Interview by Alexandre Orlowski
KARINE QUADRIGA BY SASHA LYTVYN
In 2002, Karine Quadriga founded QUADRIGA in Paris with the idea to promote artists from all backgrounds.
Because the agency’s mission is to reveal new talent, it provides fresh perspectives on art and fashion by stimulating its photographers’ creativity.
The strength of the agency lies in its roster of talents as well as in the intimate relationships QUADRIGA maintains with its clients.
With agencies in New York, Paris and London, QUADRIGA works on a daily basis with various luxury brands, advertising agencies, and prestigious fashion magazines around the globe.
YOSHIYUKI MATSUMURA X SPIKE LEE FOR M LE MONDE
Karine, tell us about your early years as a model agent, and how that experience prepared you for starting your own agency?
I ended up in this industry because I knew someone who knew someone who was working at a model agency in Paris and they were looking for an assistant—one who spoke English. At that time, I really didn’t, but I really wanted it and they gave it to me anyway and I ended up working as a model booker for 11 years.That’s when I really learned to be a sort of matchmaker.
KATJA MAYER X NUMERO
Working with models, you have to read their look and their personality and think about where they’d be best. With Sibyl Buck, for example, she had red hair and this liberal attitude and I knew she could be fantastic for Vivienne Westwood or Jean Paul Gaultier, and that Yves Saint Laurent would love her.
JOSS MCKINLEY X VOGUE ITALIA
There’s also a political element to shaping someone’s career—you have to know where not to pair them, and avoid having them go from job to job for a paycheck. I worked with several agencies over the years and opened Next’s Paris office in 1996—we’d all been poached from smaller outfits—and then, in 1997, Next New York, adding all the city’s supermodels to our roster.
ESTER GRASS VERGARA X VOGUE CHINA
At the same time, I was honing my eye for photography.
I started in 1990, when all of these big photographers like Peter Lindbergh, Mario Testino, Mario Sorrenti and Steven Meisel were driving the supermodel revolution. I was looking at all kinds of magazines, campaigns and exhibitions and getting to know a lot of photographers, who were my clients.
ADAM KREMNER X THE LAST MAGAZINE
These young photographers, who are now recognized as major talents, would come in to take test shots of the models, and that’s how I started to move toward photography. Toward the end of the ’90s, a couple of American agencies wanted to open European offices and were interested in bringing me on, but, in the end, I decided to open my own agency instead. I’d started to build my own team and so wanted to work with my people.
CHRISTOPHE MEIMOON X D LUI
Quadriga has offices in Paris, New York, and London, which must contribute to your depth and perspective. How does this international presence benefit your clients?
I follow the market in each city, of course, and it’s nice to have a feel for what’s happening all over, since they all have their own distinct aesthetic cultures. But to be honest I opened the satellite offices more for my artists than for my clients or the overall markets. I have a handful of artists in London now, so it makes sense for me to be there because people mostly shoot where they live, and this way I can be really available to people.
RADKA LEITMERITZ X VOGUE CHINA “CAFFEINE”
There was a period where, if you were a photographer, you sort of had to be in New York, but things are different now.
When it comes to the luxury and fashion markets, at least, which are my targets, you don’t have to be in New York to have a great career. There are a lot of good magazines in Europe and I think London, especially, has retained its reputation for underground cool that it earned with The Face and others.
AZIM HAIDARYAN X T MAGAZINE “THE BRIGHT SIDE”
What do you consider the most unexpected new development in how brands present themselves in their imagery?
Well, nothing happens in a vacuum. I think fashion follows the larger culture, and so, if you are paying attention, which I consider to be a big part of my job, nothing is ever all that surprising. Right now, we’re living in a hip-hop moment, and you see that in fashion with the proliferation of streetwearcoming from everyone from Nike and Puma to Virgil Abloh’s menswear for Vuitton.
DANIEL THOMAS SMITH X GIVENCHY BEAUTY
And you see it in photography with the rise of a new artist like Tyler Mitchell, who is also taking cues from music and from the person on the street.
