THE KIDS STAY IN THE PICTURE

For Photography alumnus Mark Shearwood, making the perfect photo is never child’s play

You have to be very, very patient when photographing children, says Mark Shearwood, who shoots campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger, Stella McCartney, Sonia Rykiel, Zara, and others. “The hardest thing is to stay relaxed—you know, chill, not bossy,” he says, on a call from his native London. “Any emotional vibe in the room rubs off on them.” You can just tell an adult model what to do; but if kid models get stressed out, “there’s a good chance you won’t get what you want [in the photographs].”

When Shearwood works with Stella McCartney, “Stella herself approves all the models and makes sure they represent what she loves in childhood.” The back-to-basics look for her autumn/winter 2015 campaign—simple, uncluttered background, focused purely on the character of the children—represented a new approach for the designer.

When Shearwood works with Stella McCartney, “Stella herself approves all the models and makes sure they represent what she loves in childhood.” The back-to-basics look for her autumn/winter 2015 campaign—simple, uncluttered background, focused purely on the character of the children—represented a new approach for the designer.

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Sometimes Shearwood photographs adults. This shoot, a collaboration with stylist Lorenzo Posocco, depicted the theme of “Britishness” for Redmilk, an Italian online magazine.

Shearwood’s feature about twins, a collaboration with stylist Rachel Caulfield for Milk magazine in 2012, was a turning point in his career. “It was inspired by old photographs of myself and my younger brother wearing the same clothes, and photographed in some of the same spots in Liverpool and London where I played as a child.” He searched extensively for models with the right look. “As soon as I saw those skinhead boys, I knew I had to cast them,” he says. They had never done a photo shoot before.

Shearwood’s feature about twins, a collaboration with stylist Rachel Caulfield for Milk magazine in 2012, was a turning point in his career. “It was inspired by old photographs of myself and my younger brother wearing the same clothes, and photographed in some of the same spots in Liverpool and London where I played as a child.” He searched extensively for models with the right look. “As soon as I saw those skinhead boys, I knew I had to cast them,” he says. They had never done a photo shoot before.

Back in England, Shearwood started as an assistant to a commercial photographer, learning how to work with clients, stylists, and art directors. Eventually, a long, well-paying project shooting catalog fashion allowed him to become independent, but he was still trying to forge his own style. “I just wanted to make beautiful pictures,” he says. He spent all his free time shooting and honing his craft.

For a Milk magazine feature about the connection between mothers and daughters, Shearwood traveled to Miami with stylist Rachel Caulfield. In the first rounds of casting, the girls were the focus; the mothers didn’t realize they too were being considered. “We spent many hours with each family, allowing them to feel comfortable so they looked completely at ease.”

For a Milk magazine feature about the connection between mothers and daughters, Shearwood traveled to Miami with stylist Rachel Caulfield. In the first rounds of casting, the girls were the focus; the mothers didn’t realize they too were being considered. “We spent many hours with each family, allowing them to feel comfortable so they looked completely at ease.”

His big breakthrough came in 2012, when he pitched a feature idea—twins—to Milk, an innovative children’s fashion and lifestyle magazine based in Paris. Initially, the publication wanted to take his concept and do it themselves, but Shearwood persisted. Seeking non-professional models, he found his subjects mostly through friends of friends. “I always try to pick someone that’s not anyone else’s first choice,” he says. Shot over two weeks around the U.K., often in neighborhoods he grew up in, the portfolio of images captured his slightly moody, innocently quirky aesthetic. Nine months later, he photographed his first campaign for McCartney.

Shearwood doesn’t adapt his style to different shoots, or companies. “My approach stays the same—‘natural.’”

Though he often works in the digital format, hearwood shot this entire 2015 feature for the skater issue of Redmilk on film, with his Hasselblad. “This shoot made me determined to move back to shooting film, which I love,” he says. A gritty, abandoned skate bowl in South London provided a perfect setting.

Though he often works in the digital format, hearwood shot this entire 2015 feature for the skater issue of Redmilk on film, with his Hasselblad. “This shoot made me determined to move back to shooting film, which I love,” he says. A gritty, abandoned skate bowl in South London provided a perfect setting.

But he doesn’t want to repeat himself, either. After his pictures for last year’s Zara campaign were published, he had to turn down offers from clients who wanted him to re-create the same look. He doesn’t always photograph children; at this early point in his career, he still wants the freedom to grow. But kids are his specialty, and he seems to relish the particular challenge of working with them.

“The moment you put your camera down,” he observes, “the kids will do something amazing.”

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Shearwood created Zara’s autumn/winter 2015 campaign images in his London studio.

Featured photo courtesy of Nick Parisse ’09