Jonathan de Villiers 

Gunpowder Plot 2 

Gunpowder Plot 2

About the artist

Everything about Jonathan de Villiers is oversized. Standing 6 ft 7 and a bit, the Paris-based Englishman - a former philosophy student and printer in a London photo lab - runs marathons, does fashion shoots (and sometimes both simultaneously), or flies off to Peru to make a film about the Atacama Desert’s astronomical observatories and their giant telescopes. His earlier work for Vogue Italia, Sleazenation and The Face, in the 1990's-2000's, featured a truly distinctive style - often extravagant, sometimes caustic - and it wasn’t unusual to see a giraffe sticking its neck through the door of a plush South African home, or a crowd of  “ultra-stylish” extras are guests at an Italian wedding, complete with layer cake, while the bride and groom, perched high on a balcony, listen to the instructions of a wedding photographer (de Villiers himself, wearing a tuxedo).
De Villiers knows his “pop” visual culture well, from album covers to magazines, from wedding photography to advertising. There’s a sense of fun in watching him juggling with these different codes and re-injecting bits of them into his photographs. De Villiers is an analytical, curious mind with rare aesthetic understanding and perseverance: he takes editorial and fashion photography into new, seldom-visited territories, bringing together aesthetic sense and reflection about our image-driven society.


In what context did you work on this fireworks series?
The editor of Numero, Jonathan Wingfield, wanted to do something celebratory for their hundredth issue. I am always interested in toying with photographic clichés - firework photography definitely belongs in that category!

What does the title Gunpowder Plot make reference to?

In England, the 5th of November celebrates the thwarting of the Gunpowder Plot, an assassination attempt against the king carried out by a group of Catholics on November 5, 1605. It takes its name from the fact that the plotters planned to blow up the Houses of Parliament with powder kegs.

What is your background? How did you come to photography?
As a teenager, I started taking pictures of the bands I went to see, like The Smiths and The Fall. After school, I worked as a photographic printer before going on to study philosophy at university. By the time I finished my studies, the British art scene was exploding and a lot of great new photography was being done in the fashion magazines. I started shooting for Sleaze Nation in London and Self Service in Paris and tried to bring politics, humour and an artistic perspective to magazine commissions (mainly fashion but also other genres).
You’ve essentially been practising photography for magazines and advertising. What do you like about working in an editorial/commission context? Do you agree with Erwin Blumenfeld – the Godfather of fashion photography – when he talks of a photographer’s responsibility towards the huge audiences he reaches through magazines?
I'm interested in magazines to the extent that the readership is focused on being entertained and stimulated rather than choosing things to buy. It's not so much that I feel a responsibility to the readership but more the rather selfish motive of wanting to do interesting work myself!

Limited edition, numbered and signed.

Selected shows and awards

Fashion in the Mirror, The Photographers' Gallery, London, 2008
Jonathan de Villiers, International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Hyères, villa Noailles, France, 2005
Prix No Limit, Rencontres Internationales de Photographie, Arles, 2004
Chic Clicks, Winterthur Fotomuseum, 2002
Imperfect Beauty, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2001

Selected publications

Fashion Italian Style, Yale, 2003
Chic Clicks, Hatje Cantz, 2002
Exposing Meaning in Fashion, Creative Time, 1999
Imperfect Beauty, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2001


& order

Jonathan de Villiers 
Gunpowder Plot 2


Technical information

Pigment print on Ilford Gold Fiber Silk paper - limited edition, numbered and signed certificate.


26,5 x 40 cm, Edition of 100 200.00 €

By the same artist

Jonathan de Villiers

By the same curator