Landon Nordeman Captures the Glitz of Palm Beach

Landon Nordeman's Banana Leaf Dress, Palm Beach, 2018.
Landon Nordeman's Banana Leaf Dress, Palm Beach, 2018.

For more than a decade, New York-based photographer Landon Nordeman has entranced the worlds of fashion and art with his effortlessly composed photography and portraits. From fashion shoots for major brands to spontaneous moments captured at political rallies and campaigns, Nordeman's lens becomes a glimpse into other universes. On March 29, the photographer takes us to Palm Beach for his exhibition of new works at The Colony Hotel. Cultured sat down with Nordeman to talk about his show "High Season", spontaneity and human nature.

Tell me about your upcoming Palm Beach exhibition, “High Season”? I photographed Palm Beach as part of an artist residency at The Colony Hotel—an idea dreamed up in collaboration with my New York gallery, Voltz Clarke. Having never been to Palm Beach before I was excited to see it with my own eyes and make a new series of photographs.

You are known for capturing unexpected moments and emotion. How do you find these opportunities? Are you always looking?I always have an idea of what I am looking for—but I never know what it is until I see it. I believe that pictures happen anywhere, so yes, I am always looking. The key for me is being open to possibility and surprise and following my instincts. Lead with your heart not your head--any moment can become a photograph.

Trumpettes, Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, 2018.

What’s the difference between being backstage at the Republican National Convention and New York Fashion week? Not much, to tell you the truth. Events where people come together to celebrate something—whether it’s fashion or politics—have always been compelling for me. The juxtaposition of performance and reality is what I find intriguing.

What do you see as the biggest change in fashion photography in the last five years? To me the biggest change is the appreciation for pictures that reflect reality as opposed to pictures of fantasy. Stories that we identify with—as opposed to those we “aspire to”—seem to have more relevance in today’s world and I think that’s something to celebrate.

Marina in the gold dress, The Colony Hotel, Palm Beach, 2018.

Which is your favorite photograph from the show and why? They all are important moments in my vision of Palm Beach—but the first picture did happen unusually quickly. The woman in the banana leaf dress walked right past me as I entered The Colony Hotel bar on my very first night in Palm Beach. I turned around and photographed her walking through the hallway with the banana leaf wallpaper. It’s rare that it happens that fast, but after that experience, I was hooked.

Who has influenced your work most? Garry Winogrand, who once said, “I make photographs to see what things look like photographed.” His philosophy was that when you put four corners around some facts, you change those facts, and thus, the photograph isn’t what was photographed—it is something new, something different: a new fact. I love that idea.

When did you first become aware you were a visually driven person? According to my parents I was visually driven as a child, but it wasn't until I picked up a camera at age 20 that I found the best way to express myself.

The Polo Bar, 3 hands, Palm Beach, 2018.

You shoot artists, politicians, actresses, models, architects and authors. What’s the common thread for you? The common thread is that I love people, I am always curious, and I’m extremely optimistic. To me the very act of photographing is a way of saying, “Yes!” It’s an affirmation of seeing something in a person or moment that moves me to make the picture. It’s highly addictive.

You have been in the fashion world for over a decade. What has surprised you most? I first thought of fashion as an unapproachable concept. I’ve been surprised to learn that fashion is really all about the little details and that it comes from within. It’s not something you just buy and put on. It's something that each of us defines for ourselves. When you accept that it is you who defines it—not a label—then you are free to be yourself, free to express yourself, and free to accept the same from others.

What’s your dream shoot? The dream shoot is always the one I am working on right now.