A new book has been released – between running a music label, playing in a band, and juggling day jobs that include, oh, being the face of Maybelline, It Couple Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl found the time to spend a day in a New York City studio with photographer Alex Freund. It resulted in Sean + Kemp, a 50-page coffee table-worthy book that captures this duo in their most intimate (and provocative—think Muhl straddling Lennon like she’s riding a motorcycle) moments. Elle caught up with Freund to find out the hardest part about shooting a couple, and why he didn’t want to re-enact Double Fantasy.
ELLE: Of all the couples in the world, what made you want to photograph Sean and Charlotte?
AF: It was a no-brainer: They’re pop icons in their own right and are a gorgeous couple with great style. Their creative energy comes through in their music and in how they present themselves in images.
ELLE: This is a frequently photographed couple; is there any pressure in trying to ensure that you don’t replicate what’s been done before?
AF: I researched how they’ve been shot in the past, and found that most other photographers have in one way or another made blatant references to Sean’s parents, John and Yoko (which most of the time I found too overt), and didn’t see him as his own person—he’s not his dad. I thought it would be much more interesting to see them for who they are. Both of them are accomplished in their own right and I thought this should be evident in the images. They are also often photographed in a stiff, contrived way and I wanted to bring a sense of wild creativity to the images; they were very much themselves on set, very unguarded and confident with who they are.
ELLE: A lot of your photographs involve couples—what attracts you to capturing duos, romantic or otherwise, on film?
AF: There’s a very beautiful and complex interaction that goes on with a couple. People behave differently with someone with whom they’re intimate or to whom they are attracted than they do with other people in a way which flows naturally. I like to capture evocative “real” moments in a cinematic way.
ELLE: Is there a big difference between shooting a couple that is actually intimate versus two models who are playing a couple for the camera?
AF: There is sometimes, [but] it really depends on the couple. The most important thing on a shoot is trust, both between the subjects and with me as the photographer. I never ask anyone to do anything they’re not comfortable doing –it’s always a collaborative process with my models. The couples that are actually intimate sometimes tend to be more about not being intimate in front of the camera; they’re less self-conscious and are more likely to play or push each others’ buttons. They’re used to letting their guard down. It’s when two people meet for the first time that you really feel a sense of electricity on set. Some of the models I’ve shot as couples were in a relationship with someone else, but on set they definitely “clicked”.
The book is now available at Amazon.