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September 1 2014

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Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele Talks Image-Making in the Digital Age

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Matin Zad

Stylist Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele knows a thing or two about fashion imagery. You know all those photographs from the late eighties and nineties of supermodels like Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, and Claudia Schiffer decked out in Versace, Chanel, and piles upon piles of gilded baubles? Well, we have her to thank for those.

De Dudzeele’s reputation for creating vivacious, lasting images is undoubtedly one of the reasons Bottega Veneta tapped her to sit on the judging panel of its 2013 New Exposure Photography Competition (she’s joined by heavy hitters such as Craig McDean, Guido Palau, Andrew Bolton, and Bottega’s own Tomas Maier). Launched last year in an effort to discover and support emerging talents, the competition features five standout finalists this year. And tonight, at New York’s Openhouse Gallery, Collin Kelly, Emma Powell, Masha Sardari, Matin Zad, or Shae DeTar will be announced as the 2013 victor. The finalists’ photographs debut here. And below, in between shoots and shows, de Dudzeele weighs in on photography in the digital age, discusses the overuse of Photoshop, and offers aspiring image-makers some invaluable advice.

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How has the process of image-making changed throughout the course of your career? And what’s remained the same?

Good ones are good ones! The talented people will still stay the same—they have it in their [guts]. What’s changed is that the focus on set has gone from looking at the subject…to looking at a monitor. Nowadays, people sometimes forget to have fun and to have their own point of view. Fashion photography still has, and needs a lot of, original ideas. The digital is just a tool.

What qualities do you feel make a successful image in this digital age?

Energy, capturing a moment, composition, authenticity, creativity!

What traits did you look for while judging the Bottega competition?

I was looking for a personal eye, a unique image, a sensitivity, and honesty… not a reproduction of something done before.

Is there anything you miss about a more classic approach to photography? And, conversely, is there anything you really love about images?

I miss the happy surprise! I miss the focus on the subject and the attention to details. It used to be that nothing could get “removed” or fixed afterwards. When you had it, you knew it. Digital is good to build a story, as you can work on layout and cropping, then. Technology can help a bad photographer get better, but ultimately, good photography does not need to be reworked.

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Is Photoshop used too much today? When do you feel it’s appropriate?

Yes! Moving around the filter and switching heads, hands, arms, everything, this is not the essence of a unique photograph. This is not real talent. Photoshopping is appropriate to enhance a beauty that’s already there—to help the dream come true.

Have your aesthetic values changed since the digital embrace?
My aesthetic has not changed. I love the girls, the fashion, the joy, the energy, and the ideas. Creating fun, iconic images still is the goal.

What advice would you give to emerging image-makers, whether they’re stylists or photographers, today?
Be you! Don’t over-reference. And love it! Sometimes, what people think is bad…is good.

Is there anything you’d like to add?
It’s only fashion!

Photos: Matin Zad, Emma Powell, Collin Kelly, Shat DeTar, Masha Sardari

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