Passion as a subject for photography, shooting the man and vintage cars on the shores of Lake Como
Shaun Reynolds Darwood.
The man came our way through the intermediary of Benedict Browne, former style editor at The Rake now at The Jackal Magazine and our very first connection with The Rake community.
We did not know much about Shaun really before the interview you’re about to read but we knew, from the scope of his work and aesthetic identity, that we shared much more than just social connections.
Shaun’s photography is very elegant, refined and dramatic at the same time. Whether it be landscapes, details of a vintage car or portraits of people from the menswear scene, you always find that cinematic approach characteristic to his work which gives to his subjects so much life. Look no further why he’s been recently working with prestigious publications like The Rake, The New York Times or Hachette Publishing as well as iconic brands such as Grenfell Menswear, Breitling or Brough Superior Motorcycles.
We’re quite proud to have Shaun - @shaundarwood - as one of the many inspiring people relating to what we do.
We thought it was worth sitting with him to understand better - and in his own words - how he approaches what he does best, that is crafting stories through carefully composed images.
LBH: Hi Shaun, it's a real pleasure to have you here with us today. How are things going?
SD: Hey guys, thanks for having me come on. It's a real honour. Thank you, Sylvain. Things are great as the seasons are changing which, from a photographic point of view, offers exciting opportunities and challenges all the same, not to mention I can once again wear several layers of clothing!
LBH: You're from the north of England, right? What was like growing up there?
SRD: Yes. I hale from Gateshead, which is in the north-east of England. It’s a corner of the world known for its maritime past, plethora of bridges and average football teams!
Growing up in a place that was once a hub for British shipbuilding that later become synonymous with a dwindling local economy, meant a lot of austerity and reduced career opportunities. I believe this gave me the understanding that you have to work for everything and seize any opportunity, and, with a bit of luck, you could have a shot at building something. Growing up in the north-east gave me the best grounding possible. I love my corner of the world and its mercurial football team.
LBH: How did it influence your eye as a photographer?
SRD: I think my childhood in Newcastle, and indeed with my family, gave me a keen focus on emotions - my family tended to never really say how they felt so I became hypersensitive to body language, watching and deciphering what it all meant. The city always seemed brooding in someway – dark and mysterious. I think the moody environment of Newcastle’s city centre, the wrought iron of our bridges and our unforgiving coastline allowed me to tap into this dark, slightly melancholy vibe I like.
LBH: Do you remember when did you decide to pursue a career in photography?
SRD: I've always loved the sense of what an image can do, its power and grip on those who gaze over it. It's a seductive thing. I was at college doing a degree in 'Creative Advertising & Design', not photography. I wanted to use imagery to evoke an emotional response, tapping into the desires of a person was a thrilling concept. I was also told at that time: ‘You'll make more money using images rather than taking them,’ which is potentially true, but it's infinitely more fun and rewarding taking the shots rather than fling headlines and copy over them.
LBH: How would you describe your aesthetics as a photographer?
SRD: I think my style is dark and moody, much like the backdrop of my city and what I’m like as a person.
LBH: What's your relation to color?
SRD: I have a strange relationship with it. I'm very traditional and safe when it comes to color. I'm a denim and white t-shirt kind of guy. But, having said all of that, I like how color can make a statement in an otherwise bland environment and how it can inform without discussion a mood or statement. It's compelling.
LBH: Who are the photographers that most influenced your work?
SRD: Ah, there are so many, so many I don't even know the names of. But, as not to bypass the question I would undoubtedly say Parisian based photographer Martin Middlebrook for his emotive art; Dennis Stock, because I'm a big James Dean fan; Jamie Ferguson, as he's one of the yardsticks for street photography; and, finally, Ansel Adams, due to his uncanny ability to showcase the world through imagery and words like few have been able to since.
LBH: You're very active in the world of luxury, craftsmanship and menswear; a truly connected, intricate scene if there ever were one. What is it that is so inspiring there as a subject for photography?
SRD: Oh, that's simple: passion. Every single brand I work with utterly loves what they do and what they produce. They want, need to explain the minutiae of detail in all they do. Now, why wouldn't you want to work with people who love their craft? And to be clear, I don't mean superficial words of 'love’. I mean that genuine get-up-each-morning-with-the-single-goal-of-perfection kind of ‘love’.
LBH: Totally feel you on this. You're a regular at The Rake where you used to work in close collaboration with friend and style editor Benedict Browne - who has been our entry point to The Rake and for that, thanks a mil Ben! The stories you shot with him feel so natural, what’s the process behind it?
