On the January morning after his 32nd birthday, Boo George sat bleary-eyed in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Manhattan, enjoying a restorative breakfast. Upstairs, an old mate from back home in rural County Wicklow, Ireland, was sleeping off the night. The party had gone late, but George, whose romantic images of punks and free spirits have caused his star to ascend very quickly in the fashion world, had plenty to celebrate: In the past three years, the former assistant to Bruce Weber has shot covers for i-D, Teen Vogue, T, and Interview Russia, and two days prior, he had been named the winner of The Shot, an initiative cosponsored by the International Center of Photography (ICP) and W to identify the next generation of great fashion photographers. “Boo’s a very promising talent,” says the legendary fashion editor Polly Mellen, one of the competition’s judges. “His pictures have a haunting quality that makes me want to see more.”
From top: Boo George on set in Venice, 2012; a shoot for British Vogue, 2012.
George’s fashion stories—which he often sets on desolate beaches, in endless wheat fields, or on barren city blocks—can seem quiet. Not so the photographer himself. As a child, he says, he wouldn’t shut up. “My friend’s mum thought I talked a lot,” he explains in his Irish brogue. “She told me I should do something in media.” And George listened: He began taking pictures of Gypsies camping in the Wicklow Mountains. “I loved this idea of a community that lives on the outskirts of the outskirts.” It was his 2010 portraits of Zambian diamond miners that caught the eye of Love editor Katie Grand, who gave him his first big fashion break. “Boo’s really at his best when he has a rapport with his subject,” Grand says. His emphasis on character and setting is, in the opinion of ICP curator Carol Squiers, what separates him from his peers. “The model as an expressive human being will become more important in fashion photography,” predicts Squiers, who also judged The Shot. “In the future, models will need to be good actors.” Though George is the first to admit he’s only getting started. “I’m still just a young man taking pictures, really,” he insists. Mellen concedes he has room to grow, but, she adds, “this boy’s got it.”
All images courtesy of Boo George