That convergence of genres is nothing new. Vivienne Westwood did it with punk, even as punk, with its rejection of consumption and capitalism, was meant to be anti-fashion.What changes are the movements themselves. You see a shift in music and art, and then it comes to fashion.
CEDRIC BIHR X HERMES
What impact has the field of fine art had on photography that would be used in mainstream advertising?
To me, fashion is an art form. You might call it a decorative or applied art, but what’s the distinction? But I know what you’re asking, and obviously we’re seeing so-called fine artists influence fashion and fashion photography more and more.
Fashion photography used to be a very small world, with maybe 10 big-shot guys getting most of the jobs, but now there are so many people working, brands are looking for a way to stand out.
FREDERIK VERCRUYSSE X ABSOLUUT MAGAZINE
I also think the proliferation of digital photos that are not from the official campaign but more market-minded—product shots for Instagram stories, say—have allowed the campaign to privilege narrative and emotion over simply showing the clothes in their best light. In other words, they’ve made room for campaigns to be more artistic.
Though there, too, it has to be the right fit.
BRIGITTE NIEDERMAIR X VOGUE ITALIA
Brigitte Niedermair, who recently shot Dior’s fall fashion campaign, worked on her artwork, which was her priority and how she became known, for 20 years before booking that sort of big ad campaign. So while the Dior pictures make the rounds, she will also have work at the Venice Biennale, where the Palazzo Mocenigo will present a retrospective of all of her fashion work. Basically, it depends on a designer and an artist having a shared sensibility and on the designer falling in love with the work. Which is exactly the way I choose the artists I work with. It has to be an organic response.
KOSUKE NISHIMURA X YSL LIPSTICK
Over the course of your career, have you been skeptical about an idea that you later found worked?
I wasn’t skeptical of the digital revolution, exactly, but I was resistant. I only gave in and got an iPhone a few years ago, and my ambivalence extended to the photo side of things, too. I came up at a time when photographers would scratch at a print by hand retouch it and I think a degree of authenticity is lost when every little thing is so easily manipulated.
To me, a real photographer simply measures the light and measures the emotion and expresses exactly what they want. Even today, I think I’m more likely to be intrigued by a photographer who doesn’t only work with digital.
BRIAN FINKE ” FLIGHT ATTENDANTS” BOOK
Can you recall a photographic image that changed your way of thinking?
I love the black and white portraits in Sally Mann’s book “Immediate Family” and was so surprised when it came out in 1992 that people took issue with this beautiful work, saying that the children’s nudity was overly intimate and disturbing. That’s when I realized the extent to which people can have wildly different interpretations of the exact same images. I thought, “wow, we don’t see the same things.”
But you have to trust your taste. In general, I gravitate to images that aren’t merely pretty, but have a more complex undercurrent. I look for the dark side .
IRIS VELGHE X GUERLAIN
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Honestly, nothing. I left school when I was 15, so sometimes I wish I would have studied more, but even this is not a big regret, because I got a different sort of education. I was seeing and noticing the world around me. When I was young, I thought I either wanted to be a photographer or a social worker, and I think they only seem different. To me, they’re both about bearing witness, and about people.
In any case, one thing leads to the next, and eventually you find selfacceptance. I was somehow propelled to where I am now, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
PHILIPPE FRAGNIERE X NUMERO 200
Do you have a most treasured possession?
My children! I have three kids—Léa, 28, Perceval, 20, and Anouk, 7—and I could live without all the rest. I dress simply and even after working in this business as long as I have, I’ve only just started collecting photography. I tend to favor pictures by the photographers I work with, and, as my husband is one of them, his work most of all.
ALEXIS ARMANET X GIORGIO ARMANI’S HOUSE FOR AD MAG.
What is the most useful piece of advice you’ve been given?
Never give up. It sounds trite, but it’s true. It’s not easy to run an agency on your own but even in the darkest moments, it never really occurred to me to stop. If you really want something, you’re going to give so much of yourself.
SASHA LYTVYN X L’OFFICIEL UKRAINE
And in closing, how would you describe the Agent’s Club in three words?
A GREAT RESOURCE