When a Photographer’s Family Is His Masterpiece

Pop Culture

This story is part of GQ’s Modern Lovers issue. 

Making art about your family is uncomfortable. “You don’t want to do your partner injustice,” photographer Erik Madigan Heck says. “You’re almost like, ‘How could I ever capture what we have?’ ” But his latest book, The Garden, does just that. Part of a larger project that includes an album of experimental music and two floral fragrances, it offers a fresh take on the family theme in photography.

Heck is best known as a fashion photographer—he’s shot for Fendi, Thom Browne, Gucci, GQ… The list goes on. He often references French masters like Monet and Vuillard in his work—and he brought those vibrant, stylized colors to The Garden, which he compares to a fairy tale. “It’s about the hopeful, idealized quality of the images,” Heck says.

An essay in The Garden reads, “Before you love someone—really love them—you can’t take a great picture of them.” That lesson extended from the project into Heck’s practice. He’s found that working with the people he loves the most liberates him to be the most creative version of himself.

Courtesy of Erik Madigan Heck, from The Garden, published by Damiani (2021)

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