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Ellia Art Gallery Presents: PHILIP GAY "REWIND" March 21st - April 21st, 2024

Nude woman tying another woman's hair.
Sylvia and Veronica 2020 © Philip Gay

The REWIND exhibition at Ellia Art Gallery offers a captivating journey into the world of Philip Gay, showcasing his unparalleled ability to capture the essence of sensuality and sophistication in fashion photography in "REWIND". Through a curated selection of previously unseen works, visitors are invited to delve into the artist's creative process and witness the evolution of his distinctive style. Philip Gay's remarkable talent, recognized and celebrated on an international scale, reaffirms his position as a visionary in the realm of photography. As he continues to innovate and expand his artistic horizons, his influence on the world of fashion and art remains profound and enduring. Don't miss the opportunity to experience this exceptional exhibition and explore the mesmerizing world of Philip Gay's "REWIND" March 21st - April 21st, 2024"

Philip H J Gay was born in Gloucester, UK, and grew up between England and Paris. His interest in photography began while studying film and English literature at the University of London. Throughout his career, he has produced editorials and covers for some of the world's most prestigious magazines, including Zoo, i-D, Purple, Arena Homme +, V Magazine, Muse, Numéro Berlin, Elle, GQ, Vogue, and many others. Philip Gay has also worked with numerous musicians and film stars, as well as tennis celebrities, and has collaborated with luxury brands such as Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Martin Margiela, Levi's, Sephora, L'Oréal, Elizabeth Arden, and Cartier.

In 2021, Philip Gay expanded his scope by directing music videos and writing fiction screenplays. His first short film, expected to be released in early 2024, marks a new milestone in his artistic career. Currently based in Paris, Philip Gay continues to explore and push the boundaries of his art, while remaining true to his original and innovative creative vision. IRK delves into Philip Gay's creative process, inspirations, and more in this exclusive interview.

portrait of photographer Philip Gay
Philip Gay by GG

IRK: Your upcoming exhibition promises to showcase unexplored treasures of your work, including contact sheets and Polaroids from your finest fashion shoots, as well as the more erotic work on show as part of Rewind. Could you elaborate on the decision-making process behind selecting these specific pieces to share with the audience?

I was going through old pictures and a friend thought that my polaroids were really interesting….they show a journey from the very beginning of my career up until around ten years ago. Fashion was more free then with a lot less restrictions from the press which was braver and less dependent on the brands back then. So there was also a strong reminder that it’s a great job. It’s still a great job although it has changed a great deal.

Also I think because I just finished directing my first  film ( which is about ten days away from being finished now.) So it was also a good time to reflect on my photographic journey.

In more recent years I have done a lot of stories for independent magazines that do take risks still and i’ve really enjoyed adding a more erotic element to these stories…I was doing it before too but it was more of a femme fatale ‘David Lynch’ or Lauren Bacall type woman. The nude prints on show at ELLIA ART GALLERY are from recent fashion stories. They often appeal more to women than men. The models are empowered or having fun. I always loved that with Helmut Newton nudes that the women became even more powerful than when they were clothed. So there is an element of that but also a softer more sensual side. I hope there is a sense of fun too and a sense of freedom.

woman biting her toe
Klara 2021 © Philip Gay

IRK: Your portraits capture the essence of various personalities from the worlds of art and culture. What draws you to photographing these individuals, and how do you aim to capture their essence through your lens?

I was actually studying Film and English literature in London when I got into photography. Originally it was Michael Cooper and David Bailey that caught my eye. Both of whom I discovered because of their work with the Beatles and The Rolling Stones rather than their fashion work . Their portraits were incredible. I mean the iconic Bailey photos everyone knows. and then Michael Cooper was a friend of both bands during their psychedelic periods so he got to take very intimate pictures of both bands. Especially The stones whilst they were getting up to no good!. You feel like you’re hanging out with them when you look at his pictures.

And then later whilst at college in London there was a huge change in fashion and around 94/5 it really took shape. Nigel Shafran, Juergen Teller, David Sims and Corinne Day rewrote the rule book. Their pictures went with the sounds of the times. Smashing Pumpkins and all that. And I was immediately hooked. They all had a very strong portraiture element to their fashion pictures. Especially Shafran. And Corinne Day was just amazing. Her pictures, although they were fashion pictures moved me as much as photographers like Joseph Szabo or Gavin Watson with their work around the youth cultures that surrounded them.

A lots of Polaroids of the same woman
Polas © Philip Gay

IRK: Having grown up between England and Paris, how have these diverse cultural influences shaped your artistic journey and the way you perceive the world around you?

I lived in the Paris region between the ages of three and eleven and my mum is french. I learnt french first as i spent more time with mum than dad then of course. but I went to the british School Of Paris so I never really learnt french properly. Spoken french yes. But I read English books. Had a Uniform so I was very English really. And then We moved to Sussex when I was 11. Very close to Brighton so as a teen I was near a city that was very exciting. Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins soon gave way to Primal Scream, Massive Attack, Stone Roses and of course the Rave culture was still strong in the early 90s and a big part of Brighton culture.

So I was really English at that time. Then I went to London….which takes me back to  Corrine Day  and juergen Teller. Their pictures really captured the energy of early 90s UK and then on into what was really a second swinging London. And suddenly fashion photography was on your front door. And London was amazing then. Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Hussein Chalayan, Alexander McQueen, Primal Scream….then films like Trainspotting... And of course magazines like i-D and The Face. Those magazines were nothing like they are today! Especially i-D. It really had no commercial pretence at all. So I really embraced all of that. Fashion felt like it was making as big a contribution as music and cinema and art then.

It wasn’t till  2001 that I moved back to Paris with my ex-girlfriend who is french.

I think what’s different between both cultures is the Brits really go for it very young.. Which gives it that vibrant youth culture and all the great music we’ve seen for decades. But the Parisians  blossom later. Which as you get older yourself becomes a very good thing! So I became interested in making more refined images and began photographing more women. I liked the work of Newton more and Bourdin more…but still wanted to keep a portrait element and a spontaneity or emotional connection that you would findd in Corinne Days work for example oe the likes of Szabo even.  

When I was younger or in London I shot more mens fashion. And the stories would be very much influenced by my friends around me. Stories based on grunge or rave culture or Gavin Watson’s skinhead work. In London I lived with musicians, not fashion people.

A lots of Polaroids of the same woman
Polas © Philip Gay

IRK: With your exhibition offering a rare glimpse into your creative process, could you share any anecdotes or memorable moments from your career that have significantly influenced your approach to photography and storytelling?

Well, I’m not meant to give those away am I? I was flashed by Kristin Scott Thomas once  though :)

I think getting over my natural shyness or reserved character was important to get the pictures I get. So certainly something like that lightens the mood. It definitely helped on that occasion. She was  very funny. I think she could see the editor was stressed and that I was a little stressed from that and when the editor left to look at more clothes she decided to lighten the mood.

I also remember Mark Ruffalo and Vanessa Paradis being very warm and very inclusive with everyone on set. You definitely take that on board.

It’s important to have that sense of fun. People open up then. If they are comfortable they will open up and let you in. you have to take a moment to get to know them. You can’t just rush straight in. But once you start, be fast and capture it.  There is so much preparation in fashion with hair and make up and styling that you need to create a spontaneity where there might not be one.Same with portraits where you will have agents and a lot of people around. So when you get the opening be fast!

 With fashion stories the casting is so important for me. I spend a lot of time on it because I want the portraiture side of it. I want the image to last longer than the clothes, but I got very good at knowing which models will have that extra bit of character that I look for.  I’ve been lucky to work with some really great ones. Angela Lindvall, Kati Nescher, Olga Sherer, Eliza Cummings, Anais Mali, Irina Lazareanu,  Eva Herzigova, Missy Rayder and Natasa Vojnovic amongst others and more recently Michelle Laff who is amazing. They are all much more than just great models.

But looking back t the polaroids again it reminds me I worked with Jodie Barnes a lot in my early days. He’s a great stylist and back then we would often not have hair and make up…by choice so that it was really about the character of the model and the bag of clothes that Jodie would have with him…And we would walk around London or Paris till a spot made sense.

