Ted Belton is a fashion photographer based in Toronto. His stunning photographs don’t just sell clothes. They tell whimsical stories that add a certain aesthetic to the designs he shoots for. From photography to his core love for acting, Belton is an eccentric and unique talent that is being noticed in the world of fashion.
Novella interviewed Belton and got to know the photographer and his craft. He revealed which one of his works he’s most proud of, designers he’d love to shoot for and his ritual before he begins creating beautiful images.
Novella: What drew you to fashion photography? And how did you discover your passion for it?
Belton: To be honest, I don’t really remember any pivotal moment that first introduced me to fashion or fashion photography. I grew up thinking I was going to be an actor or an illustrator. I drew a lot of characters, and designed costumes for them. Eventually I think I developed an interest in clothing from a costume perspective. I looked at fashion photos to learn about draping and who might wear what. I suppose I eventually started thinking in terms of fashion photographs. The photos of mine that I find most satisfying are portraits of characters. I still really think of myself as an actor, I’m just not in the pictures.
Novella: In your opinion, what makes a memorable photograph?
Belton: I think a memorable photograph has to be both graphically strong and also emotionally substantial. A strong, beautiful photograph can catch your eye, but there needs to be a human element to keep the image in your mind. A sense of wonder that keeps us curious, or something fundamentally human that we recognize in ourselves.
Novella: What fashion photographers have influenced your career?
Belton: Irving Penn was one of the first photographers that I ever learned by name. Before I had any interest in photography my mother told me about Irving Penn. He’s always been, in my mind, the greatest of the great.
Novella: What work/collection are you most proud of?
Belton: I’ve been working with Élan + Castor for about four seasons now. I think we’ve developed a great way of working together and I’m proud of that. The work is some of my favourite, but it’s the relationship and the creative discussions we have in developing the shoots that I’m most proud of. Good working relationships are more worth chasing than prestigious work, because the latter follows the former naturally.
Novella: Which designer are you dying to shoot for?
Belton: Yohji Yamamoto and John Galliano are the two designers I would be most eager to work for. What they do just excites me, I see photographs walking down the runway when I watch their shows.
Novella: What other type of photography do you tackle into or what other types of photography would you like to try out?
Belton: When I have the resources to do it on my own terms, I would love to transition into gallery work.
Novella: Who has been your biggest muse?
Belton: I’m not sure I think in terms of muses. I’ve found a lot of joy in learning about Patti Smith and her peers. I suppose that era of the New York art and fashion scene has been really inspiring for the past couple years. So maybe that’s a muse.
Novella: What type of gear do you use?
Belton: For jobs I shoot on a DSLR. For everything else I have a growing collection of old film cameras, which I really can’t afford to own or use. But I love them.
Novella: What’s your ritual before you start to shoot and during?
Belton: I like getting to the studio early and taking my time setting up. Comfort has become really important to me in the past few months. It’s important that I have a simple set-up and I’m comfortable. I don’t like to think about too much other than the picture I’m looking for. I’m not a very technical photographer and I’m too lazy to commit to any sort of routine. I just like being early. Sometimes two hours early, even though it only takes me half an hour to set up.
Novella: Fill in the blank: I can’t live without_____.
Belton: I can’t live without film. Digital has its place for sure, but if I don’t shoot a roll of film every so often I lose touch with reality.
Novella: Where in Toronto do you go to scope out the photography scene?
Belton: Analogue Gallery on Queen West usually has some cool stuff up.
Check out more of Ted’s work on his website HERE.