Lucy Leach’s Vintage Vibes
In a 2012 review of Mad Men, The New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik declared the “the Golden Forty-Year Rule” of American pop culture, in which it takes 40 years for a decade to come back into style. If that’s the case, then the 1970s-era disco-inspired work of photographer Lucy Leach is right on trend.
“It’s kind of a nostalgic thing,” Leach explains over the phone from Birmingham, England, where she currently lives. “I really love the era: the cars, the fashion. I find it really fascinating.”
Born in 1994, Leach comes from a family of artists. She has been interested in photography from a young age, and graduated this spring from Birmingham City University with an honors degree in photography.
Leach’s best-known series to date, “SHUVIT,” is a collaboration with fashion design student Bethany Frays. Frays wanted her collection of leisurewear photographed, all of which would look appropriate on it-girls such as Rihanna or Kendall Jenner. To complement the urban look, Leach suggested the shoot take place in a skate park in Birmingham.
While researching images of skateboarders, Leach came upon iconic photographs by Hugh Holland of tanned and topless teenagers skateboarding in the Hollywood Hills in the 1970s. “I really loved the colors [in his work],” Leach says. “They have this really nice California light; it’s really soft. The colors are a bit faded and warm. I wanted to have that aesthetic.”
Holland achieved the look by shooting on film. Although Leach shot with a digital Nikon D810, she replicated the light by shooting Kerry-Ann, the model, in the early evening at the skate park. The resulting images are sophisticated, and could easily be mistaken for an editorial by a seasoned shooter in a magazine such as I-D or Wonderland.
The portfolio she has assembled thus far shows impressive range. Featured shoots include “Bare Grit & Beauty,” which utilizes trends from the 1990s such as grunge, glitter and strips of colored hair. “Botanical Grunge,” which features two fey-looking models in vintage prints, could easily be a study for a future Gucci ad campaign. “Fever” utilizes the warm tones, bell bottoms and rompers of the 1970s with a touch of subversion—in one image, rather than soften the stubble on the model’s bare legs, Leach chooses to highlight their rough texture. Leach may be nostalgic, but like many women of her generation, she’s also interested in changing traditional notions of feminine beauty.
In the coming months, Leach plans to keep on building her portfolio, and she is constantly searching for new collaborators. She has also enjoyed portfolio reviews with Cheryl Newman, the photography director of Telegraph magazine, as well as London-based professional fashion photographers.
And though Leach hasn’t yet begun to pitch editors, if her current portfolio is any indication, her future looks as warm as the ‘70s-era film photography she so admires.
This article has been excerpted from “Storytellers: Vintage Vibes” (PDNEdu, Fall 2017). Read the full article in the digital edition.