Meet the New Photographer: Bon Duke Didn’t Know What the CFDA Was Three Years Ago, Now Shoots for Prabal and Chloé

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Photo: Bon Duke

Bon Duke got his first break in the fashion world when the CFDA hired him to shoot Proenza Schouler accessories for their 2009 awards ceremony (the year Jack and Lazaro won Accessory Designer of the Year). “I had to Google the CFDA,” confesses Duke, who was then a newly minted grad of the School of Visual Arts. His photos, which are edgy with an element of romance, apparently made an impression; not long afterward he found himself shooting for Prabal Gurung, Philip Lim, Zac Posen, and Chloé (check out the video he did for the brand, below). Click through our slideshow to see the work of the 24-year-old Greenpoint, Brooklyn, native and hear more from our interview.

Janie Taylor for Chloé on Nowness.com.

Photo: Bon Duke

On breaking into fashion photography:

“I remember getting the call from someone who said, ‘We want you to shoot Proenza Schouler for the CFDA.’ They gave me all their accessories, which were amazing, and I thought, Oh these look funny, like horns or horse feet. So I photographed them that way on the model. And then at the ceremony when they won, there’s my photo on the screen and I’m like … what did I do?”

Photo: Bon Duke

On choosing models:

“When I cast models for fashion shoots, I always want to choose the model that has character. There has to be a life or soul to them. In my portraiture, that’s what I’m seeking.”

Photo: Bon Duke

On his dream client:

“I would love to direct a commercial for Levi’s. I know it’s kind of odd coming from a fashion background but Levi’s is such a powerful statement because it’s a lifestyle.”

Photo: Bon Duke

On shooting portraits:

“I like to have shape and form in a portrait. I treat it almost as a still life. I think that comes from working in fashion photography and working with the clothes.”

Photo: Bon Duke

On inspiration:

“I actually find a lot of inspiration in gastronomy. I’ll be at a restaurant and I’ll see people sitting together and be like, wow. It can be a hole in the wall or somewhere deep in Queens. You just find these characters that come in.”

Photo: Bon Duke

On deciding to be a photographer:

“I got into photography when I was in high school, taking pictures of my paintings. It was so much easier than painting! I was working on a portfolio shooting more abstract things and for the sake of saving money I was hoping to go to FIT. I actually got rejected from FIT on the spot during the interview. Luckily, I got into the School of Visual Arts the next day.”

Photo: Bon Duke

On his first photograph:

“It was taken with a camera my dad gave me at the zoo when I was 4. I think it was a beluga whale.”

Meet the New Photographer: Bon Duke