There was a phase when you seemed to have fallen out of fashion photography and moved on to the more ideas-driven, experimental work you’re better known for now. Does the latter feel more ‘you’?
Well, I hate those photographers and those models who use fashion as some kind of stepping stone – who make a load of cash from it and then claim it’s all shallow, because it’s not entirely shallow. There is a lot of art within it. So when I hear models say, “Oh, I’m an actor now”, I feel… right, yeah, fuck off. Besides, you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you. I think it’s more that I never felt I was a very good fashion photographer. One of the first shoots I did was of Björk, and they were all talking about the jumper and I hadn’t even noticed it. To me it was just green, so looked good against a green background. I could never just do the seduction of fashion photography. I always wanted it to be about ideas, or put politics into it, and that was my Achilles heel. But I look back now and feel like I dodged a bullet. It’s too much of a bubble, that world, and it’s just not very me, which is probably why I wasn’t too good at it. I think success in that not-very-down-to-earth world would have been very bad for me. I was already an arrogant fucker anyway.
You once said that that image of youthful cocksureness has followed you around your entire career. Do you think it still shapes how people respond to you?
Definitely, yeah. People think I’m too expensive, or that I have a really bad attitude. I listened to myself in an interview the other day and thought I still sounded cocky. But it’s more I think that I’m confident, opinionated, and honest. That combination is something that people don’t appreciate all the time. You grow up, have a kid, break out of your own bubble, [and] just realise there’s more to the world than the little thing you’re doing. You start to see that the genius [of a successful piece of work] is to collaborate, not to dictate.