SRD: Ah, yes. My dear friend and style hero, Mr. Browne. I think we have a good understanding with one another; he’s the well-heeled London lad and I’m some bloke from the frozen lands of the north. But, on a serious note, we just get on. We’re both on the same page and we both respect each other’s viewpoint when we’re working on a project. A true partner to be honest.
LBH: What's the most memorable story you shot together?
SRD: I think the most memorable must be our shoot at Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este for The Rake earlier this year.
The scene, the cars and the people were sublime in every way. And, I have to say, the style edit pieced together by Benedict and the team offered a uniquely elegant vision of the modern man whilst being respectful to its environment which is not an easy feat.
I do distinctly remember the after-party, albeit with a heavy head, being a surreal evening. Picture the scene: an epitome of 16th-century Italian architecture on the shores of Lake Como in mid-June, surrounded by prestige and style, and we're having this informal rave surrounded by priceless wall art and stiff Italian cocktails. What a night.
LBH: You photographed some of the best Italian tailors as part as your contribution to The Rake; what memories do you keep from those encounters?
SRD: Ah, there are so many! But, it comes back to that word passion again, and it just seems dialled up in the tailoring houses of Naples.
I'd say learning how Benedetto De Petrillo (owner of the uber-stylish Neapolitan brand De Petrillo) refused to bow to mafioso pressure during his time in business was an eyeopener, it most certainly romanticised my maiden visit to Naples.
But, anecdotes aside, I'd say my main takeaways are always how humble these people really are and how they're grounded in 'famiglia'. You can really see this in people. For example, take Orazio Luciano and his son, Pino, who run one of the most respected tailoring houses in the world, you can see the passion for their craft has passed down a generation, it's alive and thriving, and that's what it's all about, surely.
LBH: You also photographed some of the most stylish men out there. Is there something, a particular trait they would all have in common?
SRD: They all carry themselves as themselves. Now bear with me here, I'll explain this idiom. These men are entirely their own; they define their style, and, crucially, they inspire others. They have the fabled 'no f**ks given' approach to their chosen tastes, these gents are unashamed in their choices, and to me, that's the epitome of cool. They all have it and it can't be manufactured.
LBH: What's your focus when shooting style stories?
SRD: I'd say I always shoot the person in the clothes, not just the pieces themselves. Showcasing the man in the clothes is the key, it's the guy wearing them you buy into and his essence of cool that needs to connect with the audience, that's what's going to sell the story.
LBH: How did it influence the way you relate to clothes?
SRD: Without a doubt, I've become more aware of what my style is and what I like. I find I'm willing to take more risks, to try something offbeat without the self-conscious nag that used to tag along for the ride whenever I used to stray outside my comfort zone.
LBH: What is style to you?
SRD: To me, style is timeless. It's beyond fashion and the transient nature of ever-changing 'trends'. Style is being at ease with who you are irrespective of what you're wearing.
LBH: How does it relate to attitude?
SRD: It's everything. James Dean's brooding nature and attitude help to make his infamous style choices, without the attitude and air of brooding anger you're just looking at another handsome guy wearing jeans and a t-shirt.
LBH: What's your own personal take on style, like, how do you approach the process of getting dressed in the morning?
SRD: Almost always with one eye on the weather reports and the other on my diary. If I'm working from home, it's denim and tees all the way, but meetings and shoots offer up other opportunities/challenges. I like to wear functional garments, and that usually denotes some form of functional (sometimes military) influence and other utilitarian offerings. I'd almost always wear a Grenfell jacket; they're beautifully made cotton garments that are practically waterproof, two essential things for life in unpredictable North.
LBH: What is scarf meaning to you? Is it an accessory you wear a lot?
SRD: 'Scarf' would usually come in the form of woollen warmth for me but, as I've been experimenting I've come to realise they're more than just a draft excluder, they add a pop of style and color.
LBH: Could you describe LBH in 3 words?
SRD: Sophisticated. Playful. Individual.
LBH: Who would you like to read on the next issues of our Style Talks?
SRD: I'd say Robert Spangle (ThousandYardStyle). I've grown to really admire his ability to mesh different disciplines and styles together to create something entirely unique to him, I'd also like to hear more of his anecdotes, he's a character and someone I'm still trying to work out.
LBH: Well noted Shaun. Thank you very much for this, we appreciate you taking the time to sit with us.
SRD: The pleasure was all mine, truly.
All photos courtesy of @shaundarwood