Since the 1990s, Luca Zordan has been at the forefront of a trend to elevate kids’ photography, both creatively and technically (See our story “Kids’ Photography Grows Up“). He has shot editorial work for Vogue Bambini and ad campaigns for Adidas, Guess Kids, Hasbro, Mini Boden, and other international brands. Recently, Zordan launched L’Enfanterrible, a digital magazine of kids’ fashion, art, and design. We asked him about his tips and advice for conceptualizing and shooting stylish photos of kids, and about how he selects photos for L’Enfanterrible.
PDN: Why did you launch L’Enfanterrible?
Luca Zordan: After more 20 years working for Condé Nast, I always [felt] limited in the way of portraying children. I wanted to photograph stories done in a different style, without being so concerned about the clothes. I’m interested in images and contributions from other photographers who do similar work. I ask them to be free and do stories that they might not be able to publish in the regular outlets. I do themes for each issue. I did one on black models and culture [Issue #1]. The issue I just launched is about love and expressions of love [Issue #3]. The next one will be about London.
PDN: How do you choose the themes?
LZ: I’m not following commercial trends.The theme is something that resonates with what I see in my trips. I choose whatever intrigues me, and whatever gives me the chance to combine graphic designs and photography.
PDN: How do you distinguish L’Enfanterrible from other kids’ magazines like Milk, Papier Mache, and La Petite?
LZ: I do spreads that are just visual, and don’t have any utility except to be visual. The other magazines don’t have that luxury. They’re more commercially driven.
PDN: How big is your staff?
LZ: I work with a designer–Francesco Giarrusso. I also work with different art directors–Liz Sheppard is one in England–and stylists I know through my network. I collaborate with different photographers who are on my radar [Federico Leone, Ian Boddy, Mark Shearwood, Dani Brubaker, Stefano Azario, Anna Palma, Amanda Pratt, and others]. I’m trying to break these barriers of jealousy and competition and do something convivial, where everyone has a different point of view to put together in the magazine.
PDN: Is the competition really fierce in kids’ photography? Is there a lot of professional jealousy?
LZ: When I started there were only a handful of photographers in kids’ photography. We all knew each other, and we were sharing all the same clients, more or less. Things have changed.
PDN: Why did you get into this niche rather than men’s and women’s fashion?
LZ: Children have a very interesting ability to be true to themselves most of the time. It’s also very fun to photograph children. Sometimes I don’t find that with adults, so I stopped photographing adults many years ago. Maybe another reason I’m not photographing adults is because there are too many egos flying over the set, which you don’t have with children.
PDN: What’s your secret to your longevity in this niche? There are a lot of emerging photographers, and a lot of competition.
LZ: It’s probably that I don’t have a very specific style and I like to explore everything. I’m very interested in all different aspects of photography, so it’s always a challenge to find a new way to express children.
PDN: Tell me what you’re looking for–what are you trying to show or bring out?
LZ: The conversation and body language is always different, depending on the age of the children. But what I’m trying to get is that natural, easy-going aspect, and the funny side of them, and the beauty of youth. I don’t photograph children posing like adults in a very emotionally uncomfortable way, which is what you see in some magazines. I think it’s wrong to show kids models acting as adults, either with heavy makeup or hairstyles that are beyond any realistic possibility. That’s not what I do.
PDN: What distinguishes good kids’ photography from really good or even great stuff?
LZ: You can see a really close bond [between the photographer] and the person in front of the camera. There’s an interest in the subject, and there’s a self-portrait in each image, and you see that.
PDN: How do you connect with kids and get them to engage and do what you want?
LZ: You have to know a little bit about children’s books, children’s games, children’s [television], and you try to find a common ground to talk and not to be just the guy behind the big black thing with the lens in front.