The fashion photographer breaks down the secret to his work and personal style
Photography: Kristen Lee Moolman
Who would have thought that self-taught fashion photographer Aart Verrips started his career as a Pastry Chef student in France? Believe it, it’s true.
With an extensive client list – including adidas, Levi’s, Rich Mnisi, Puma, Vogue Eyewear, Vogue Italia and so on – for which he’s produced editorials, designer look books and commercial campaigns – Aart documents the South African fashion scene on various modes through a precise lens, a daring disposition and the intention to always push boundaries. The thing about the pictures Aart takes is that the imagery stays with you long after you’ve seen the shot.
How would you describe your current style aesthetic and why does it work for you?
I guess it’s just me, if that’s an answer. If I needed to call it anything, it would be “smart casual with a twist”; that’s basically my day-to-day aesthetic. As a fashion photographer, I probably need to dress the part, right?
My staples change all the time, but lately I’ve been wearing oversized shirts or jumpers tucked into some trousers with a pair of Gazelle sneakers or just formal (but edgy) smart shoes.
What makes this look work for me is the comfort factor – and comfort doesn’t always have to mean skimping on style.
A question that often comes up, especially on location shoots where you’ll find me getting the perfect shot from the floor, is “why don’t you just wear jeans and a shirt?”. The answer to that is simple: I don’t own any sweats or jeans.
One trend you wish would die and never come back...?
Well the one trend I wish had never appeared but I’ve seen in the latest Balenciaga show and one or two others, is the infamous Crocs. Euw!
What draws you to the stylists and creative directors that you work with consistently?
Well, first, it’s originality and then just whether their personalities are compatible with mine, and most importantly, we should be wired in the same way.
The work I do with stylists and creative directors is always a collaborative effort. I mean, nobody wants to be a dictator, so I need to be sure that they can hold their own. I do have a select few people that I get on and just click with, and they are likely to the kind I gravitate towards and feed off.
What do you find inspiring and dispiriting about the South African fashion space?
Let’s start with the positive…
What I find inspiring are the young creatives that are emerging: designers, makeup artist, illustrators and filmmakers to photographers, it’s so exciting to see that South Africa’s voice, with (more of) its nuances, is finally being heard around the world.
As for demoralizing part: there are so little resources spread across… from finance to skills development, we have very little to work with in the creative industries. I suppose that is also what makes us unique – how we still manage to shine on lower budgets.
What would you like to see creatives do more of with the way fashion is documented in South Africa?
I think we should be more comfortable with creative innovation and pushing the envelope with design and imagery – we should stop thinking and just do. Stop thinking about who's going to judge your work and just do it for your fulfilment.
As RuPaul says “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you are going to love somebody else?” And I feel this translates into your work as well!