Seattle native David Wentworth moved to New York in 2002 and spent a few years in Brooklyn playing music and working for Sony. Things happened, as they do, and he wanted to pursue something different. Photography had always been a "semiserious hobby," so he went for it, with classes and workshops at NYU and ICP.
He returned to the Northwest recently, pockets full of tear sheets from the Village Voice and stacks of photos from last year’s New York Fashion Week.
On Saturday, November 12 from 6 to 9 he’ll celebrate the opening of a photography show at Suite 300 Skin Care Studio in Ballard in which those images make up Behind the Light: Inside NYC Fashion Week. Here, a few questions for Wentworth in advance of the opening.
WWW: What was your specific assignment from the Village Voice—what were you at NYFW to cover?
Wentworth: My assignment was basically to provide visually compelling images. I had done assignment portrait work for them in the past and they thought my style would be a good fit for what they were after, and they basically gave me creative license to produce the visual story that I wanted to make.
The average fashion enthusiast never gets to see the backstage action. If they could, how would that world inform and/or influence their experience of clothing, of models, of the cult of designer personalities?
I’m not sure if I could say for sure, but what I found most interesting was just being witness to the raw energy of creation. Though most shows are planned out months and months in advance, it sometimes felt like a lot of the people involved didn’t know how they were going to actually make things happen until the morning of the show. But things are on a whole other level there, and the seasoned pros can really make stuff happen no matter what. I did get a kick out of seeing Betsey Johnson literally on her hands and knees spreading bales of hay around the runway for her western-themed show minutes before the audience was let into the building.
What do you know about fashion that you didn’t know before you put this show together?
It really was incredible to see this part of the massive fashion marketing machine, and at the same time, all the regular people who are involved with it and how they can keep things rolling along; seemingly almost by instinct, sort of like a hive of bees. I mean, there are people converging on the tents from all over the world, from every different type of background, and for the most part everyone falls into their place, and works like mad to make these incredible performance pieces happen. Of course, some do turn out more incredible than others…
What insight might viewers gain from seeing your images?
I really just want to present the spectacle in an entirely new way, but some of my favorite photographs from this series showcase these intimate and eerily peaceful moments that happen in these often incredibly chaotic environments, that are now gone for good and will never happen again.
Who were some of your key mentors during your time in New York?
The biggest influence on me by far was Guy Aroch. I met him at a summer photo class in Maine when I was just starting to get serious about my work and he told me I could come hang out on his sets anytime when we got back to New York. He had a pretty tight-knit crew, but I would come in as third assistant and just take in as much information as I possibly could, and just try not to mess anything up or break anything, which I accomplished with mixed results!
It was incredible to see the production and watch him work. He would have thousands of dollars of equipment around, and sometimes put it to good use, but often he would say, "Hey, go grab that lamp and wrap some beads around it—we’ll light her with that!" or "Get a plastic cup and tape it on the end of my lens, then shoot the light back towards my camera from behind the subject… that’ll look killer!"
I had learned the basic technical aspects about studio photography at that point, but in a sense, he showed me how to throw away that knowledge and try to create a new look, or a beautiful moment or mood that no one else has done yet. To go against the conventional and try to do something new.
What do you hope to do with your photography now?
I will continue to concentrate primarily on my editorial and commercial work. I thoroughly enjoyed my time covering NYFW for the past couple of years, but my main focus is creative portraiture, fashion, and conceptualized image making.