Art & Design


Lucinda Rose Constable • 26 July 2012

New York based Erik Madigan Heck is one of the most exciting creative talents of our time. After being included in the Forbes ‘30 under 30’ list for Art & Design, Heck’s career has launched into the stratosphere. His expert photography has led him to work with some of the biggest fashion designers in the business. We caught up with the twenty-eight year old to chat Mary Katrantzou and his very own publication, Nomenus Quarterly.

pages: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Erik Madigan Heck: I was born in Excelsior, which is a small town outside of Minneapolis. I grew up there, and in Minneapolis…

How did this contribute to your creativity?
Well I’m not certain that Excelsior necessarily contributed to my creativity, but it was a very special place to grow up. You could run around town by yourself when you were six and your parents wouldn’t have a worry.

When did you first pick up a camera and what drew you to this medium?
I first picked up a camera when I was fourteen and I have never put it down. My mother actually gave me my camera– an old manual Canon from the 80s (same camera I still use), and thought I would enjoy taking photographs. She kind of forced my hand at first. Every Sunday she would take me out and drive around town with me in the car and tell me to snap photographs of whatever peaked my interest. It became this routine that at first I thought was really dumb – as I was fourteen, but then began to really love.

What were your early works like and how have they developed?
I used to only shoot black and white film, portraits and cityscapes. I would develop the mantra of Cartier Bresson, and Kertész when I was first beginning, but really fell in love with Harry Callahan‘s work– the more quiet and subtle portraits of people that were a bit more staged. Then eventually I switched over to colour and began experimenting with what has become new processes in between photography and painting.

Your work with Mary Katrantzou almost looks painterly. How did you achieve this incredible finish?
A long process of which I can’t divulge too many details… However it’s not Photoshop….

What do you love about shooting fashion, as opposed to portraiture or still life?
Well, fashion can be anything really. That’s why I love it, the ambiguity. Fashion can be portraiture, or still lives, or a landscape really, as long as some element of attire is buried in the image. So it’s really just a catalyst to create images and have them be shown in different contexts or outlets.

What are your processes when choosing the set and how do you develop these?
It always begins as a study of the subject. If the designer is the subject of the photoshoot, then I begin with studying his or her collection and the whole lineage of what they have created in past seasons. Then I begin to think how can I add to their vision with my own? I often reference a lot of art history, and specifically 18th and 19th century painting in my work as well, bringing subtle elements of paintings I grew up admiring.

What/who would be your dream subject?
Klaus Kinski, if he were still alive.

Tell us a bit about the Nomenus Quarterly.
It’s a magazine of sorts that I began a couple years ago. It was essentially an idea I developed in graduate school to try and create a place where I could merge all of my interests into one place– my own photography, curating other artists’ work, literature and music. It was also my own physical response to blog culture that was beginning at the time- using the internet to be read as a book, rather than a blog – way before the iPad.

Where did the name come from?
From a sign on the door of my apartment building at the time. It meant “No Menus”, as in, don’t put any restaurant delivery menus under my door.

How do you see this publication evolving over the next few years?
It has moved away from being a true magazine that features a whole lot of information, and has become more of a personal journal for my own work. I think it has been the appropriate progression, as I’ve become more involved in my own artwork and less interested in trying to compete with the art and fashion international journals.