Marie Tomanova 

«It inspires me to see so many young people standing up and having a voice»

What it is to be ‘American’ is, particularly within the context of current affairs, inherently political. Linguistically, ‘American’ is the demonym of ‘America’ – referring to the noun used to denote the natives or inhabitants of a place. But it is also a term that has found itself being actively, and sometimes violently, reclaimed in the interests of a particular form of nationalistic ideology, one that seeks to control who can and cannot be ‘American’.

Within this context, the photographer Marie Tomanova presents Young American, a series of portraits of young people in New York – in which their attitude, youthful fearlessness and ambition trumps established connections to the United States. Tomanova, herself, is not American by birth, having moved to North Carolina from the former Czechoslovakia in 2011 to work as an au pair. Since then, and having ended up in New York, the photographer has built up an oeuvre of work that addresses and unpicks notions of identity, gender and displacement.

Turning the camera on herself at times, Tomanova’s self-portraiture is an attempt to discover a sense of belonging amongst the unfamiliar landscape of American soil. In her images of others – people that she has approached at show openings, in the street, or found via Instagram, that make up Young American, Tomanova captures the same sense of intimacy that is felt in her self-portraits. Shooting one-on-one, the series offers a captivating insight into life in the transient metropolis of New York, from a perspective that hinges upon the hopes, dreams and ambitions of self-defining Americans.

NR: Where did the idea for Young American come from?

Marie Tomanova:About a year ago, I was having brunch at my favourite café, Mogador in East Village, with the art historian Thomas Beachdel; we were discussing my work and came up with the idea of the show based on a portion of my work, which he would curate. From there, I then specifically began to shoot more portraits and we mixed in older work with the new. I started to photograph portraits about 3-4 years ago and I did the last shoot just two days before the opening.

NR: How has your own experience in America shaped this series, and your work in general?

MT: I came to the US in early 2011, and I thought I’d stay for six months, a year at the most. It’s been 7 years now, and I consider NYC my second home. There have been tough times over the years – moments when I hit rock bottom and didn’t have family around to help. I cried, feeling helpless, homesick and considered running back home… But that’s all part of life, and I always try to find the positive side of things, even when it looks like there are none. For me, America is a place where things can happen if you work hard and have lots of grit. I fell in love with discovering new things and who I am whilst being so far from friends, family and my comfort zone, and this is all reflected in my work. Young American is my portrait of “America”, in terms of how I envision it as an immigrant and it depicts the America I feel that I belong to.

NR: As someone coming to the US from the Czech Republic, how has this shaped your conception of the ‘American Dream’ – compared with people who’ve lived there their entire lives? 

MT: I was born in communist Czechoslovakia and remember the long lines for tangerines and oranges that were only available over Christmas. My parents couldn’t travel and, after the Iron Wall had fallen, we went to West Germany for the first time. I remember everybody staring into the stores, at all the food options – all the cheese and produce selections that we had never seen or had. This oppression shaped the idea of the American Dream as a giant promise of Levis, Coca-Cola and the land of opportunity. When I was a teenager, I used to obsessively watch bootleg DVDs of Sex in the City and I was in love with Carrie Bradshaw’s world. It was nothing like I had ever seen before and I based a lot of my ideas about America on that. After coming to NYC and living here for a while, I realized that it was totally naïve idea, and I am glad that there is “more” to it.

«I cannot say how people who have lived in the US their entire lives feel, but it seems to be, at least now, a very divided place – there’s a struggle for true equality and tolerance.»

NR: What do you think is the appeal of ‘America’ for youth culture?

MT: America meant a lot of things to me (as someone coming from another country) from equality, opportunity and the idea of American Dream. I think the answer is particularly well stated in curator Beachdel’s show statement: “Marie Tomanova’s Young American… celebrates the freedom and identity of the idea of an “America” still rife with dreams and possibilities, hope and freedom. Her images, direct and without artifice, confront us with the power and beauty of people simply being, the young…just being. And in this just being is the essence of unity, love, and acceptance.” I could not agree more with this; I came here for equality and to be who I am.

NR: What impact have the interactions with youth in NY as part of this series had on you?

MT: I feel very inspired by young people and it is always exciting to hear their stories and dreams and the reasons they came to NYC. Some of the kids are native New Yorkers and that is also fascinating to me. I love to hear their life stories of growing up in the city. NYC youth culture, and youth culture in general, is vibrant, fearless and radiant – and it has a strong voice. It has been a great journey for me to have the opportunity to connect with so many amazing people, to learn from them and to see so many new perspectives on life. I have learned how to listen to people better and how to stand up for myself. This series is about “Americans” who are not defined by their passport or visa; instead they are defined by having hopes and dreams – I relate.

