Landon Nordeman pulls back the curtain on fashion shows

Story highlights

  • Photographer Landon Nordeman was shooting dog shows when he was first ask to document New York Fashion Week in 2014
  • Nordeman captures surprising moments that other backstage photographers often neglect
  • Since he started working at fashion shows, he's been tapped by brands like Christian Dior and Proenza Schouler

(CNN)Photographer Landon Nordeman has shot state fairs, Trump rallies and both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.

Yet somehow, he's most renowned for his candid photos taken in and around fashion shows. With an approach that's both artistic and journalistic, Nordeman uses saturated colors and a well-timed flash to expose what goes on behind the scenes of these showcases for couture.
    Nordeman got his start in fashion only three years ago, when New York magazine commissioned him to cover New York Fashion Week after seeing his "Canine Kingdom" series on the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
    Since then, he's traveled to fashion capitals around the globe to capture crowds and creators at Chanel, Fendi, Lanvin and Dior, and has had photos published in the New York Times, Vogue and W.
    This fall Nordeman is bringing together his most memorable shots in "Out of Fashion," a coffee table book published with Damiani. He spoke to CNN Style about how he captures his surreal, surprising images, and why you won't catch him at any fashion parties this season. His answers have been edited for clarity.
    CNN: How would you describe your photographic practice?
    Nordeman: I would say it is photojournalistic. I'm interested in photographing real life and in photographing events that are truthful. But I think my approach -- meaning the images I want to make, the moments I'm attracted to -- might not be considered necessarily journalistic.
    I'm concerned about the construction of the photograph, the aesthetic qualities of the photograph, potentially more than I am the journalistic quality of it.
    What catches your eye?
    I always have an idea of what I'm looking for, but I never know exactly what it is until I see it. I'm not coming at it with the preconceived notion of "I want to take a picture that looks like this," or "I need to take a picture that has only this in it."
    I try and just stay very open to what I'm seeing and to what's in front of me.
    Often what does catch my eye and what I do find that I'm attracted to are things like color and gesture and a sense of mystery or a sense of humor. I like this idea that a photograph can ask a question instead of provide an answer.
    New York magazine gave you your first fashion gig, to photograph backstage at New York Fashion Week in 2013. Did anything surprise you that first time around?
    Well I didn't expect there to be so many photographers backstage, and I didn't expect the access to be so controlled and at the same time a little bit unpredictable.
    At one show they can be very open to photographers and let you move around, and I feel like they kind of give you room to work; and then at the very next show it can be a completely closed-off situation where you don't have any time or you're not allowed to move.
    So why did you decide to stick with fashion?
    Only you can be the gauge of if you find (a subject) interesting or intriguing, or if you feel like you feel like you're making new pictures.
    And every time I would go back (to fashion week), I felt like I was finding something new, and I think that's part of the photographer's journey, perhaps. You're always looking for new pictures.
    At this point, do you consider yourself part of the fashion world, with its parties and personalities?
    That is so funny. I do not go to fashion parties, okay? I have a family, and I feel like my family life is separate from my professional life.
    I've enjoyed photographing the fashion world, but I don't really feel like a part of it too much. I guess if you start to feel like you're part of it too much, maybe that's the right time to move onto the next project.
    If you start knowing too much, you lose that ability to look at it in a purely instinctual way where you're just responding to it.