Liberty Ross

by Susannah Frankel .

This project is more like performance art, recorded photographically, with the model dressing up, like Leigh Bowery or Cindy Sherman, except the viewer can influence the outcome of the piece.

Susannah Frankel: Why does this project in particular interest you?

Liberty Ross: All the projects I have worked on with Nick have really pushed the boundaries both creatively and in what is expected of me. I respect Nick for involving me in the creative process. SHOWstudio is an amazing forum for art, a virtual gallery that draws inspiration and contributors from many fields. It is also a worldwide forum and most of the questions that I have been asked through the site have been international. A friend of mine at art college in California told me that SHOWstudio was part of their coursework because it was such a cutting edge breeding ground for ideas. I am excited to work with them on such an in depth project and we are all very interested in throwing open the creative control to people who use the site.

Susannah Frankel: Are you not nervous about the idea of people 'directing' you in this way? It's very different from the trusting relationship between photographer and model because complete strangers will be asking you to do things and presumably, there will be some dodgy hits...

Liberty Ross: To be honest I am not worried at all, there are far more exciting sites if you are looking for titillation. Furthermore, there are a few photographers who I wouldn't trust any more than an evening with Ron Jeremy.

I like the idea of the anonymous direction, it is like a photographic peep show, sometimes we try and control everything too much and as in film it is sometimes the events that are out of control that make the magic.

Susannah Frankel: Where would you draw the line?

Liberty Ross: If someone asks me to do something that I don't want to do, I won't do it.

Susannah Frankel: What is the difference between this and the pornographic sites that inspire it?

Liberty Ross: Although the porno sites have a link to this project, it is not only exclusively inspired or based on that, it is more to do with control and voyeuristic content.

Susannah Frankel: How important, in the end, is fashion to the project?

Liberty Ross: This is a project that is just trying to do something different and fashion is a part of it, it could exist with no links to fashion at all and still have the same relevance. Like all creative media fashion borrows ideas from the others. This project is more like performance art, recorded photographically, with the model dressing up, like Leigh Bowery or Cindy Sherman, except the viewer can influence the outcome of the piece.

Susannah Frankel: I think it's interesting that you tend to take on far more challenging projects than many models - I'm thinking about the mask in 'Transformer' for example as well, of course, as this. Why do you put yourself through it?

Liberty Ross: The best work for a model is with the most interesting photographers. These photographers challenge photography and therefore challenge you. In today's commercial world, the best photographers can survive as artists by being paid commercially, photographers like Nick live, sleep and breathe photography.

Susannah Frankel: The fashion world is perceived as very glossy. Do you see yourself as challenging that when you take on projects like this one?

Liberty Ross: As you say it is 'perceived' as very glossy, and the end product usually is. However, it is normally gruelling and exhausting and with this project SHOWstudio is giving the people the opportunity to see what it is really like. The project has been documented from the start, by the end of the shoot it shall be complete, giving the audience the chance to see how an initial idea evolves into something greater.

Susannah Frankel: So, do you not care about whether you are portrayed as 'pretty' then?

Liberty Ross: No, I never really have, I see myself as a blank canvas and it excites me to be able to have the opportunity to become someone different every time I shoot.

In my 'Fragments of Me' piece, I am showing people the real me. I didn't once think, shit, I should make myself up! Each fragment was very spontaneous and real, it was all done at home, just an idea and a camera.

Susannah Frankel: You've worked a lot with Nick, what is the appeal of that? What makes him special?

Liberty Ross: Nick pushes the boundaries of photography, both in fashion and the world of photography itself. He is a furious innovator and embraces all technologies in making images. There is no one like him working today, he is an artist and few really deserve that title. He also pushes the model to the limits physically and involves them creatively. For me it is more of an actor/director relationship, where we create a character together and then Nick brings it to life and captures its essence in a single frame. For me the most rewarding work I have done has been with Nick.

Susannah Frankel: Would you describe your relationship as quite equal?

Liberty Ross: I think our relationship is like that of painter and muse; we both work off each other. There is a special moment when everything is finally set, stylists, assistants, light meters and hair and make-up all drift back into the studio and leave silence.

Nick and I are alone and we just work together, he speaks and I move, I move and he reacts. Also, as the model, you cannot see anyone else in the darkness, past the glare of the lights, just Nick and the capturing shutter. Nick only sees me through the viewfinder as the shutter opens and closes, capturing the image.

A version of this interview was printed in The Independent, 23 June 2005