Esquire Interview: How Steven Klein Celebrates Individualism With His Ray-Ban Campaign

Through the photographer's looking glass.

BY Eugene Lim | Jul 6, 2017 | Accessories

Rose-tinted or otherwise, there is no denying that we see our surroundings in a certain light. In his first campaign for Ray-Ban, photographer Steven Klein paints a picture of a society where individualism and diversity are qualities to be celebrated. We speak to Klein about his inspiration behind the campaign, the importance of a pair of sunglasses, and the world that he would like to inhabit.

Esquire: Could you tell us about the inspiration for this Ray-Ban campaign, where one breaks free from the stereotypes created by society? Why pick this theme?

Steven Klein: Now and throughout history, there has been a separation between classes, colours, religions and “tribes”. It is stating that all humankind is created equal. And everyone has equal rights and freedom to achieve anything that they want in life. No one should be excluded.

Esquire: One of the things that separates your work from that of other photographers is that you confront the audience with things that they usually avoid. In this campaign, you broke away from that, choosing to show people walking away from the world of stereotypes, into one without. Was the process of creating this campaign liberating for you?

Steven Klein: As a visual storyteller, it is important for me to communicate in an interesting and compelling way. I have created, like a writer, all kinds of fictions, and glimpses of societies and culture. This is just an example of one. I would be pleased if it was successful in liberating other people. I am liberated.

Esquire: How do you think this campaign is different from other Ray-Ban campaigns?

Steven Klein:
I have never seen past campaigns, so I cannot comment.

Esquire: Do you have any memories of the first time you put on a pair of Ray-Bans? How did it make you feel?

Steven Klein: I have worn Aviators my whole life for two reasons. One, they look good. Two, they are timeless. They look cool at any age, and you can wear them in any situation. They look great whether I am shooting or going to an evening event. 

Esquire: Of the different scenarios that you shot for the campaign, which one do you identify with the most?

Steven Klein: The couple walking off the film set.

Esquire: How important is sunglasses to you, and to what extent do they express your personality?

Steven Klein: I think glasses are like shoes. They tell everything about a person. They tell everything you need to know in a glimpse.

Esquire: ‘Authenticity’—what does that mean to you?

Steven Klein: Being true to yourself.

Esquire: If you could describe the ideal society that you would want to live in, what would that be?

Steven Klein: A society where there is no hate, no war. And where people have more compassion for each other.

This article was first published in the print edition of Esquire Singapore, June/July 2017.