage at fashion shows after his graduation, but soon felt the shine going off that particular enterprise.
‘When I started in the early 90s it was the heyday of women I consider to be the true supermodels: Kate Moss, Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell,’ he says. ‘And they really were women, whereas it started to seem more and more that the models coming in were just girls. The scale of the shows also began to change. When I started they were real extravaganzas, serious pomp and ceremony and publicity, which slowly but surely toned down. These changes were mirrored by what was happening in the publishing world. More and more magazines were forgoing models and putting celebrities on their covers – musicians, actors and the like – whereas back in the early 90s the models were the celebrities.’
Bond started shooting posters for Hollywood movies and major television networks. He shot celebrities for magazines like
GQ and Vogue, splitting his time between New York, which he has made his home, and Los Angeles. It got so that fashion work accounted for less than 20 percent of his time. Then one day in the mid-2000s, he received a brief from the now defunct British magazine Arena to shoot a supplement backstage at the annual Victoria’s Secret show, which was in its infancy but already extremely popular.
‘The moment I arrived I was reminded of the type of shows that I shot right at the start of my career, in terms of the scale and profile of the event,’ he says. ‘Here, again, although they were only wearing lingerie, were models that were stars in their own right.’
Asked if there is a particular art to shooting lingerie, Bond says that, ‘unsurprisingly, the models tend to be very comfortable with their own bodies, and don’t especially need to be put at ease. People run the achievement down, but I’ve seen how these models train, and I can tell you it’s on a par with the conditioning the great action heroes of Hollywood put themselves through.’
The answer is slightly evasive, in line with the down-to-earth, self-effacing attitude Bond has towards his own work. His early career ability to capture what he calls ‘moments’ caught the eye of Philippe Garner, one of the world’s leading authorities on photography and a director of Christie’s Auctioneers. Years later Bond re-connected with Garner, and this time, on Garner’s recommendation, some of Bond’s Victoria’s Secret images found their way into a Christie’s brochure, alongside the work of legendary 20th Century fashion photographers like Richard Avedon.
Bond’s personal studio work has also drawn attention. In 2008 he embarked upon a fine art project he called ‘Rebellion’, featuring former porn actress Jenna Jameson. In the most provocative of the photographs,
Redemption, Jameson kneels on a cushioned prayer stand before a rack of red votive candles, topped with a cross. She is dressed in a traditional nun’s habit complete with wimple and woollen belt. Rosary beads spill from her clasped, prayerful hands. Shockingly, the back of her habit is open, revealing Jameson’s shapely lace-clad bottom and sheer black stockings. On her feet she wears killer heels with blood red soles. The image was sold by art dealer Phillips de Pury of New York for a cool $31 250.
In addition to Avedon, Bond admires the work of the late Irving Penn, and the influence of both of these fashion photography masters can be traced in Bond’s black and white portraits of iconic 21st Century celebrities like George Clooney, Jonny Depp, Tilda Swinton and Charlize Theron. Bond has also travelled the world with punk rock band Green Day, and is currently helping them to bring out a book. I asked whether, in all the wide spectrum of his photographic pursuits, Bond had a particular preference.
‘I wouldn’t say so, exactly,’ he replied. ‘I’d say the thing I like is the diversity itself, the fact that last week I was in the Seychelles shooting a swimsuit series, whereas today I’m in New York preparing for a highly conceptual hair shoot. After that I’ll be doing a celebrity male cover for
GQ, followed by a fragrance campaign, and of course later in the year the Victoria’s Secret moves to London, which will be fantastic.
‘All these different styles of photography cross-pollinate each other, which is nice, because I think it keeps my work fresh. If you asked me what I’d do if I had all the money and time in the world, I’d say I’d probably just travel,
National Geographic-style, meeting new people and discovering new places, and photographing them. That’s what I really love about my life as it is, and I’d just do more of that if I could.’
Written by Sean Christie
Images by Gavin Bond