Off Road – featuring model Chane Husselmann features in the 03/2018 issue of Leica’s LFI magazine, see the interview below:

Equipment: leica Sl with Vario-elmarit-Sl 24–90mm f/2.8–4 asph

Bathed by two oceans, blessed with 3700 annual hours of sunshine, home to a diversity of cultures, Cape Town is a favourite destination for tourists and fashion photographers, attracted by the extraordinary light and the breathtaking backdrop between the beach and Table Mountain. This is exactly where British fashion photographer James Meakin spent a couple of months last year, working on commercial campaigns before indulging his artistic side with his Leica SL. The photographer is delighted by the full-format capability of the camera. “The camera you use defines the style of the image you capture: the SL is an incredible tool and the image quality is sublime,” he enthuses.

“The camera always lies,” Meakin says with an impish expression. He is inspired by nature and unusual landscapes, “Instagram helps a lot these days for finding unique places and inspiring ideas,” he says. In his photographic narrative, Off -Road, Meakin sets the stage for a blonde, natural beauty, playing the role of a polyglot vagabond moving around urban landscapes and exploring Savannahs surrounding the South African city. With his visual road trip, he wants to distance himself from fashion spreads normally made up of a series of individual pictures. The aspects he takes from film and from reportage are a deliberate part of the production.

Furthermore, it was the photographer’s intention to capture special moments reflected in the model’s expression, and to avoid images in Off -Road looking staged. For this, the city needed something distinctive. The model also needed to be distinctive. South African, Chane Husselmann, a rising star in the world of fashion, was discovered on Instagram and suggested to Meakin by one of the agencies he works closely with. The 17 year-old model took to the runway for the rst time for Versace in Milan last summer. Off -Road is one of her first appearances outside the hallowed halls of fashion.

By chance, Meakin discovered the dark green Chevrolet that played the second lead next to his female protagonist. “We were blown away when we saw this car in a side street and decided to investigate,” he says. “It turned out to be a kind of gangsta car, but we managed to convince the owner – naturally with cash – to get it on set!” Meakin and his crew spent days and nights driving around in the Chevrolet, in the up-and-coming, hip neighbourhoods of Woodstock and Salt River, always in search of the perfect settings. “The car was a full on, low rider with bouncing air suspension, and the owner’s input added a lot to the experience. It was so much fun cruising around in the car; but it certainly wasn’t environmentally friendly onthe hills!”        Meakin admits. The places where he ended up photographing were supposed to have a certain universality that would encourage the viewer to reflect. “I wanted you to not really know where you were. Was it a night out, or a morning after? Had the girl gone off the rails, was she lost or in control?” These were the types of questions Meakin hid in the subtext.

Naturalness is one of Meakin’s top priorities. On the whole, he is no friend of excessive mechanisation. He explains, “Keep the technical stuff to one side; it’s often such a bore to the creatives on set. It takes over a shoot and disturbs the creative process. Too often advertising images are too technical, over-planned, and have no soul.” Lighting is a key factor in the photographer’s work: “It’s everything to me.
I went through a more hyper-real stage earlier in my life, but recent trends have inspired me to seek the natural and reinvigorate my work. There’s a real art and skill to using natural light: ultimately it’s incredibly liberating. I’ve always chased the light and I love the spontaneity it evokes.”

Meakin consistently creates new worlds: “I hate the real, I love fantasy, I guess I live in an alternative dimension when I have a camera in my hand!”

Carla Susanne erdmann