Steven Klein’s hyperreal, pin-sharp and sexually charged photography has captivated the fashion industry for 28 years since his first professional job, shooting a Christian Dior campaign in 1985.
Klein’s editorial work is renowned for its ability to transform his subjects’ images into powerful visual statements, magnifying popular conceptions of the individual or the inspiration behind the story. “You give him a dress,” remarked Anna Wintour , “and he will give you a girl in a dress with a robot in a garden.” Dennis Freedman , the creative director of W, concurred, telling the New York Times, Klein’s work “is very much in sync with the idea that things are never what they really appear.” Unsurprisingly publications across the globe, including Interview, W, American Vogue, Vogue Paris and i-D regularly commission the photographer to shoot editorials.
New York Magazine described Klein’s body of work as “clever, conceptual and ultimately lyrical,” imbued with a sense of “gentle sadism.” Alexander McQueen believed his imagery was almost “too subversive for the mainstream.” Undercurrents of vulnerability, objectification and idolatry recur throughout Klein’s photography.
Klein was born in Rhode Island and studied painting at the state’s prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. Klein told The Observer his first campaign for Christian Dior came about because “I thought I was a bad painter, and I needed to make some cash.” Vogue.com reports that it was at RISD that the photographer encountered Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon’s work, both of which became perennial influences for Klein.