As I remember it, Jonathan Pryce and I first met outside the Calvin Klein show at Milan Fashion Week in June as he was running about shooting streetstyle for Mr Porter. He wore these amazing brown tweed trousers which surprised me, seeing as it was about 35 degrees at the time, but the heat didn’t appear to be phasing him in the slightest as he darted in front of cars and behind pedestrians to get the perfect shots. After the milling crowds had dispersed, a bunch of us, including Jonathan, attempted to find some food to eat, but it being a Sunday in Milan, and 3:30pm to boot, our only option was a quasi-Italian eatery some 10 minutes’ walk away. Cue good conversation, and bad, bad food. Since then, I’ve kept a keen eye on his social media footprint, following both of his blogs (100 Beards, and Garcon Jon), and keeping abreast of his fascination with the bearded man. So when he messaged me the other day to say his second book — appropriately titled 100 Beards, Edition Two — was launching, I immediately requested an interview. Read below to hear how this 25 year old Scotsman got out of the outer Hebrides and into the international world of men’s style, one beard at a time.
You come from Scotland, which has a bunch of stylish expats (Patrick Grant, Ewan McGregor, yourself, etc), and a ton of menswear approved exports (Fair Isle knits, Harris Tweed, Black Watch check, etc), but not a population necessarily known for being stylish. How did you find yourself in the world of menswear?
You’re spot on. There are also many Scottish designers who are currently the talk of the town, like Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders. I’ve always been interested in design and used to sit in my art class in rural Scotland devouring the photography in international fashion publications. This was before broadband, smart phones and social media, so there was something of an escapism in those pages. As I grew up in quite a remote place, using my clothing for self-expression was very important. On a personal level I always loved design and my interest grew as I did. There’s an intriguing balance to menswear between practicality and eccentricity that I love. When I began shooting streetstyle, I photographed anyone who I thought looked interesting but after a few years I realised that great men were really underrepresented. I’ve really found my home in the world of menswear.
When did you start taking photos? Why streetstyle?
I first picked up a 35mm camera when I was about 7 but I began doing it seriously in 2007. I studied in New York and it’s a great city to photograph. When I returned from the States I had a desire to capture my home city of Glasgow because of its negative reputation — if anyone in the US had heard of Glasgow, it was usually for the depravation. I started my first blog Les Garcons de Glasgow with my best friend to show the culture, diversity and art — the city that we saw and lived in. That site became somewhat of an institution and led to my passion for men’s style in particular.
How old are you, sir? What gave you the confidence to go out and publish a god damn book?
I’m past the quarter century mark but feel like the confidence I have can actually be put down to naivety. Little did I know how much work would go into making a book…
I’ve been shooting streetstyle for about 6 years and although I love capturing clothing, I wanted to explore a trend that was a little more personal. There’s something unique about the beard — it is truly unique to the individual, but it also generates a huge response from the general public. Some people hate them, some adore them and many find them hilarious. It’s both a fashion trend and a way of life.
Most exciting beard you’ve shot?
Patrick Grant is a tailor on Savile Row and has a real cult following. Justin O’Shea is one of those streetstyle stars so it was kind of a pre-requisite to include him in the project as he’s got such sharp style. I really admire the work of Bruce Pask so photographing him was a real pleasure. Overall, my favourite people to shoot are real guys though. I love hearing people’s stories and holding a camera seems to give me an access-all-areas pass into their lives. One of the most poignant portraits for me was of my friend, the late Iain Banks. He was a hugely talented writer and sadly passed away suddenly this year. The portrait I shot was the last professional one of his life and I think it captures his charm and wit.
Was there a moment when something particular happened in your photography career and you were like, ‘I’ve arrived!’
Winning ‘Photographer of the Year’ at the Scottish Fashion Awards in 2012 was a pretty great feeling. I was handed the award by Brix Smith-Start and Alexa Chung, and Henry Holland, Chris Kane, Jonathan Saunders and all the editors you could dream of were all in the audience. It was a great start to the year.
How long did it take for you to start making money from what you do? What’s your business model?
I actually began a digital consultancy, shooting for clients on the side. Organically clients asked more and more for photos so my foray into the world of image-making happened quite naturally. I first started making money shooting streetstyle for trend agencies, magazines and brands, then really began to focus on my career after winning the Scottish Fashion Awards. The more successful my blogs have become (both 100beards.tumblr.com and GarconJon.com), the more the jobs have rolled in. I’ve just shot a big campaign to launch London Collections: Men with the Mayor of London which will be displayed in posters across the tube network — I got that job because the client was a fan of my blog.
Advice for young upstarts who want to work in menswear/photography, Scottish or otherwise?
It’s all about hard work and networking. It sounds obvious but it really is true. When I started, I had 3 jobs plus a blog and freelance work. I think I slept about 3 hours a night but it really has hugely contributed to the work I’m getting now.
It’s getting bloody cold! What should we be wearing to stay warm and look cool?
Lots of layers. Being Scottish I’ve got to champion a bit of Harris Tweed – it’s the only fabric to keep truly warm. Duchamp London does a great overcoat, as does Jigsaw Menswear. Having said that I just bought the ultimate peacoat from Reiss — it’s so beautiful.
And most importantly, where can we buy your book!?
Online at 100beards.bigcartel.com and I’m having a big launch on the 18th of December at Red Bull Studios on Tooley Street, London Bridge. I’ll be signing copies as well as doing a live beard photoshoot throughout the night — it will be the hairiest night London’s seen in a long time.
And the man himself, Jonathan Daniel Pryce.
I LIKE YOU!