ABOUT A GIRL – BRITTA BURGER

2013-07-11


Britta Burger, fashion editor and edgy twist adder of cooler magazine talks about the necessity of anarchic elements in creative projects and explains why rules are more fun than no rules. after I've worked with Britta for indie and monki magazine several times and as a big cooler mag fan it was long overdue to open the question time for the london based whizz kid.

many might know you as the fashion editor of cooler mag. what do you do all day long? 
I plan the style pages for every issue of cooler, and the cover, I decide which models, photographers, writers and illustrators I should commission; what brief I should give them; which clothes I should use, everything fashion related is done in house which I think gives the mag a very strong identity. I write articles, interview people, take pictures in our new in house studio or on location, usually somewhere in London, work on the layout with our designer, do the proof reading; I normally come up with about two web stories per day, put them up on the site and on facebook, check the web stats, work with marketing and sales people on new strategies, etc etc.

when I'm not in the office I check out clothes at PR agencies, street cast, find locations, go on shoots and trips. I've started doing little video edits and fashion films too which is kind of what I have the most fun with at the moment. they're all just done on my phone, but the new iPhone is cool for stuff like that, great image quality, and it means you can be very spontaneous and film the weirdest things in the strangest locations without people even noticing.

plus I do my personal and freelance stuff, mainly photography and mainly on weekends or in the middle of the night.


how did it come that you work for cooler? do you have any boardsports background?
I saw cooler in a shop, liked it, and emailed them. my real background is in literature and languages, but I did do an MA in fashion journalism in London, initially I thought it was just for fun, but I started working as a fashion writer for newspapers and also got into styling, quite strange and I guess you could call it 'edgy' fashion stories. ridiculously edgy actually. some completely absurd stuff. I miss doing these shoots.

I grew up in the Kitzbuehel area in Austria, so I started skiing so early – before I turned three – that I can't remember not being able to ski. I tried a bit of snowboarding when it was really cool in the early 90s, but I'm a much better skier, I used to be an instructor for six seasons and did competitions as a kid. I only started surfing on cooler press trips and am a bit embarrassed that I can't skateboard.

do you think there are limits in mixing fashion and boardsports in an all girl magazine?  
there are always limits, but I push the traditional boardsports look as much as possible, I go as far as I can get away with, or a little bit further sometimes. I like playing with rules, subverting them. rules are more fun than no rules, but they are kind of just a game for me, I don't take them seriously. I think any creative project should have an element of anarchy, otherwise it's just light entertainment.


in other words. what do you think about stories showing models with skateboards used as accessories?
I wrote a whole blog about this for the volcomunity page, about how cool a skateboard makes you look, even if you're a boring high fashion brand with no street cred, and how I thought I would never use skateboards for such ulterior motives. but I realised I had a whole collection of shots of models with skateboards. and not all of them can skate. which means I'm a hypocrite. but then, a lot of them can, and the ones who don't look like they possibly could. they might not look like top athletes, but that's not what skateboarding (or surfing or snowboarding) should be about. It never used to anyway. I'd much rather shoot someone who skates for fun and is into skate art and films and is part of the culture around it, maybe a photographer or illustrator, or I don't know, some street skater who invented a trick and has really good style, than someone who has no time for all that because they have to train for the X-games all day, or someone who can do crazy tricks because they are basically gymnasts. I can go to the circus to see that. that doesn't mean I don't like crazy tricks. or the circus.


you work a lot with subcultures in your photographies. what's the exciting about it for you and where do you find those people? 
it's where street style comes from most of the time. or where it used to come from. there hasn't been that much new stuff since a large junk of the working class has been destroyed and replaced by a big underclass with very little power or influence. it's funny how a lot of stuff that came from 50s to early 80s working class subcultures is still re-used and re-packaged for a middle class customer. but it's a stupid, fake, 'subculture-light' version, without the poverty and the violence. people want to be credible but play it safe at the same time. I was casting boys for a 60s inspired football fashion advertorial a couple of years ago and found some great models, who were also probably grandsons of guys who went to watch the football in the kind of clothes we were shooting. the brand I was working with said the boys didn't look aspirational enough. just because they were chavy. I shot them anyway, for a magazine and a national newspaper. two of my favourite style stories ever.
and it's easy to find people like these boys, they're everywhere. they're very close to being the majority. people are too brainwashed or too arrogant to notice. it's easy to work with them too, you just have to talk to them and be open and not condescending, you'll probably have a good time with them.


I like that you show strong and cheeky girls.
you might be right when you say they're strong, I don't particularly like showing vulnerable women, I deliberately avoid it unless a shot is very beautiful or works really well for the story or the context, but even then I'd put it next to a shot where the model looks a bit tough. for some reason I prefer showing vulnerability in boys. it's less cliched. and a trace of it is very sexy.


do you feel limited in styling and taking pictures of girls all the time? 
yes. I love boys. for high fashion stuff I probably prefer girls, I like weird poses and girls tend to be better at them. but for portrait stuff it's definitely boys, it's easier to take pictures with more depth, maybe because boys tend to be less good at faking it.

what was the biggest challenge once you moved to london?
it's very expensive and very competitive.

which part of london would you show your guest who is into skateboarding, markets and nightlife? 
the obvious choice would be East London, there is a cool new skatepark in Victoria Park and two nice bowls in Clissold Park in Stoke Newington where you can also watch the skating action from a hill in the sun. and East London is so trendy that it's full of bars and clubs and restaurants, and there's Broadway Market and Chatsworth Road Market and then the big ones like Brick Lane or Columbia Road flower market. but it's also a bit of a cliche, and don't go there if you have a problem with hipsters. parts of South London are still marginally better, and there is a great skatepark in Brixton and a good market actually and some famous music venues, quite gentrified too though, but more chilled than East.

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