NR: Do you think that Young American highlights an alternative type of community at work that transcends a traditional understanding of how people come together?

MT: While I do not like the phrase ‘alternative community’ too much, I think it is true, and I hope, that the youth are a strong community and have a voice that will shape the future. In the US, it is so easy to focus on oneself and the consumer culture, and forget that people have to stand up and stand for something. It inspires me to see so many young people standing up and having a voice – they are strong and express how they feel. They demand to be heard and they demand to be treated a certain way. They are unafraid of being who they are and this is extremely important and a critical part of Young American.

NR: What role does the human form play in your work, and how does this change depending on what you intend to convey – in terms of your own body [Between Flowers, Rocks, Trees and Self] to up-close shots of people’s faces in Young American?

MT: In a way, it’s not that different. My self-portraits in nature are about identity, displacement, celebration and trying to connect to my youth growing up in the forests of Mikulov. When I came to the US, those memories were all that I had, and I struggled to find my identity in a new country. On reflection, this was me trying to fit into the American landscape, or to find my place in the American landscape. And Young American is very much the same idea of trying to see how I fit in the American society.

«The portraits are really of them, me, and us. We are all in their eyes. We are human.»

NR: How has the format of photography opened up the possibilities of expression for you? 

MT: I love taking photographs. I really love the process of looking through the little view finder of my Yashica T4 and concentrating on the moment before I press the shutter. It’s just the fact that I can shoot anybody I meet and really capture them in their own way. I’ll meet people at openings, or on the subway, or I’ll see somebody I want to shoot on Instagram, and what photography does is allow me to actually create a real connection with them, and capture that in the photo. In a way, photography has really allowed me to be me, and I found out who that is through this process. It has been magical.

Posted in Sin categoría

Katsu Naito

«People on the edge of society have hidden beauty in their heart»

When Katsu Naito arrived in Harlem in 1988, it took him two years before he would begin taking photographs of its residents. It would take him a further twenty years to develop the negatives – a decision he consciously made. The photographer was cautious to build up the trust of the community before pointing his camera in their direction – demonstrating a careful consideration and tenderness that radiates from his work. Sensing that Harlem, which was still recovering from economic devastation from the 1970’s, was in the midst of unprecedented change, his body of work from the nineties offers an insight into a lost neighbourhood. These images make up ‘Once In Harlem’, which captures an extraordinary level of trust between Naito, as photographer and, ultimately, ‘outsider’, and the people who stand in front of his camera. Similarly, the body of work ‘West Side Rendezvous’, published in 2011 but taken around the same time as the Harlem work, evokes the emotive quality that make Naito’s images so compelling. The mutual respect between Naito and his subjects – in this case, transvestite and transsexual prostitutes in New York’s meatpacking district – is timeless, even if the run down backdrops have long been replaced by gentrification. Naito moved to New York from Japan in the mid-1980’s, having secured a job as a chef. Inspired by the street photography of Diane Arbus, a colleague introduced him to his first Leica camera – to this day, Naito explains, he still shots in black and white analogue format. 

NR: The photographs from your book ‘Once In Harlem’ are all from the early nineties, but were only recently developed; why did it take so long to develop them, and what surprised you the most from seeing these images for the first time?

Katsu Naito: There were a few reasons it took so long to be published. I worked in Harlem as part of a personal assignment between the late ‘80s and early ‘90s – and I always knew that I wanted it to be published in years to come. Harlem had started to change; towards the end of the ‘80s, abandoned buildings were being given a second lease of life, as parking lots or renovated buildings. I was living through all of this, and I wanted to share these images of Harlem when people had forgotten about it. This was the main reason that I kept the negatives in a box in the corner of my darkroom. I started working towards printing in 2013, going through many test prints in order to find the right quality for the final print – this took a long time.

«I try to put life into the print, as I think it’s important to seal emotional quality into it.»

I really felt the power of photography after printing this series – seeing how these plastic negatives could bring back to life an image after twenty years. As the images started to show in the developing tray, tears dropped onto my cheek, from the surprise. 

NR: As a photographer, do you feel it is your responsibility to document the lives of groups of people who can get forgotten amongst society?

KN: I feel strongly about that. People on the edge of society have hidden beauty in their heart, a quality that’s hard to draw out – but it’s something that I wanted to capture with my camera. 

