I shot Sophie Dahl

Glen Erler fulfilled his desire to shoot a ‘large woman’ with his fashion pictures of Sophie Dahl. He discusses his impressive portfolio with Emma O’Kelly

Sophie Dahl may be famous for being the granddaughter of Roald Dahl, but as readers of Arena, Italian Vogue or ID know, it’s her modelling career which has really put her in the spotlight. While those in fashion circles gasp with horror and urge Dahl to to diet, for many, including American photographer Glen Erler, her 38DD chest and size 14 figure are “refreshing”.

So when Erler was asked to shoot her for New Zealand magazine Pavement’s fashion pages, he jumped at the chance. One of his long-term desires had always been “to shoot a large woman”, and it turned out to be “an interesting challenge”. Not because Dahl broke into tantrums on a supermodel scale – quite the opposite (“she is quite young and inexperienced”) – but because she turns the traditional perspective of fashion on its head. He says: “There she was, this young woman who is, in fact, bigger than a lot of other women, dressed in gear by Alexander McQueen and People’s Republic and all those other designers who think a size eight is pushing it. It was great to break the norm, but pretty nerve-racking.”

Not that Erler had anything to worry about. He has been in the business long enough to know how to get the best from his models. Portraits and people are his speciality. He started out nine years ago in LA with no formal training in photography – not even as an assistant – and maintains there was never any shortage of work. “I started out shooting ads and catalogues for trendy sports gear in LA,” he says. He got fed up with this and moved into portraiture, which proved to be an equally buoyant market: “In LA there are hundreds of celebrities all wanting their picture taken.” For Erler, these have included Lenny Kravitz, Robert Downey Jnr and KD Lang, for the cover of her last album, Ingénue.

Just over a year ago Erler left the profitable streets of LA and came to London. Why? “Because it’s more creative. People are more open to ideas and let you do what you’re good at, rather than asking you to do stuff you’re not interested in.” So fashion, design and advertising are where he’s at, and his portfolio is becoming ever more impressive. He’s currently doing an ad campaign for Adidas with agency Leagas Delaney, and has recently finished the cover of a book for Fourth Estate entitled Lila Says, which Vince Frost designed (see In Print supplement).

And for the next British Design and Art Direction newsletter Erler snapped Peter Greenaway, who made a big impression at his recent President’s lecture. “He’s way out there – really smart,” says Erler.

You get the feeling that he finds his next client – Scrumpy Jack cider – typically British in its eccentricity. “Scrumpy Jack is a pretty weird name. I’ve never drunk it, but the pic for the ad campaign is great.”

Glen Erler’s work is on show indefinitely at Glassworks, 33 Great Pulteney Street, London W1.

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