Solve Sundsbo: His bizarre, cleverly manipulated images have made him fashion photography's hottest new star

When fashion photographer Solve Sundsbo started his career, for a while it seemed as though he would get no further than the dole queue. "People would say to me, 'I'm not sure I can hire you, I'm not sure what you're doing. What is your style?' I was mortified and thought I was never going to make a living as a photographer."

The problem was that curiosity had got the better of the young Norwegian and he couldn't help but embrace every photographic technique going. His work incorporated everything from X-rays and 3-D scanning to hi-tech manipulation and laborious hand-painted retouching. "If I've got a style," says Sundsbo, "it's that I've got no style."

Undeterred, and still in his early twenties, Sundsbo hopped on a plane to London to set about seeking his fortune. And four months into a photography course at the London College of Printing he got a call from Nick Knight, who was looking for an assistant. For a young fashion photographer, there are few better places to start. Knight is not only regarded as one of the world's most visionary fashion photographers, but his Show Studio gallery continually pushes the boundaries of artistic possibilities. "It was hard – almost medieval in the way that you devote yourself utterly to your teacher for nearly four years. But you get that same devotion back from your teacher."

The hard work paid off and Sundsbo is now regarded as a fashion-world institution.

The designer Tom Ford cannot speak highly enough of him. "Solve is a great talent in the fashion industry," he says. "His photographs speak for themselves. They are powerful, beautiful, always fresh, and I am lucky to have worked with him over the past decade."

Sundsbo's portfolio reads like a who's who of luxury designers – Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Gucci, Hermès, Bally and Armani. He has also branched out into short films, teaming up with Alexander McQueen to produce a piece for the Florence Biennale. "We set Eva Herzigova on fire," he says. "She was really floating on water but it looked as if she was going up in flames." He's also responsible for the covers of this month's Dazed & Confused and the current issue of Pop, featuring supermodel Stephanie Seymour.

Despite his versatility, it's easy to spot a Sundsbo image. His pictures look as if they've been digitally altered, when in fact often they haven't. "People assume my work has been through a computer but actually I also use a lot of old-fashioned techniques," he says. The concept is also more important to Sundsbo than the finish and he probably has more in common with a fine artist than slick fashion snapper. When he was asked to take a picture of Nitin Sawhney, for example, he made a plaster-cast model of the musician's head and took a picture of that instead. And when YSL hired him to shoot a fragrance campaign, he persuaded a former member of the French Olympic tae kwon do team to appear in advertising's first full-frontal male nude shoot. "We're raised to understand that women's bodies sell products," he says, "but when you apply the same notion to a male, people can't accept it. It was an interesting exercise in people's perceptions."

Sundsbo is now intent on railing against mediocrity in fashion imagery. "Photography has become democratic – anyone with a digital camera can shoot something and alter it in Photoshop to make it look polished. For the past four or five years there's been a lot of dull, perfected work around, but there's an industry backlash going on now."

To coincide with London Fashion Week, Sundsbo is launching his inaugural exhibition in London's Spring Studios, a former paint factory that is now a devoted fashion gallery. Sundsbo's work will be blown up and reproduced to the highest quality – a luxury that fashion magazines can't afford. One of his best-known pictures on show is of the British model Karen Elson, with the colours slightly altered to give the image a harder, otherworldly edge. Then there are shots of Canadian model Jessica Stam smiling through a tiny set of fangs, and designer Gareth Pugh in a knitted American football kit. "The great thing about being a photographer is that you can manipulate your own universe," concludes Sundsbo. "It would be wonderful if the world was inhabited by these creatures. I'd love it if any one of them walked out of the frame and into my world."

Saturated, by Solve Sundsbo, is at Spring Studios, London NW5, www.springstudios.co.uk, from 8 February to 20 March

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Primary Teacher

    £90 - £145 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Primary Su...

    Service Delivery Manager - Software Company

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager Kingston Up...

    Year 3 Teacher

    £90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 Primary Teacher in HullA f...

    Drama Teacher - Hull and Grimsby

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: The JobRandstad are currently in need of ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments