Interview & Portraits Etienne Gilfillan
“With the rise of social media, Instagram has become my agent.”
David Newton is a hugely successful still life photographer based in Central London. His clients include Dior, YSL, and Maybelline, with editorial commissions from the New York Times, Harrods and Wallpaper. He’s a long-term resident of Marylebone, where he lives with his gorgeous Basset Hound Rupert and also finds time to edit and publish his supersized glossy fashion/interview magazine Wylde. Journal met up with the maestro over cocktails at newly-opened La Brasseria on Marylebone High Street.
You started off professionally as an illustrator, is that right?
Yes, and people say they can tell I used to illustrate, as my photos do tend to contain a bit more than just objective representation; there’s often a little story or narrative in there too.
Are you happier creatively as a photographer?
I made more money doing Illustration – it bought me the flat in Marylebone – but I’m happier doing what I do now. One of the reasons I changed to photography was the fact that illustration is so subjective you are constantly being told by art directors that you got it wrong. But with photography you very rarely get it wrong: 9 times out of 10 it’s an objective view of something. Though, like I say, I do try to put a little story into the pictures.
Your work is ridiculously creative and consistently original; where do you get all your ideas from?
I often get asked that question privately on Instagram, and it makes me a bit sad to hear that from another creative, because it seems to imply that there is a physical place where you can go and “get” inspiration from. As if it can be ordered online or bought in a shop, or something. My response is that you have to constantly keep your brain on, and open, like a sponge. You have to not discount anything that you see or think. Then it’s a case of cleverly working out how what you’re curious about can be in a picture.
Do you have an agent?
I’m regularly approached by agents; I’ve had two in the past. But with the rise of social media, Instagram has become my agent. I did a big ad campaign for a major Paris luxury cosmetics house earlier this year… they found me via Instagram.
Has moving your studio from Shoreditch to your home in Marylebone changed the way you work?
I got forced out by Shoreditch’s greedy landlords and spiralling rents; but as it happens, it changed my career because now I don’t have to wait to implement my ideas. The literal distance between idea and execution can now be measured in feet, rather than miles! When my studio was in Shoreditch, I might have lost the idea overnight, or it got replaced by something else. It would often have to wait until the next day.
What led you to start up Wylde?
I started Wylde in 2011 purely as a showcase for my work and the work of other photographers that I admired. It’s changing and evolving all the time, but still massively about images. That’s why it’s huge (A3) and printed on the best quality glossy stock.
How has Marylebone changed since you moved here 15 years ago?
I got in just before the Marylebone boom happened. When I first moved here, it was a bit of a down-at-heel backwater. Charity shops, little old ladies; it was quiet, no tourists… or bankers.
What do you love about Marylebone now?
It’s cool, and it’s very friendly, especially if you’ve got a dog. It’s very villagey, to use estate agent-speak! But it actually is – people do stop and talk. Really good for parks. It’s fun. Much livelier than Mayfair. Other “posh” areas are not as interesting.
Any favourite shops?
I’ve just discovered A Society on Chiltern Street. It sells old coffee table books, things like Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdain, Alan Jones… exactly my cup of tea! You have to see what’s in the back room – this most bizarre 1960s stereo that looks like it’s landed from space. John, who works in there, is so friendly… bizarre, as it’s such a cool place! High-end candle shop Cire Trudon, also on Chiltern Street, is an occasional treat.
Any other favourite stores?
It has to be Selfridges. I call it my corner shop; I believe in supporting local businesses! Wylde is stocked there so I often pop into the mag section to check it’s on the shelves.
You have a rescue Basset Hound called Rupert; where’s your favourite place to walk him?
We cover the whole of Marylebone, but always head towards Paddington Street Gardens, as it’s the only park in Marylebone where you can shut the gate and let your dog run free and meet other dogs.
A couple: Delamina on Marylebone Lane – it does Modern Israeli dishes – and La Brasseria Milanese on the High Street; a very smart Italian with fantastic cocktails. I recommend the saffron vodka.