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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Interview With A Woman Who Loves Her Work - Rose Callahan Of The Dandy Portraits

Rose, where were you born and raised and what kind of things inspired you as a young woman?

I was born in San Francisco, and when I was 8yrs old my family moved to a small rural town in Northern California.  This was a “boring” place to be as young person, but looking back it was a wonderfully scenic place filled with Victorian houses, mossy forests, lots of places to explore.  From very early on I loved history, vintage clothing, and classic movies.   I craved the glamour and drama of another time (and the city), which was definitely not what daily life was like!

I returned to the SF Bay Area to study photography at the California College of the Arts in Oakland.  In 1999 I moved to Brooklyn on a whim.  New York is so much fun and filled with opportunity.  

What brought out your passion for photography?

I got a taste for photography very early, around 10yrs old, thanks to my mother who was starting to learn it herself.  From the beginning I made portraits, and that has always been what I have been most passionate about.  I was inspired by the work of Man Ray, Steichen, Avedon, Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, and especially the Hollywood glamour portraits.   I would spend hours looking at photo books trying to figure out how they did the lighting.  For me portraiture is the most fascinating and challenging type of photography - It is about character and emotion which are not easily defined.
What attracted you to Dandyism as a subject matter and what was the genesis for the The Dandy Portraits? Did you envisage the kind of success it would have?

I love it when men wear suits - it is inspiring to be around very well dressed people!  The first portrait in the project was Lord Whimsy, who my boyfriend Kelly told me about because he saw him on Lord Willy’s (NYC store) site when he was searching for a bespoke suit.  I thought, I have to meet his guy he is a wonderful character!  When I started to do more research and photograph more men I was surprised to find that dandyism had never been documented in this way – investigating “the lives of exquisite gentlemen today” through photographs of famous and infamous men of our day.   

Dandyism is a philosophy of dressing but each subscriber has their own unique style, in your opinion, are there any common threads amongst the men you have made portraits of?

Each man that I’ve photographed has certainly been very unique – defying classification by subculture, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, geography, and even class.  Besides the obvious common thread of the suit in it’s infinite variety, there is a commitment to masculine elegance that is unexpected in our day and age.  And it is elegance not just in dressing, but in living – in being a gentleman.

Of all your portraits, which is your favourite?

I could not pick a favorite subject, but one of my favorite images so far is of Massimiliano Mocchia Di Coggiola in his white linen suit sitting by the window in his Parisian apartment. 

Who was the hardest person to convince to be a part of the Dandy Portraits?

I am very discreet, and would never tell :)  

How important is light in your photographs when you are trying to capture changes in texture and colour of cloth?

First and foremost my fascination is with bringing out the personality of each man, then their clothes and environment.  The lighting is so incredibly important to create a mood, but it does not have to be complex.  My lighting is very minimal and mobile, because I don’t want to miss the right moment.  I like deeper shadows – they help bring out details and textures (especially of the clothes), and add drama. 

Are you a gun for hire or is this a labour of love?

As a professional photographer for the last seven years I have shot portraiture and fashion assignments for adverts, books, print & online magazines, etc.  The Dandy Portraits is a personal project that allows me to make images without too many restrictions, and get more in depth with one subject.   I started the blog to focus my interest and to share the work, but I am not in the business of blogging.  I have gotten assignment work from people seeing The Dandy Portraits, though, which is quite gratifying.  I am happy to do that!

How do you see your work progressing over time and do you try to steer the Dandy Portraits?
For The Dandy Portraits I still have names on my list that I have to photograph before the project is “done”. Miraculously, just when I think I have found or heard about every man, a new one is on the radar!  So I want to continue making the portraits until it comes to it’s natural completion.  From the beginning I envisioned the project as a photo book, and that is in the works currently.  I am collaborating with journalist Nathaniel Adams, who will write the profiles for the book.

How do people contact you if they are more interested in your work?

The main blog for the Dandy Portraits is:

They can also follow me on twitter @rcallahanphoto or reach me about work via email at rosecallahan at earthlink dot net. 

Additionally we have:

The Dandy Portraits on Facebook:

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