Michael Oliver Love | Q&A
Michael Oliver Love's fashion photography shows Black women with sensual figures and men wearing jewellery, make-up and high heels, breaking away from conventional norms to present raw beauty. His aim is to present an alternative view of beauty that differs from the typical representation in major fashion magazines.
Love's work explores the intersection of femininity and masculinity, presenting a new, boundary-pushing perspective that challenges conventional gender divisions in society. Fashion plays a crucial role in Love's artistic expression, and he also explores the impact of clothing through his work in photography and modelling.
We caught up with Love for an interview about his creative process and sources of inspiration in the field of photography.
How did you get into photography?
Photography was always something I admired and wanted to be a part of. In fact, I started making money from photography at the age of 15. Admittedly, the work I produced was atrocious, consisting mainly of baby shots and girls in their school dance dresses. But it made me realise that this was something I could do. By moving to the big city when I was 18, I was lucky enough to be able to pursue this passion while studying for my degree. Looking back now 7 years later, it has been a lot about being consistent in creating new work to build the portfolio, taking every opportunity available to me at first and honing in on the things I love to shoot to create my own world or style if you will.
What drives you to make art?
I feel like it's just in my bones. I've been artistic since I was a kid. Now, as an adult, I just keep dreaming about the pictures I want to take or the art I want to make. It's this insatiable urge.
And what about the use of colour in your work. Why do you choose to photograph in colour?
That's a good question. I often ask myself why. I go through these phases with colour. At the moment I am more in a neutral space, creams, beiges, browns and skin. Then I look at my work and think, damn, I really have a lot of hectic colour going on. But pretty soon I'm back in the red-orange-yellow-blue zone. Vivid colour is just so captivating, you can't help but look. I think that's why I love it, but I jump around a lot.
And what is your favourite colour?
One colour I always love is orange, it is so warm and has so much energy.
Your models are gorgeous with striking features, how do you choose the people you photograph?
I'm always looking for someone unique. Faces with an x-factor. If I have a picture in my head of what I'm trying to achieve, it helps when I'm sifting through model pages. The right people seem to jump out at me.
Now that you live in South Africa, what inspires you about the country? Would you like to live and work elsewhere?
We are very lucky with our beautiful landscapes here in South Africa. There is a lot of natural beauty that definitely inspires my work. I would like to spend some time in London and Paris. I'd love to have access to shoot the luxury fashion brands that I'm just gawping at now. Then I can stop shooting so many naked people. Just kidding! [laughing]
Do you have a favourite photography book that inspires you?
I recently received my copy of The Fashion Yearbook 2022, which I was lucky enough to be featured in. Flicking through it has been very inspiring lately. The things people shoot! It blows my mind.
Do you mostly work on creating single images or on specific projects?
Often projects come together with an image in mind. I will have an image in my head and make a story around it. Getting a whole team together in one day to make a story can be such a conflama, so you better believe we create as much as we can.
What is your dream project?
My dream clients would be Jacquemus, Jil Sander or LOEWE. Anything for them would be a dream.
What do you think is the biggest cliché in photography (something you will never photograph)?
A neon club scene, not for me. Also putting your name on the bottom right of your picture. Yes, I have been there, so I can judge [laughing].
What is the most important element in making a good picture?
For me it is the composition. I always look at how balanced a picture feels, or what clever angles or framing has been used. Like shooting through someone's legs or a hole in a garment, those things excite me. On the other hand, if a picture is deliberately chaotic or the subject is in motion so it is more organically composed, that can sometimes be beautiful. So I would say overall composition.