Sitting by the fountains on a sunny afternoon at the prestigious Central Saint Martins College, images of the late iconic designer Alexander McQueen, and the many other award-winning designers to have emerged from the university are conjured in the mind. The location is where we meet Vivienne Westwood’s favored photographer, Ki Price. He talks to Candid Magazine about subcultures, the egalitarian nature of Soho, and the power of fashion in eroding the boundaries of gender, class and identity. Additionally, we discuss the power of photography as social documentation and the significance of his style – harsh lighting and the interaction between artist and subject.
CM: Hi Ki, can we start by asking you where you’re from?
Ki Price: I lived in the west- country as a kid, before running away with the fair, and moved to London when I was a teenager.
CM: How did you get into photography?
KP: As far back as I can remember I’ve always had cameras. It’s all I ever wanted to do. There are photos of me at 2 years old with a camera. I used to try and develop my film in water when I didn’t know you needed Chemicals.
CM: What kind of stuff did you shoot?
KP: When I was a kid my gran used to take me on trips to the Isle of Wight and Dorset, and I just liked seeing the world in photographs. Growing up in the countryside there’s not much stuff to shoot other than landscapes, but obviously as time went on I went to school and became a part of the post punk scene, so there was a lot more interesting stuff to shoot.
CM: How did you get into portrait photography?
KP: People have always been my fascination, and I’m into different cultures. When I was growing up I was a part of the Acid House scene, and then the squat scene and I lived on site. Being a people’s person, and after a long time shooting news, I just wanted shoot what I love – which is people – so portraits were the way forward.
CM: You do Fashion now, how did that come about?
KP: It all kind of amalgamates into one, really. I shoot a lot of celebrities for clients such as The Times and Vanity Fair, so a lot of people get to know you. I’ve always been interested in fashion and subcultures. It’s like what Corinne Day was doing years ago; she was photographing a diverse range of countercultural social groups like addicts and party heads and fusing the shoots with fashion. And I was doing a lot of that myself – photographing people on the party scene when we were out of it. I’d shoot when they was dancing and doing other things, and they would pull trilbies over their heads to protect their Identities. But prior to that, I had been shooting London Fashion Week for seven or eight years, and I do my own stuff.
CM: How would you describe your style?
KP: I’m obsessed with light, people and cultures. I’m always trying to enhance what I do and work towards defining my style as unique. When you look at a picture of mine you know who shot it. I use a lot of harsh lighting, but I think most of all it’s about the interaction with the people I shoot. Being honest and sincere. I think the smallest part of photography is actually taking the photograph – it’s the end of a process.
CM: You are one of Vivienne Westwood’s favoured photographers, how did you meet her?
KP: One of my own personal interests is climate change. I’ve shot stuff for Greenpeace in the past and other stuff she’s been involved with. So when she did the Talk Fracking tour, I was approached to come on it and be her photographer. For me it was the perfect job. I stayed on the tour bus with Vivienne for five days; it was amazing and inspirational. There’s a big crossover between celebrity portraits and fashion, and I just love fashion – especially punk and its aesthetic.
CM: What is she like?
KP: She’s incredible. She’s probably going to kill me for this, but she’s like a northern, softly spoken, highly intelligent grandma. She’s really, really warming. Very endearing, she doesn’t forget people’s names, and there’s no hierarchy within her fashion house. She’s interested in everyone: assistants, video people and lighting. There’s a lovely family vibe there. She’s amazing.
CM: Yes, I felt that vibe from Vivienne when we shot the Evolution Café project in Ramsgate. I wanted to ask you about two other projects that I’ve worked on with you, The House of Trannies, and the Save Soho Campaign. How did they come into being?
KP: I shot my mate Ted who’s a tranny on location in Hoxton. I’d already done a project about Mipsters and Mipster fashion – which was about Muslim girls and fashion. Obviously, there was a lot of interest around the tragedy that happened with Charlie Hebdo, and I’m interested in uniting different cultures through fashion and art. So, I shot Ted in the same shop in Hoxton. I asked the owner could I shoot him in there and he agreed. Ted starts getting dressed up in suspenders, size 11 heels and the rest of his drag. And I suppose, with the Sink the Pink club nights and the revival of transgender scenes in London, it’s something I wanted to document. Living in London years ago it was common to see people expressing themselves more freely, then it kind of died out a bit. So I said to Ted why don’t we come up with a name and do an exhibition, then over five months we shot trannies at different locations. The project was all about love, and was about bringing different social groups together. It was probably one of the best things I’ve ever worked on.
CM: Can you tell us about the significance of the Save Soho campaign?
KP: Again, it brings all of my interests together, subcultures, fashion, people, and different social groups. Soho is one of the last remaining areas in London that brings all these artistic people together. It doesn’t matter if you’re a part of queer culture, or whether you’re a sex worker, a drug addict, a party head or a musician. When you go to Soho you’re all equal. To get rid of all this rich culture and regenerate the area in the name of capital, I think is wrong. Tourists will come and stay in a new, swanky hotel to see the real, traditional Soho, but it’ll be gone.
Interview and Text by Raymond Patrick Kinsella