Nick Knight

AI and Human Evolution: Nick Knight's Contemporary Approach

Show Notes


London-born photographer and SHOWstudio founder Nick Knight has remained at the forefront of what’s contemporary since his emergence into the fashion photography scene in the 1970s. Over the course of an illustrious career, Knight has worked closely with the likes of Alexander McQueen, Lady Gaga, Bjork and John Galliano, as well as with fashion houses such as Christian Dior, Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, and Yves Saint Laurent, among many others. Bringing an outsider’s insight into the fashion and art worlds, he began pushing boundaries in the ’80s in collaborations with i-D magazine and revolutionary designer Yohji Yamamoto. He has directed the trailblazing fashion film platform SHOWstudio for over two decades, pioneering new modes of artistic expression and audience connection. In a thoughtful conversation with Christopher Michael, Knight reflects on how he maintains a sense of artistic integrity and urgency—with or without the validation of commercial success. His hunger to continue to learn has driven not only a varied career spanning music, art, and fashion through the lens of the camera, but also kept him at the forefront of technological innovation, whether with SHOWstudio or a riveting perspective on AI—comparing it to the birth of photography and the internet—and how we will evolve.

Episode Highlights
  • Trial and error: Coming to photography after a failed attempt at becoming a doctor, Knight found that following his natural talent led to success and a sense of fulfillment.
  • Working with restrictions: For Knight, starting out with just a few rolls of film, natural curiosity, and “with your back to the wall” was the perfect learning opportunity.
  • A creative upbringing: Growing up amidst the countercultural revolution of the 1960s, Knight produced early work that delved into provocation and followed his obsessions.
  • Led by his fascinations: Knight used his photographic practice as a means for exploring unfamiliar subcultures, realizing that fashion wasn’t just the catwalk but coded into the social worlds of the clubs and dancehalls.
  • “Music was my way in”: Working with stylist Simon Foxton, Knight found his introduction to the world of fashion through music and art.
  • “Mind-blowing”: Taking cues from revolutionary designer Yohji Yamamoto’s 1980s collections, Knight was riveted by the idea that fashion—and photography—could be based on the soul rather than the sexuality of the body.
  • Refusal to be referential: Knight rejected photography as a fascination with the body and articulating instead an obsession with the mind, producing an aesthetic paradigm fit for a new generation of artists “outside the system.”
  • Innovation and newness: Knight continually modernized fashion and photography, guided by his talents and fascinations at critical technological junctures.
  • Best of both worlds: Seeing fashion photography as lacking in the ability to capture the fundamental movement of clothing, Knight explored the invention of fashion film.
  • Perspectives born of necessity: Knight saw fashion photography and filmmaking as two distinct practices that could be combined to inform one another.
  • “An uplifting moment of freedom and experimentation”: With the rise of the internet, Knight was free to do the work he loved outside the system and in new mediums
  • Commercialization of fashion: What had previously been an art form evolved into a lucrative form of business with the rise of Vogue and Anna Wintour.
  • Guided by passions: Knight saw SHOWstudio as a rethinking of the magazine format at a critical moment when the internet allowed a reproposal of how we see—and who sees—fashion. “It wasn’t that we just wanted to do something differently. We just wanted to do something that was exciting.”
  • “They can never replace the human feelings”: Reflecting on the advent of photography and platforms like SHOWstudio, Knight is enthusiastic about working with AI as it evolves and is fascinated with the idea of immortality.
  • Balancing a successful discipline and a personal art practice: Knight often experiences connection with the viewer of his work in total anonymity, insisting on doing what’s exciting instead of what’s profitable.

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