NR: Having moved to New York in the 1980s from Japan, did photography give you a sense of control over being in a foreign environment?

KN: Carrying a camera gave me a license to be on the street; it can break language and cultural barriers. It can give control, but I do also believe that it’s necessary to have trust between both parties.

NR: When taking someone’s photograph, what do you look for in their self-presentation?

KN: I only ask the person to stand in front of my camera and communicate through their composure, I often ask myself “how close can I get?”

«There’s a moment of unawareness towards the camera; when I feel that, I start taking photographs.»

NR: What role do the people in your photographs play; are they a part of the composition, or does the act of taking their photo establish a connection with them as a person?

KN: It’s both; the composition and an emotional connection with the person is very important for me. But this must happen in an organic way – a connection with them must come first. 

NR: Has the way people respond to being asked to have their photograph taken changed at all over the years?

KN: I don’t expect people to accept my offer of being photographed. In the instances when the answer is no, I wouldn’t chase them for a photograph. This doesn’t happen often though – for some reason almost everyone would say yes to my camera.

NR: As for the way you approach taking a photograph; has that changed over time?

KN: I must be comfortable enough to walk the area. If I’m not comfortable, I can’t make my subject comfortable, so location scouting and understand the atmosphere in the area is the first thing I do. It can take an hour, or months, depending on the project.

«This is the way I have always approached the way I take photographs, ensuring I respect my subjects. This hasn’t changed, and it will never change.»

NR: Why is shooting in black and white important to you?

KN: I only work with black and white film, that I process in my darkroom. It’s necessary to have total control over every step of the process – and I think, most of all, shooting in black and white is the only medium that really emphasises three dimensional reality in a two dimensional format. 

NR: What is the most valuable thing you have learnt from taking people’s photograph over the years that you have spent photographing New York?

KN: Living in New York City can be like riding an emotional rollercoaster every day. The fundamental aspect of it, though, is simply the human element. 

NR: There is a timeless quality to your work; is this deliberate? And if so, is it a crucial aspect of the photos you take?

KN: Yes. Something that is always on my mind is making photo sessions simple. The person is in front of my camera and they are the main subject. I wouldn’t want to add any meaningless props unless they are already there, and the person has a natural relationship to them. I wanted pull out what they have inside of them.

NR: In terms of having control over an image, how does the process of analogue photography compare with the instantaneousness of digital photography? 

KN: There is a quality that I can’t describe with words that can be seen in a gelatin silver print. I often call it “capturing the air”, or “capturing the temperature”. I think it’s is difficult to see this type quality in digital photography. 


Photographs · Katsu Naito from his Once In Harlem series
Words · Ellie Brown

Mehdi Sef

Breaking The Frame


Photography Mehdi Sef
Fashion Coline Peyrot from Opos
Makeup Emilie Plume from Carol Hayes Management
Hair Carole Douard from Call My Agent
Model Rachel Marx from Supreme Management Paris


  1. Earrings MARION VIDAL Top and Trousers LÉO Boots MM6 MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA
  2. Mousseline Dress FIFI CHACHNIL Silk Dress CARVEN Boots NEITH NYER

Bergrstand and Duljak

Augustin and Luca


Photography · Niklas Bergrstand and Mateja Duljak
Fashion · Arthur Mayadoux
Make-Up · Rikke Dengse Jensen   
Hair · Nicolas Philippon
Fashion Assistant · Victoire Seveno
Models · Augustin and Luca from Success Models


  2. Luca wears Sweater JITROIS Augustin wears Jumpsuit VIVIENNE WESTWOOD
  6. Augustin wears Trench ACNE STUDIOS Shorts DIESEL BLACK GOLD Shoes PIERRE HARDY Luca wears Jogger LUCIEN PELLAT FINET
  7. Tracksuit KOCHE Boots DR MARTENS
  10. Augustin wears Jumper VIVIENNE WESTWOOD Trousers KENZO Luca wears Jacket ISSEY MIYAKE MEN Trousers LANVIN
  11. Luca wears Jumper KENZO Jogger LACOSTE Sneakers ADIDAS Augustin wears Tracksuit KOCHE Boots DR MARTENS

Paul Mpagi Sepuya

«I know every fragment, sliver of space or edge of a table that relates to a figure not present»

It’s the small details that capture attention in the work of Paul Mpagi Sepuya – the evidence and lasting presence of human encounter, finger prints and smudges on glass, for instance. Though the photographer works only with a digital camera, there’s a certain tactility that lingers in his work. 

