Charlotte Rutherford was into “dancing and pop stars” when growing up in rural England. In saying so, she laughs effusively over the phone (she is calling in from Los Angeles).
“I was obsessed with boy bands,” the photographer and artist continues. It was America’s Next Top Model—“I was so into it! It was super dramatic, so trashy but so good”—combined with an early love of photo manipulation that turned her onto photography at age 14.
Now 26, Rutherford is living and working in L.A., where she has shot Rihanna (see: the electric-pop Fenty Savage ads), Paris Hilton (she reimagined her as a sexed-up Amazonian queen), Amandla Stenberg (picture Alice and Wonderland but from the future), and most recently, Grimes.
“I was looking at beauty and art in L.A., where there is so much fantasy,” says the artist of her shoot with Grimes. “The idea was just based around her. It wasn’t really about trying to create a different world.”
Rutherford’s work has a dreamy, hyper-pop and lighthearted sensibility. David LaChapelle is an influence. So is “not having Internet.” So are “Disney movies. How they are animated and the colors they use. Lots of cartoons. Even stuff like YouTube videos,” says Rutherford.
She doesn’t take herself too seriously (her ideal day? “Just eating and floating around in the pool”) and she’s not afraid to sound silly or to improvise. “I really like things that are on the line between intentional and unintentional,” she explains. “I guess maybe the word is playful? Mixing bad and good things to make the bad things good and the good things better.”
The effect is engrossing and, without a doubt, fun.
“I think dream people to shoot would be Sylvester Stallone. People who are kind of a character. The Rock,” says Rutherford. “There’s also something quite interesting about shooting some influencers. Their presence exists because of how they’ve situated themselves. Can we shoot someone and make them more interesting to their fans than they are already? Because it’s not like a pop star where there are a lot of people involved with their image. A lot of times, it’s one person in a room who has made this whole world. So then, it’s an interesting collaboration because this is their brand and this is their thing and they really want to be seen.”
“I think everything and anything can be cool and great, and also sincerity is the key,” she muses. “You can do the silliest thing ever, but I think if there is an element of sincerity, it makes it cooler. And I feel like a lot of people I shoot—they have more to say than I have to say.” Check out the following for a selection of Charlotte Rutherford’s works.