Photographer Andrew O’Toole has well and truly earned his stars and stripes among the Australian hairdressing industry. The finger and voice behind some of this country’s finest collections – the man almost deserves his own anthem.
What defines you as a photographer ie; what sets you apart from the next guy with a lens?
I think a classic “Andrew O’Toole” shot would perhaps be something tightly cropped – engaging eye contact that is sensual (rather than sexy) whilst omitting maximum confidence and strength in expression. A touch of wind and a well-placed hand or arm for something extra! I LOVE movement in hair – usually a sexy afternoon sea breeze feel at first before building it up to something indicative of a tropical cyclone! I’m a “tweaker” when it comes to lighting, so it’s not uncommon for me to change light settings slightly every 10-15 minutes.
How has photography aided the growth of Australian hairdressing?
Australian hairdressers have access to some of the best photographers in the world, especially for beauty-based imagery. It’s not uncommon for some Australian photographers to be shooting for Vogue or Harpers Bazaar and also shoot hair award collections for the country’s top stylists – that doesn’t happen anywhere else I know of! Aussie hair designers have always produced amazing work, and I think that the exceptionally high standard of photographic shoots produced has been the icing on the cake.
Why is it that you relate so well to the world of hairdressing?
I’m sure a part of me secretly wants to become a hairdresser. I really get a buzz out of shooting beautiful hair – the longer, bigger and wilder the better! I love the way you can add wind, or loosen curl and a woman can be immediately transformed. I am also obsessive about the tiniest details, which is perhaps a good quality to have when hair and beauty occupy the majority of your shooting time.
How does the typical pre-shoot process unfurl between yourself and hairstylist(s)?
For big clients, two production meetings followed by a concept meeting and final casting. This ensures solid understanding of all elements involved – there is always a reason behind my suggestions, behind why people should approach things a certain way, with the ultimate outcome of continuity. Things rarely happen by accident on my shoots.
What elements of a photo-shoot have the most influence on the final outcome?
The model is the most important. There is a myth circulating the industry that I prefer to use big-budget models – this is false. The trick is utilising girls from smaller agencies and making them look like big-time models – I like this challenge, making her look absolutely amazing is kind of cool. Next, definitely lighting. When it comes to creating a set of images that are easy to read (when you walk into a room they jump straight off the wall), it’s all about the lighting. Thirdly, the styling component – the clothes and hair that you put on the girl defines the woman, even down to choice of materials. It’s not rare for me to send a model back three to four times for wardrobe change in aid of achieving a polished image. I think about everything down to the last detail like, “why should we use that nail polish?”
Your talent is utilised frequently on both UK and Australian shores – how does the work down-under, this year, compare to that of our British counterparts?
This year, Australian work has emerged with a lot more progression than that of the UK’s – particularly in the cutting arena. The UK is still very much about big, beautiful styling whereas I have seen Aussies place greater emphasis on cutting again – the talent here in 2008 has really blown me away.
Photography: Andrew O’Toole
Hair: Joey Scandizzo
Colour: Marie Uva
Makeup: Aleesa Hall
Stylist: Emma Cotteril
Andrew O’Toole in Morocco 2008
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