Relationships come to the forefront; Sepuya’s work centres around friendships, intimate encounters, muses and himself. The notion of the ‘dark room’ (which has been referenced both in titled works and in solo installations) lays claim to ambiguity – it both refers to the place in which the photographer creates, documents and develops, and it is also the space of homoerotic sexual exchange. The lines are, at once, blurred and clearly demarcated. In the absence of interpreting the dark room in terms of its analogue definition and purpose, Sepuya ‘develops’ his photography through a process of collaging, layering and re-production. A photograph becomes a multi-layered image, further distorted by the presence of mirrors that are often the focus of the camera. It’s difficult, at times, to ascertain what is what: within a single work, fragments of figures and moments in time are often combined. None of which is accidental; such an amalgamation of displaced aspects come together as a multifaceted study in portraiture. 

Throughout Sepuya’s work there’s a critical awareness of the role that his camera plays in capturing time and its implications on human interaction – something that is quantified by the inclusion of his work at MoMA’s distinguished ‘New Photography’ exhibition under this year’s theme ‘being’. 

NR: Some of your photographs address individuals by name in the title, others refer to a figure or figures; is there a logic behind the distinction?

Paul MPagi Sepuya: My earlier portrait projects, beginning with Beloved Object & Amorous Subject (Revisited) from2005 – 2008, and the other portraits up until 2014 were all titled by the name of the individual or subjects. I don’t photograph models and there are friendships, collaborations and at minimum social acquaintances with everyone at the beginning of or working together, it was important for me to ground the work in that social space. As the individual portraits moved into the world, and into various studios I was working in (the earlier works were photographed in my home), the titles came to include the date and location of the photograph. Those photographs could be portraits, or me re-photographing materials in my studio which gave way to a “collage” type style, though the work was never collaged.

Figures came into the work when I returned to Los Angeles for grad school at UCLA. Reconstituting materials through arranging them on the surface of mirrors that I would photograph in front of my tripod-camera allowed me to create compositions *about* subjects more loosely, and so the number of figures noted corresponded to the number of subjects in the fragments that made up the complete picture. Currently, I have left behind names from my titles. Each work is titled by the project that it inhabits (Mirror Study, A Portrait, Studio, A Ground, etc…), and the name given the file capture in camera.

«I’m interested in emphasizing the inside-outside aspect of recognition within this ‘dark room’ space where, like all of my work has been positioned, it is the meeting points of queer and homoerotic creative, social, and sexual exchange.»

NR: How do you relate to the people in your photos, when their bodies appear fragmented and abstracted?

PMS: I know every fragment, sliver of space or edge of a table that relates to a figure not present. That’s to say, they are never fragments or abstractions because, indexed alongside them in a larger project, are the notations that tie them to the full portraits. I make a point of saying that;

«no subjects are left to fragmentation and abstraction in my work; there is always a full portrait of each subject.»

NR: What is the appeal of digital photography for you?

PMS: It’s efficiency for my process, that’s it. I am strongly against the digital manipulation of my pictures, or creating/assembling pictures through digital collage, etc. The material that is arranged, cut, and affixed on the surface of the mirrors comes from the in-process materials in my studio. So to be able to photograph, print and re-photograph within a single space is important to me. It’s a method that began during my residency at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in 2010, and I have used in various forms since then. 

NR: If taking a photograph can capture a specific moment in time, how does your practise (from taking a photograph to reworking and collaging it) relate to notions of time and memory?

PMS: I am less interested in moments in time (which I associate with the outside world) than with the “collage of compressed time” –  or something to the effect that Brian O’Doherty speaks of in Studio and Cube: On The Relationship Between Where Art is Made and Where Art is Displayed. He describes studio time as placing all material in the present, within the reach of revision and remaking by the artist’s hand. That is how I associate the process of portrait-making with the real-world relationships that make that production possible. 

NR: Can the context of viewing your work as part of a wider exhibition influence the way the pieces are perceived? And add to their development as ‘works in progress’?

PMS: Yes, indeed. All of my work is made toward the consideration of a grammar and visual rhythm, whether it’s content, formal elements or scale, in relation to my larger body of work.  

NR: What is the allure of the physicality of photography (when it’s printed out to be used for collages, or when it’s featured in zines or books)?

PMS: Images can’t just free float. I am invested in the handling pictures, having to contend with them physically. I started by making zines and books, and with the current “collage” works,  

«it is important that I am inherently a part of the image during the process of their making.»

While I work, I am within the reflected space of my studio. 

NR: What, if anything, do you want the viewer to take away from your work in regards to queer and black identities?

