Finn Constantine

Finn Constantine is a photographer, videographer, co-founder of Plaster Magazine and long time Basic Rights Collaborator. We asked him to shoot a self portrait series in lockdown, and to select a few of his favourite images from our campaigns together. 

Finn has a lot under his belt for 22. Since starting full time work at 18 he has shot countless editorials for magazines like I.D, Wonderland and The Face. Worked on music videos for stars like A$AP Rocky. Directed music videos for The Vaccines and Outer Stellar Overdrive. Worked on multiple Gucci sets and shot 6 Basic Rights campaigns. This is someone who “tried to go art school” but dropped out because “I got really bored!”  

What made him start the photography foundation course in the first place? “I was really dyslexic at school, so I realised from an early age that the idea of getting an academic job was out of the question. I wasn't going to be a mathematician, so from the get-go I was always looking for other possible career opportunities. It was when my older brother (who with me being the annoying younger brother, I always wanted to copy) decided that he wanted to be a photographer, that I decided I did too. He eventually moved onto different things, but I stuck with the camera.” 

Was his family supportive? “No one in my family has a ‘traditional’ job, so office life was never really on the cards. I grew up surrounded by images, my mother was a model, my father worked in advertising, my uncle is a fashion photographer, and my grandfather was the graphic designer Alan Aldridge. So I grew up reading photography books and all sorts of magazines, I realised whatever I ended up doing was going to be based around images. Not numbers.” 

Self Portrait, 2020.

“I took up photography at school, but when it came to doing the foundation, I slightly felt like I had learnt as much of the technical stuff as I could. I wanted to learn on the job, so I got hold of the photographer Dexter Navy, who then took me under his wing when I was 18. As he got more and more successful, he took me with him, and before you know it I'm on set with A$AP Rocky, learning on the job! It was the best possible start.” 

It is often said that photography is a skill you can't teach, it's all about having an eye. “ For sure, but it's also about experience, and you can’t get that in a classroom! Another one of the reasons I dropped out of my foundation is because the photographers I look up to are not “Technical” photographers. Juergan Teller, Daido Moriyama, Nan Goldin and Ryan Mcginley, they capture an energy that you can’t teach, and can’t replicate in a studio. The raw nature, the snapshot feel, the intimacy between subject and viewer is something that really appeals to me. Raw human nature, over whimsical sets. I try and keep my work honest, with as little editing as possible. I like photography that tells the truth, so I keep my work as true to life as I can.” 

Although he didn't know it, that style was just what Basic Rights was looking for. “I fell into working with Basic Rights completely by chance. I was editing some photos in a café in East London a while back, and ended up sitting next to a guy called Max, I knew him from around town, and he was a friend of my brothers. We got chatting and he saw what I was doing. We started talking about photography and it turned out he had just been appointed as the Art Director of Basic Rights, which was just about to launch in the UK. Anyway, we left the café and 2 days later he texted me saying he had put me forward for a shoot. The shoot went well and I have ended up shooting every campaign since. So it really was completely by chance that I ended up as part of the team!” Constantine is now our longest standing collaborator.

Image from SS18 campaign, Marrakesh.

“I would be lying if I said working for Basic Rights felt like work. It feels like a group of friends in a room collaborating on something they are all passionate about. Each of us brings our own ideas, but respects each other's area of expertise. It is great working with people like Freddie and Max. Our aesthetic and values line up completely, which makes the process 100X easier. Working with Basic Rights is genuinely fun, and often very different to other jobs I've done.” (No he didn’t get a raise for saying that).

 What goes into the campaign preparations? “A lot of the campaigns are shot abroad, and although it is important to be prepared and to have some locations lined up that you know you want to shoot, it is more important to trust your instincts when you get there. More important than the checklists is this process we have of walking around with the models and just chancing upon things. And that's the part of it I really like. We are also never not shooting, we don’t clock in and clock out like on a traditional set. We get the models dressed first thing, and start shooting at breakfast, and often end after a couple too many drinks in the evening. The result is blurry eyed models necking coffee trying to recover from the night before. Unusual, but it works! It makes the images real.”

We bring the clothes and cameras with us as we explore, changing outfits and film on the move. So the campaign really ends up being a snapshot into the life of the character the brand has created for the season. Always having the camera ready means that as we explore the city, and the model interacts with people, or objects, we never miss a thing. None of our images are faked, they are reflections of what was happening at that moment in time, which is what I love about the Basic Rights campaigns. We have a checklist, but often the strongest images are the ones that happen in an unplanned moment.” 

Image from SS19 campaign, Rio de Janeiro.

It is true that when Basic Rights plans the season, we always have in mind the character of the man we are dressing, who he is, where he goes, how he would react in the city we have placed him. It’s something we look for in our campaigns, this telling of his story. 

“Shooting with film also helps with the spontaneity, and almost journalistic elements of our campaigns. With film I have to trust myself, and the team has to trust me. There is no checking if we’ve “Got” the shot. The same goes for the model, he can't constantly check himself, or be told he is doing something wrong, which makes him more confident, and the images more natural. There is no crowding around monitors, getting that perfect shot, faffing around with hair and makeup. That’s not us. We just have to believe we got it.” 

“Probably my favourite image from our campaigns is of Harry Smart in Berlin (AW19). We had taken a subway train, and it is this beautiful, completely off the cuff moment where he is leaning against the closing doors, and you can see all the way down the platform, giving you this amazing perspective. For me that's the perfect image, it's spontaneous, there is a sense of mystery, it feels almost like a film still which I really love.” 

 Image from AW18 campaign, Berlin.

“When I first got into photography there was a list of photographers that I really loved, and my style and the way I shot definitely reflected that. Now I expose myself to new sources of inspiration every day, whether its art, film or a video game! I have broadened my mind as to what photography can be, rather than just referencing what a photographer has already done. I dissect what I like about the images I find and figure out what lens was used, what lighting was used, what camera movement the director used, which colours I like and apply it to my own work. This ability to dissect an image comes from experience, and the more you give your brain to play with the better.”

Constantine might be busy, but still seems to have time for more projects. “I have always wanted to make a book, but not a book of photographs I have already taken. I would want it to have a theme. Im currently really interested in these Japanese Biker Chicks… they were all girlfriends of the Yakuza, and one day one of them got dumped and was like ‘Fuck this.. I am fed up of watching the guys drive round on motorbikes and being gangsters, I want a bit of that, so they started their own gang. The styling is amazing! I would love to photograph them.” 

Then there is Plaster Magazine, which he founded this year with his brother Milo. 

“My brother works in Contemporary Art, and he found this old Kung Fu magazine about Bruce Lee. It’s basically 8 pages of photos and information about Bruce Lee, which you can then fold out as a poster. We really liked the format, and realised it was actually a series of collectable magazines. So we wanted to take this format and apply it to artists.  Each Issue is a piece on one contemporary artist that we photograph and interview. Young kids and creatives are getting more and more interested in contemporary art. Just look at designers like Dior, Gucci and Supreme, they constantly collaborate with young artists on their collections, and they always sell out! We also wanted something you could keep, so as well as having movie stars and rock stars pinned up on your wall, you can also have artists. The first issue is on Harland Miller, an artist Milo and I have always looked up to and admired. You should check it out.” 

Image from AW19 campaign, Milan.

We’ve already ordered our copy.
Follow Finn: @finn_constantine
Follow Plaster Magazine: @plastermagazine
Purchase Plaster Magazine here.