I recently shot like that again with Kati Nescher and Ray Taitaura. We did have a make up artist though. But no hair stylist. One of the images from that story is in the show, Kati lying on the grass.

A topless woman amidst flowers
Natasa Vojnovic 2016 © Philip Gay

IRK: Walk us through your creative process. From conceptualization to execution, how do you bring your ideas to life, and what influences or inspirations guide your artistic vision?

I shoot a lot of portraits now. And I like to react to the person. Of course I will guide them but I like to observe..Get a feel for them and hopefully get that down in camera. For example Hugh Grant made me laugh a lot when I photographed him. So it made sense to publish a photo of him laughing.


With longer fashion stories where you get to create it can come from a movie character or a painting anything to an old photograph.…it can come from a song even.

Or it comes once you have cast your muse. I did a fashion story once that came from Jane Bowles’ novel Two Serious Ladies but it would be very hard to notice as the story evolves once you’ve started and you don’t want to stop it from doing so. It’s just a starting point then it takes a life of it’s own.

I did a story reinterpreting some of Newton’s iconic images and was very lucky to have Sylvia Gobbel on board. She worked with him a lot. probably the model he photographed the most so to have her so enthusiastic and for her to play around with me and Eline Hoyois.doing that was great. One of the pictures is in the show. She’s having her hair brushed.

IRK: As viewers engage with your exhibition, what do you hope they will take away from the experience, and how do you envision your work impacting them on a personal level?

I think people outside of fashion through the polaroids especially will see a more approachable world than they may have imagined. I think the sense of play comes through. Especially the polaroids where we are testing the hair styles maybe…or all the pics where the stylist is photobombing by adjusting the clothing again at the very last second. I think back then perhaps more than now there was the character side to a fashion shoot. Fancy dress or a bit of acting and i don’t want to let go of that even now.

So, I hope they pick up on the portrait side of it all and hopefully they can relate to the subjects somehow.

A lots of Polaroids photo
Polas © Philip Gay

IRK: As you transition into directing music videos and writing fiction screenplays, how do you see these new mediums influencing or intersecting with your photography work?

when i Was doing long fashion stories for Zoo sometimes 30 around 2010  plus pages there was definitely already an element of a character rather than a fashion shoot. Especially the ones with Olga Sherer or Irina Lazareanu. They were incredible to shoot..and it felt very close at times to film making.

I was always planning on directing too. I was studying film  originally in London and English literature too. I was interested in writing too but photography very much swept me up!. Music was my first love. And I would write lyrics even though I couldn’t play anything. One song I wrote ended up on a friends album. So even really early on writing was there.

It was during the pandemic that I began writing a screenplay for a film.  An idea I’d had for ages but no time to do it.... then I directed two videos for Cesar Chouraqui’s band Idem Colony which was amazing,  both with a great dancer, Nais Dubosq that I had wanted to photograph for a while. One of them is very close to my fashion imagery and I love that one. as it compliments my still work a lot., but the other was more narrative and then I did another video for Klara Kristin which was really narrative. About a cabaret dying.. The audience as she sings is just the other performers from the cabaret and they disappear …they are ghosts themselves. So there was bit of writing there too.

Then I last year I started making my film ‘Heaven To Know You’ which I co-wrote this time with Kati Nescher. It’s 39 minutes long so not super short...I’m very excited about it. She’s an incredible actress. People in fashion know her as a model of course because she’s one of the great models, but she really put in a great performance so i’m very excited about people seeing this film. And I had some great support from really amazing musicians. I have some beautiful music in the film which was always going to be important for me - . Daniel Johnston, Age Of Love, Max Richter, Rakhi Singh, Flock of Seagulls and Moly Nilsson. My friend William Kingswood wrote a beautiful piece for it too and my friends' band The New Shapes are in it too. I think you can definitely see a lot of my photographic world in there but of course it goes a lot further. Film mixes writing, music and photography all of which I love. The subject of the film isn’t light, even lthough there is a  beautiful love story running through it at the same time as the heavier stuff. So there is light. And that sense of freedom is very present.

Want more:

Solo Show Philip Gay

"REWIND" March 21st - April 21st, 2024"

Ellia Art Gallery

18, rue de Turenne

75004 Paris

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