PMS: Absolutely nothing as far as identity may be proscribed. But everything as far as the materiality and sociality of queerness, homoeroticism, and blackness as requisites for a kind of knowledge and experience otherwise obliterated by whiteness and heteronormativity.

NR: Your photographs often allude to the presence of people no longer present in the frame, from fingerprints in the mirror to abandoned orange peel; what is the significance of the documenting these aspects?

PMS: Whether a subject is represented through pictorial representation in a straight-up portrait or not,

«I want the images to include an indexical mark of the social world from which it comes.»

These traces of real people can’t be faked. They are like smoke to fire. Funnily (or frustratingly?) enough, someone once asked me about the “smoke” in the photographs and I had to correct and say, no they are *another* kind of trace. They are the smudges of bodies – my own and others – as we work to make the images. 

NR: The photographer’s studio connotes a sense of purpose and control over the subject and the outcome, is this something that you consider or navigate through your work? 

PMS: Since I first started working in a studio and became fascinated by the possibilities therein, it’s become a site for me that really amplifies my presence, in thinking about the history of that control asserted by the artist along with the loosening of social and sexual morality that becomes permissible in that space. The permission that, within the world of the artist, is given to re-arranging and representing desire. 


  1. Mirror Study, 2016
  2. A Sitting For Matthew, 2015
  3. Dark Room Mirror, 2017
  4. Figure Ground Study, 2017

Moses Sumney

«Maybe because the sun is not shining, people are more moody, they’re more in their feelings»

“I felt like all my career I’ve been waiting in the wings,” Moses Sumney tells me over the phone from Paris. “And it’s really nice to see the music get out there and reach people that aren’t just me.” While the 28-year-old American artist has been quietly making waves with his live performances and material for some time, putting out self-recorded Mid-City Island in 2014 followed by Lamentations in 2016, it wasn’t until September last year his first full length album, Aromanticism, finally brought his talent fully into the limelight. Born in San Bernardino, he moved with his parents to Ghana at the age of 10 before returning to the US to study. He recorded in his bedroom, taught himself guitar and first performed at the age of 20. For Sumney, releasing his debut album marks the culmination of a long process of overcoming shyness and being “diligent and persistent” to bring his songwriting out into the world: “There have been a million challenges. I have so many even now. But I felt this was always what I was meant to do, so nothing was going to deter me from doing it.” The persistence certainly paid off, with Aromanticism being launched to great critical acclaim, including being named one of the best albums of 2017 by the New York Times and Rolling Stone.

Characterised by Sumney’s haunting vocals and searching lyrics, the album purposefully meditates on a central topic, something he felt would be important to “make the project feel cohesive”: “I decided sonically it needed to feel intimate but expansive. And lyrically and thematically it needed to be about one thing, which ended up being Aromanticism.” The cryptic title alludes to a personal sense Sumney had of his own experience and understanding of love lacking in mainstream representation: “I wanted to explore broader definitions of the word love but also the cracks and crevices of loneliness as well as lovelessness and, more specifically, the absence of romantic love. Most literature, art, music felt like it was engaging with love in a two-dimensional way and I wanted to explore how complex it was.” As he outlines in an essay published at the same time as his album, discussing Greek mythology and the origins of love, he doesn’t see his reflections as rooted only in the contemporary: “These feelings around love don’t start here. People have felt lonely essentially since the beginning of time, there are records of people wanting to be married and not getting the chance to for as long as we’ve had the ability to read.” Rather our modern condition, propelling us inexorably to seek out and find contentment through love and coupledom, and fear our failure, is further exaggerated by the internet: “One of the hallmarks of being a young person alive presently is you think that everything that is happening to you or to your generation is incredibly unique. We tend to navel gaze a lot. But it’s important to recognise our prevailing feelings around love and romance are pre-existing.”

«It’s just the internet era tends to heighten everything, to amplify and augment feelings, cultural movements and observations.»

Informed by his time spent studying literature and writing, there’s an equally academic and poetic approach to delineating emotions that plays out through the album and constantly subverts expectations, each track forming an exploration of a distinct but connected topic to his central thesis. This he feels is best captured in Doomed on which he asks: “If lovelessness is godlessness/Will you cast me to the wayside?” On Plastic he takes aim at how impressions can be out of kilter with reality: “Funny how a stomach unfed/Seems satisfied ‘cause it’s swell and swollen.” His personal favourite Indulge Me meanwhile finds a moment of reconciliation in the wake of bitterness and torment: “All my old lovers have found others,” accepting his past loves have moved on and finding peace in solitude.

