#M1 talks to / interviews


Josh van Gelder is one of the men behind the world renowned Dove Campaigns, spotlighting the natural beauty of women, regardless of their shape, size or colour. With an innate ability to capture men and women looking flawless, whilst always retaining their personality, Josh has worked his way to the top of his game. Recently converting the top floor of an old Victorian school in east London, he has been able to achieve his dream of creating a studio space of his very own. With a portfolio most beauty photographers aspire to, it would seem there is a lot more to come from this man of many talents. 

Models 1: Are there any other aspects of fashion or industries that you would like to explore?

Josh’s studio space

Josh van Gelder: Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to buy my dream space – it’s the whole top floor of an old Victorian school in East London, and I’ve spent the last year renovating it and making into a studio. Since working on it, I’ve become very excited by interior design. I think it’s interesting that if you know what you like, then you can apply that to a lot of different areas. That’s always been one of my strengths as a photographer, I have a very clear view on what I like and don’t like. I can apply that to furniture, interiors, lots of different things, and I never knew this was something I was good at until I had the opportunity of buying a place and kitting it out. I love projects, vintage objects and design, and it was great to be able to explore that. But if I was to move into a realm of photography it would be portraiture, because I think people are the most interesting subjects. If I could marry portraiture and documentary, showing how people dress, with fashion and beauty, that would be ideal.

M1: Who/what inspires you?

JVG: I’m inspired most by people on the street – there’s nothing I find more exciting than spotting someone on the street who has real style and a great look. I always think that London in particular is full of the most amazing looking people, who are just bursting with style, attitude and beauty. I’d rather see that than fashion on any catwalk in the world.

If you’re talking about artists, then one of the most inspiring to me is Joni Mitchell. I spent most of my adolescent years listening to every lyric she wrote, and I still think she’s one of the greatest musicians and song writers of the century. For me, when it came down to it, and I thought about things that really moved me emotionally, it was always things that were super simple. And Joni Mitchell, with just her guitar and voice, that’s perfection. I always say ‘strong words spoken softly’, which is a really interesting idea. What she does is simple, but the message put across is powerful, and full of emotion. This is what I try to achieve with my work, paring it back down to its most basic, beautiful form. Whether I actually get to that I don’t know, but it’s definitely my aspiration.

Yasmin Le Bon

M1: You must have worked on some amazing shoots over the years. Are there any that stand out in particular for you?

JVG: I loved shooting the Dove campaigns. One of the great things about them was the casting. It was so much about the people who don’t consider themselves to be conventionally beautiful, how great they were, and to get some real spirit out of them. What was fun about it was that the women were so excited about being in front of the camera. It was such an event, and so much fun. We were laughing the whole time, and there was just a good vibe about it. One of my selling points is that I’m really unintimidating. I’m a bit of a crazy goofball on set, and don’t turn into a big scary photographer.

M1: Do you approach photographing men and women differently?

JVG: It depends on the story, but I generally have the same approach. If I see someone who I think is beautiful, handsome, or attractive, whether it’s a man, woman, boy or girl, I always want to photograph them in a certain way. I’m always inspired by the subject of the shoot, trying to put across who the person is. So I tend to treat everybody in the same way, I don’t think there is a switch between men and women for me.

M1: Who do you think has had a major influence on fashion as we see it today?

JVG: I think there are a lot of interesting things going on in the fashion industry at the moment, especially people like Uniqlo. There was a time when it was all about disposable fashion, and fast fashion is still obviously a powerful industry, but the thing about places like Uniqlo is that they have got their own aesthetic, which is classic but without being disposable, and at the same time they are doing collaborative things with designers. That is where fashion is going. If I was putting money in a company it would be them.

Jade Jackson

M1: What advice would you give to photographers starting out?

JVG: My advice would be to only do it if you are incredibly passionate about it, and it is all you think about, because it is a tough, competitive industry, not a piece of cake. Unless every time you go out, every thing that you see inspires you to take a photo, then you need to consider doing something else, because really, you have to have a huge drive to do it, to be filled with a burning ambition. You also need to be thick skinned. It’s an amazing job, and once you are successful, the opportunities it allows are incredible. However, in order to achieve that I believe you need to eat, breath, sleep, drink and die fashion photography, otherwise, it’s not for you. I feel incredibly lucky to be in the situation I am, doing what I love and being paid for it.

Dan Gillespie Sells

M1: Who would be your ultimate dinner date?

JVG: I really like people who don’t take themselves too seriously. So, I think I would have to have a dinner party,and invite three really hilarious people – I’d invite Simon Doonan, the writer and ex creative director of Barneys, Kathy Burke, and Dolly Parton. That would be a really interesting combination, a very entertaining night. A right good laugh!

Read part 1 of our interview with Josh!

To view Josh’s website click here

For more information and images of his studio space, click here

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