Working-Class Hero

Going Against the Contemporary Grain With Saul Fletcher

Though he wound up working with two of that city's most respected young fashion photographers, David Sims and Juergen Teller, Fletcher has nothing good to say about the experience. "It drove me absolutely around the fucking bend. I used to have me dinner in a different room; I couldn't bear to be around it. The money, the waste. They treat you like shit; everybody's got an ego. I hated it, but I did it." He met his wife, Miranda, who still does makeup for photo shoots, in the course of his work, but in the end assisting only frustrated him. "I knew I could take pictures. That's what I should be doing—pictures for meself." In 1995, in the sobering aftermath of a drunken fight that almost landed him in jail, he quit fashion and began doing just that.

His early photos were stark, taut, enigmatic, and not so different in spirit from the antifashion pictures that were beginning to fill the more avant-garde magazines. Five of them turned up, along with work by Teller, Sims, Catherine Opie, Steven Meisel, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, and other art and fashion photographers, in Camilla Nickerson and Neville Wakefield's definitively of-the-moment 1996 book, Fashion. But even before that book came out, Fletcher, against all odds, had gotten himself a gallery in New York. "I just walked around to every gallery," he says, amazed at his own determined cluelessness. "I honestly thought that was how you did it." But he clicked immediately with Anton Kern, son of the painter Georg Baselitz, who says Fletcher's work "changed my world."

Peering into a parallel universe: Untitled No. 123 (2000)
photo: courtesy Anton Kern Gallery, NY
Peering into a parallel universe: Untitled No. 123 (2000)

Making photographs has never been easy for Fletcher; he works slowly and methodically, sketching everything beforehand, and conceives of his shows as a whole. Orchestrating images is, for him, "like writing songs for a record: Is it going to fit on this album or not?" For now, he's especially pleased to have produced 23 pictures in 12 months (three didn't make the final cut at Kern). "That's one a fortnight," he says. "It's like double the usual." Having accomplished that, he's ready to relinquish his studio and proceed with the renovation; Miranda wants the space for a bedroom, and, anyway, he says, "I'm not sentimental. It's served its purpose." Which was not exclusively photographic: "I've really done some thinking," Fletcher says, his voice softening. "I guess I'm trying to get things out and work things through."

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