Sonically the album is no less idiosyncratic, resisting any easy shoe-horning into a neat genre. Beautifully evocative falsetto and harmonies reach to the rafters with delicacy and calm yet hold a melancholy in their yearning for answers and are pulled back from optimism by a dark undertow of strings and synths. Hypnotic sounds that ebb and flow, crescendo and fall lull the listener deep into what Sumney calls his “sonic dreamscape.” He notes influences stretching back to his time listening to and performing choral music in a high school choir in his late teens. He draws inspiration from jazz via the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and soul from Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. But he also loves folk and indie rock: “It is an amalgamation of different things. The primary tenets of my music are soul and folk and then sprinkle a bit of indie rock, sprinkle a little bit of experimental, sprinkle a little bit of jazz.”

Crucial to his creative output are his otherworldly videos, though he confesses he initially had no interest in the medium: “I never wanted to make music videos, I really hated them growing up and in my early career because I thought they were so boring. Pop videos have so many jump cuts. I have ADHD so it’s really unrelaxing to see all the different ideas flash in front of you.” That all changed on meeting Brooklyn-based Allie Avital, who has now directed or co-directed with Sumney all of his videos – and also convinced him to be in them: “My process is largely attached to her. For at least two of the videos, she came up with the ideas, and for the other two Quarrel and Doomed I did. I have images that flash into my head when I listen to a song, whether an associated colour or an associated scene, so usually I take those ideas and talk to her about them and just flesh them out with her. It’s been an amazing process.”

Now the visual aesthetic is increasingly important to Sumney: “Even when we’re not able to make official videos I try to make a little visualiser for each song on YouTube just so there’s some kind of visual world just attached to it. Listening to the song can give you one meaning of it but then making a visual that can seemingly be semi-detached can help complete the story.” Now there is also a generation often consuming new music for the first time via video: “It’s kind of a great propaganda tool honestly because you can inseminate an image into someone’s mind when they’re hearing something for the first time. You get to control their response to it or at least to an extent their conception of what that music is and what it means. It’s kind of fucked up,” he adds with a laugh. In contrast to the attention-deficit-inducing videos he so hated in pop, his slow-burners each take a seemingly simple concept and execute it in stunning and moving ways. Lonely World takes us to a surreal black and white scene of Sumney coming across a female fish-like creature on a beach. Quarrel is an alternately dreamlike and nightmarish abstract vision of horses. Doomed has Sumney floating in a tank, no mean feat considering Sumney doesn’t know how to swim and had to spend eight hours in the water: “It was nerve wracking but the emotion I was supposed to communicate was one of terror anyway so it was kind of appropriate for me to be scared and uncomfortable.” Sumney further explained the concept, “as a song it is about speaking to God or speaking to the universe and being like, ‘what is the meaning if nobody loves me or if I don’t love anyone.’ It’s engaging with the idea that life sometimes feels like a cruel joke and there’s some higher power or design looking down on us like, ‘Ha ha, that’s funny.’ So I wanted to communicate in the end with the birds eye view, just the idea of looking down at these little rats. It feels like often we’re just like test tube babies with someone vaguely experimenting with us all.” Unexpectedly a seed for the idea was sewn from the final scene in the first Men in Black: “There’s a shot at end where they do this huge zoom out and you see each planet is actually just a marble and there’s these aliens playing with the marbles.”

«It really fucked me up as a child, like ‘oh my god, is someone just playing with my life?’ I wanted to tap into that in Doomed.»

Collaborations have formed a key part of Sumney’s career, including co-producing and singing the opening track on Beck’s covers compilation Song Reader and holding a guest spot on Solange’s A Seat at the Table album. Last year he performed at the Oscar’s alongside Sufjan Stevens and St Vincent on Mystery of Love from Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, nominated for Best Original Song, an experience he live Tweeted to hilarious effect. He tells me: “From the stage I could see Meryl Streep, I could see her. So that was cool, you know, not unnerving at all…” Since Aromanticism’s release he’s also hit a packed schedule of festival and gig dates worldwide including London’s Field Day and Germany’s MELT!, as well as the US’s Coachella and Pitchfork Festival and he sold out Sydney Opera House in February.

Coming out of his shell and putting his work on the stage is something he is still challenged by. On the one hand seeing tracks he wrote and practised in his bedroom move and connect with people who don’t even share his language has been exhilarating, yet hitting new cities every few days has also left him feeling “unbalanced”: “It’s a pretty unnatural thing for a human being to do. So it’s incredibly euphoric but maybe I would better describe it as manic. Sometimes you feel really high, sometimes you feel really low: my mood changes every five minutes. It’s a pretty wild ride but I love singing and I love performing so it feels really good.”

