Daring, richly imagined photography has long been a part of W’s DNA. That’s why, in partnership with the International Center of Photography, we’re introducing The Shot, an annual initiative to identify the standouts from the next generation of fashion shooters. After polling industry tastemakers—from photographers and agents to editors, stylists, and curators—we’ve come up with a short list of six exhilarating new talents. In January, one of them will be announced as the recipient of our inaugural award. The winner will be profiled in these pages in March and will shoot a feature editorial for September’s Fall Fashion issue. First, though, let’s get to know our nominees. Best learn their names now.—Fan Zhong
By most standards, the New York–based photographer works in a virtual vacuum. For both editorials and advertising campaigns, his process typically begins when a designer, like Mary Katrantzou or Dries Van Noten, sends him pieces from a collection. Then, with hardly a word of his plans, Heck absconds—reappearing with finished images that offer a startling, pure vision of the clothes. “It’s total creative freedom,” says the 29-year-old, who established the high-end fashion tome Nomenus Quarterly in 2007, of his unusual method. “I’ve never known any other way.”
Heck acts as his own editor and art director—a method that may seem hermetic but is also, in a way, boundless. He’s free to dream up a fresh visual language for each assignment, such as the experimental film processes he deployed in order to realize his boldly colored painterly images for Katrantzou. “He understands my clothes and creates a world around them,” says the designer. “It’s like he’s in combat against the limitations of photography.”
These days, the 31-year-old Irish photographer’s work appears in British Vogue and i-D, but when Love editor Katie Grand first saw his documentary-style pictures in 2010, George was still a fashion innocent. “He had shot a series on Zambian diamond miners that reminded me of Avedon’s American West,” recalls Grand, who gave him his first major magazine assignment (with Donatella Versace, no less). George wasn’t very well versed in the particulars of fashion photography, nor its history. But, says Grand, “Rather than think him ignorant, I was charmed.”
As one school of thought posits, Where there is nothing, there can be everything. George’s absence of preconceptions about what makes a fashion image only helped his photographs feel more authentic. “I just try to create a beautiful picture,” he says. “If there also happens to be a beautiful girl in beautiful clothes? Even better.”
Last year, the Sweden-raised Pole was tapped to shoot an entire issue of Dazed & Confused; he was also handpicked by Carine Roitfeld to contribute to the first issue of her magazine CR Fashion Book. It’s not hard to see why there is great demand for the 31-year-old’s coolly lit fashion images, which can project an eerie moodiness. “Maybe that’s just my Polish heritage,” Kasprzyk jokes.
Not all of his work is so portentous, however. One of his most striking photographs features the model Arizona Muse lit up by a wide smile. “That’s one of my favorites,” the photographer says. “I think the smile is one of the sexiest things a person can have—even as I tend toward melancholia.”
For his first ever fashion shoot, the Parisian photographer cast the models, styled them, and did their hair and makeup. They were his cousin and his younger sister, and Sadli was just 10 years old. “I did the whole shebang,” he recalls. “But I never thought it would become my actual job.”
Now the 32-year-old Sadli is being asked to produce pictures of elegant restraint for the pages of French Vogue and Fantastic Man. “I associate Karim’s work with his personality—serene,” says Franck Durand, the French art director who’s tapped Sadli for ad campaigns for Isabel Marant and Céline. “I can have all the props in the world, but I always end up putting them away,” Sadli says. He suspects his childhood DIY experiments were formative: “The composition was not so different from what I’m doing now.”
The upstate–New York native, who’s now based in Paris and Los Angeles, makes fastidious photographs of stark still lifes and women who—with their faces often turned away, obscured by shadows, or simply unseen— seem mysterious. But by shrinking her frame down in size, Ghertner invites the viewer closer. “I like a really small world,” she explains.
“Zoe’s audacious cropping can bring inanimate objects to life,” says Penny Martin, editor of the magazine The Gentlewoman, which often publishes Ghertner’s work. The 28-year-old photographer started out shooting on film using natural light and learned to capture people by focusing first on the hands. Gradually, she began to include more of the female form—and she’s been a quick study, aided by her early training in ballet: “I have an ability,” she says, “to see the body in its most flattering lines.”
As with many a great fashion photographer, the Manchester, England, native started with a brush in his hand before turning to the camera. “I’ve always wanted to take pictures the way I used to paint,” Lennox explains—that is, in supersaturated colors and with a sense of movement.
“Benjamin has a wonderful instinct for light,” says Hector Castro, a fashion editor for 10 magazine who has worked closely with Lennox. “He brings dynamism to the picture.” By using long exposures and inventive lighting, the 28-year-old creates tightly controlled blurs that give the images an active quality. Nevertheless, it’s not merely Lennox’s mechanical skills that make him a unique talent. “My favorite evolution in his work,” Castro says, “is his realization that he can let go of technique in favor of visual exuberance.”