September 1 2014

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6 posts tagged "Carmen Kass"

Paul Rowland: Model Maker


For Paul Rowland, “pretty” is not enough. Not that he has anything against a good-looking girl—Rowland is, after all, the founder of the modeling agencies Women and Supreme. Over the past 20 years he’s helped launch the careers of models Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Elle Macpherson, and Carmen Kass, to name a few familiar faces. So he sees “pretty” all the time, but it’s the stuff going on behind those cheekbones that gets Rowland’s heart racing—especially when he’s taking pictures. Building on his work as Supreme’s house photographer, Rowland has carved out a second career for himself behind the camera: As well as shooting Supreme’s keepsake show packages each season, his work has been featured in V and EXIT, and in December Rowland mounted his first-ever solo show at Miami Art Basel. Titled Transformations, the show spotlighted his obsession with getting his subjects to tell a story before the lens. “Models can be very hard to photograph,” Rowland notes. “Their job is to make clothes look good, and more often than not, all they can give the camera is a pose. My challenge is to coax a girl into giving something of herself.” Tonight, Transformations takes up temporary residence in New York City, opening at the Women/Supreme space in west Chelsea. In advance of his debut before the hometown crowd, Rowland talked to about the art that goes into making faces.

I understand you moved to New York city to be a painter. How did you wind up one of the grand pooh-bahs of the modeling business, instead?
Oh, you know how these things happen—you move to the city to do one thing, and then you wind up waiting tables. I wasn’t crazy about being a waiter, so when I got to know some fashion people and the fashion people told me I should model, I jumped. The modeling led to booking, and the booking led to my opening Women, and so on. There was never a grand plan. For a long time I just figured I was stashing money away so I could paint.

Both Women and Supreme have earned reputations as go-to agencies for girls with an unusual look. Was that happenstance, as well?
No, that much was purposeful. I’m not really interested in apple pie, all-American beauty. I appreciate it, but it doesn’t compel me. Whereas I have this art background seared in my head, so when I look at a girl and there’s that instant reference—like, she’s got a Modigliani face—that’s the beauty that takes me in. At the time I launched Women, unconventional beauty needed a champion. Now, I look around at who’s working, and it’s clear that I’ve managed to change our ideas about what’s beautiful, at least a little bit. But you can always push the envelope. That’s why I opened Supreme. We take some very edgy girls there.

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