It’s London though that Sumney admits is his favourite place to be and play: “People on this side of the world tend to embrace experimentation a lot better than where I’m from, better than Los Angeles especially which seems beholden to commercial music tropes often, even in the indie scene. I appreciate in London I have room to be weird, I have room to experiment, I have room to be soulful. Maybe because the sun is not shining people are more moody, they’re more in their feelings,” he says, only half-jokingly.

A move away from his home country he also reflects is to do with a detachment from the political situation there, one he sees has been deteriorating for much of his adult life: “It feels pretty futile to let it upset me. Since last year I’ve been spending most of my time in Europe and most of that in England. I think I’ve been through so many phases of being enraged that sometimes I take a little break, which I’m doing now, and then I just focus on music which helps me feel better, balanced, cleansed, sane. Maybe it is a bit escapist.”

Cognisant of the fact that the industry doesn’t allow complacency, since the album’s launch he has also released extended version Make Out in My Car: Chameleon Suite with various reimaginings of the original track, including a duet with Alex Isley, a James Blake remix and a new song based on the original by Sufjan Stevens. Most recently in August came three-track EP Black in Deep Red, 2014 including Rank & File which holds a fresh energy, with fingers clicks and marching beats reminiscent of military protest. And he’s already been cooking up his next record: ‘It just takes a long time to make an album, you kind of have to get right back in if you want to do it again.” The next one he says, “is going to be louder and crazier, a little bit more experimentation but also a little more focus on the songwriting. I think it will just feel like another step or another chapter to the same book. I feel I have a lot of freedom and can do whatever I want so I’m really just trying to challenge myself to make music that doesn’t sound like everything else.”

He recognises however this is perhaps not the case across the industry: «There could be more room for weird music in the general dialogue. Sometimes I feel like now is a really free moment and then other times I feel the internet is making everything be one big amalgamated sound. It has opened things up more so that you don’t need to be backed by a huge record label. But I don’t feel things are diverse enough.»

«Even when weirdos come into the mix there has to be an element of familiarity to what they do in order for it to connect or be shared and pitched to the masses. I think that blocks diversity from being genuine.»

In particular, he warns that an impression of greater diversity can hide a lack of true progression: “I feel this current moment, this generation is a little bit too like, ‘let’s pat ourselves on the back, there’s a black person singing.’ Like, ‘cool, good on us.’ And I think that self-congratulatory attitude has a tendency to stifle growth. I’m not ever really going to be the kind of person that’s going to say ‘there’s enough women playing guitars.’ I’m like, ‘there’s two. So let’s calm down.’”


Photography · Aaron Sinclair
Photo Assistant · Brandon Bowen
Fashion · Phil Gomez
Talent · Moses Sumney
Words · Sarah Bradbury


  1. Hat CANDICE CUOCO Sunglasses and Coat Artist’s own
  2. Coat CAMOUFLAGE Vest and trousers RESURRECTION

Luis Corzo



  1. All photos are of The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts

Sharon Radisch

Sharon Radisch


Terry O’Neill

«Sometimes the best shots are the ones you are lucky to catch»

When thinking of some of the iconic stars of the 20th century, it’s likely that an equally iconic photograph of them has been taken by Terry O’Neill. Having inadvertently found himself at the epicentre of the glitz of the swinging sixties, O’Neill cut his teeth amongst the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Born in London, he had wanted to be a jazz drummer, and, accordingly, took a job with British Airways as a photographer, with the ambition of working up to a flight attendant which would have allowed him four days a week on the ground in New York – and a way into the jazz world. Yet, a chance snapshot of a sleeping man, who turned out to be the then-home secretary, RAB Butler, gave O’Neill an unlikely way into photography. His embracing of an emerging youth culture is a testament to his distinctive eye; working ahead of the curve, both his subjects and images alike would come to have resounding influence.

Over the course of a luminous career, O’Neill has worked with legendary names – from Frank Sinatra, and Audrey Hepburn – to David Bowie and Nelson Mandela. Across an extensive oeuvre, the unique partnering of star power with the quality behind the persona conjure up a bewildering sense of awe. Behind the glamour, though, lies the pragmatism of O’Neill himself. 

NR: Of all the photographs you’ve taken over the years, is there one that stands out as a personal favourite?

