Photographer Henrik Purienne, or simply 'Purienne,' is one of the most sought-after artists in the business and it's not difficult to see why. While the South African's portraits titillatingly explore the female form through a wet, hot, hedonist lens, his imagery is always masterfully delicate — each scantily-clad subject transporting the viewer to total tranquility. With a new book, Holliday, which features model and Purienne's main muse, Lilah Summer, the photographer exists in a league of his own, or what some might call: paradise.
When (and where) are you most creative?
Often while sleeping. Dreams being the blueprint. Insomnia the execution. I suffer from A.I.S. (Aesthetic Irritability Syndrome), which means in order to have a stimulated mind I need a stimulating environment. I spend 90% of my time curating the physical space that dictates my mental space.
How did you get your start?
Theres no montage to success. Just follow the sound of the tambourine. Everything informs everything. Building blocks.
I grew up in a dusty mountain town in South Africa where I studied History of Art and Photography under Sergio Vacaro at the Hugo Naude Art School. Followed by a degree in Writing, Directing and Cinematography. I made documentaries and short films for broadcast television straight out of film school. And curated 'Masjien' — an independent South African short film festival hosted by the Bell Robert Gallery. I became obsessed with living at — a rundown apartment complex in the forest set at the foot of Table Mountain, Cape Town. And obsessed with furnishing it. I was instinctively attracted to the most expensive things in the world. Which often were the most simple things. I co-founded 'Bauhaus MCM' in a rundown tobacco warehouse, specializing in Bauhaus to Memphis era investment furniture and objects. I became, let's say, very specific about design. From my car to my toothbrush. I was still constantly taking pictures, documenting my friends and girlfriends cruising around and hanging on the beach. When I met German Art Director Frank Rocholl, these interests combined to form Mirage Magazine - a scrapbook for my more artificial interests. It gave me a global platform that led to commissions allowing me the time to develop other projects in the background.
What are you working on right now? Can you describe any current projects or activities?
Considering the current media milieu, I think it's foolish to discuss work in progress.
What is success to you?
Influencing the way people see.
Do critics matter?
Only the good ones.
Obviously you've seen success in your career but can you tell us about a time you failed?
I agreed to 'rig at dawn'. AKA denied my instincts.
Do you think about legacy?
I would prefer to leave behind a legacy that is the result of living in the present.
What advice do you have for someone looking to break into your industry?
Do it at night. And wear a disguise. Perhaps a raccoon suit.
Did you ever give up (or want to give up)? What were the circumstances?
There's been some close calls. Most of them conference calls.
What trends in your field do you find most exciting / are you most optimistic about?
I like to at least imagine that there is a return to simplicity. To content over form. To a DIY approach to creation. The return of the auteur.
What about your field is frustrating? What would you like to see change?
The current culture of excess, trashy irony and mindless trends.
How do you plan to build on your success so far? Is there anything you fear will set you back?
I have been toying with the idea of designing a small new planet. Or at least a new way of living. At my own pace. On my own terms. The only possible setback would be my pace and terms.
What was the first moment you knew you were going to be able to do this as a job – not necessarily your first big break or success, but the first time you thought, "This is it, this is my career"?
If you're referring to photography, I've never really seen it as a career. I don't have an agent. I don't set out to shoot celebrities or massive commercial brands. Taking pictures always came easy; it is an extension of my total aesthetic.
What's been the biggest choice you've had to make in your career so far?
Kodak TX or Ilford HP5.
What is your morning routine like?
I get up at noon.
What are you most excited about for the future? (Can be about your career, your personal life, the world - anything.)
What are you most worried about for the future?
Aliens with extraordinary ability.
Are you good at giving advice? What is the best advice you've ever given?
Yes. I always say 'To each to his own'. That's like, my thing.
Are you good at receiving advice? What is the best advice you've ever received?
Someone once said to me — and this I will never forget — he said: "To each to his own"
What makes a person beautiful? What makes you beautiful?