Terry O’ Neill: I think it’s Sinatra on the Boardwalk (1968) – that was the first time I met Frank Sinatra. I already knew Ava [Gardner], and told her I was headed down to Miami to work with her ex-husband – she said, “I’ll write you a letter.”  So I go down to Miami and I’m waiting for Sinatra to arrive. I look up and see these men approaching, and I started to take pictures. Sinatra and his guys came right up to me, and I nervously handed Frank the letter. He read it, looked and me and said to his boys, “it’s okay. He’s with us now.” And that was the start of a long working relationship I developed with him. He was a legend.

Do you ever look back critically on any of your photographs?

Oh, of course. Sometimes when I go into the office and I’m shown the negatives of my work, I’m surprised that I took so many pictures. At the time though, when I was working, I never looked back. I was always looking for the next job. 

Are you always in control of the image you take, or are there incidences where the outcome is entirely accidental?

I think, except for a few, it’s all incidental. I love the work of photographer W. Eugene Smith, and so,

«I was inspired to take photos of what I saw on the street. Sometimes the best shots are the ones you are lucky to catch.»

Is there a certain characteristic you focus on, and like to draw out in your photos?

I wanted to capture the subject just a little off-guard. If not that, I’d try to find that specific moment that defines who they are. With the photo I took of Terence Stamp and Jean Shrimpton, for example, the assignment I was given was to capture the “face of the Sixties”. Theirs were the first two faces that popped into my mind. I decided to get in really close and crop it in, so you are just left with this intense stare. 

How do you control the portrayal of ‘star power’ in your photos of high profile celebrities?

I was never really bothered by all of that. I started out at the same time that many celebrities did too – movie stars, and rock stars. There was only ever one time I was asked to leave, when shooting Steve McQueen. But I did sneak in a few shots beforehand!

In terms of the poses that your subjects adopt, are they agreed upon beforehand – or entirely natural? 

I’ve done both. When I was asked to take photos of the newest Oscars Best Actress winner, I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want the big smile, holding up the award.

«I wanted to know what it looked like the morning after – when it all hits you that you’ve just won an Oscar, and your salary has just gone up by millions.»

I asked Faye [Dunaway] to meet me by the pool of the Beverly Hills Hotel at 6am. I was friends with the guy who ran the pool, and he snuck me in. I set it all up – the papers, the breakfast, the Oscar. And she sat there. Many people consider that photo to be one of the best images of Hollywood.

In the time since you started out, what is the most significant change to take place in terms of celebrity photography?

Selfies! And the fact that stars have too much control over their image now. In order to work with a celebrity, you have to deal with managers, publicists and the managers of the publicists, you have to give up approval and rights. By the time the photograph runs, it doesn’t even look like the person you shot! Everything has been approved by everyone – except for the photographer. In that sense,

«we’ve lost a lot; a lot of great pictures will never be seen, let alone even taken. It’s a shame. Everything is staged and then made to look better. It’s no longer just a great photo of someone.»

You’ve said there is nobody today that you’d want to photograph, what could change your mind on that?

I was very lucky that I worked at a time when stars like Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, The Beatles, even David Bowie, were around. If you invented a time machine and send me back to the ‘60s, then I’d change my mind!


Terry O’Neill: Rare & Unseen is available now


  1. Singer and actor Frank Sinatra, with his minders and his stand in (who is wearing an identical outfit to him), arriving at Miami beach while filming, ‘The Lady in Cement’, 1968.
  2. Scottish actor Sean Connery as James Bond taking a bath during the filming of ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, 1971.
  3. American actress Faye Dunaway takes breakfast by the pool with the day’s newspapers at the Beverley Hills Hotel, 29th March 1977. She seems less than elated with her success at the previous night’s Academy Awards ceremony, where she won the 1976 Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for ‘Network’.
  4. Singer David Bowie poses with a large barking dog for publicity shots for his 1974 album ‘Diamond Dogs’ in London.

Mehdi Sef



Photography · MEHDI SEF
Model · SIMON MUCHARDT from Success Models
Location · BETC PARIS


  1. Coat and Trousers BERLUTI Boots YANG LI
  2. Shirt and Trousers DSQUARED2 Boots YANG LI
  4. Shirt and Trousers DSQUARED2
  7. Coat and Trousers BERLUTI Boots YANG LI
  8. Shirt and Trousers SIES MARJAN Boots YANG LI
  9. Jumper and Trousers ROBERTO CAVALLI Shoes EMPORIO ARMANI
  10. Full Look JIL SANDER

Subscribe to our