Henrik Purienne is a South African born photographer and filmmaker who splits his time between Cape Town, Paris, and Los Angeles. His work has graced the pages of Galore, Dazed and Confused, Playboy, and Adult, and has shot notable campaigns for American Apparel, Maison Kitsune, and Mlle Mademoiselle. In 2010, Henrik founded Mirage, an international, print, fashion magazine, and, more recently, Purienne, a photo book of summer holiday snapshots, portraits, and outtakes. Purienne’s nostalgia-infused images toe the line between sexy and innocent, playful and seductive. In short, he prescribes an idyllic yet wicked narrative to his beautifully aloof subjects. His eye sees beyond the image, to the printed page, encapsulating a breed of scholarly elegance with a healthy dash of voyeurism one might describe as chic-ly nefarious. Okay, we were intrigued. And like a good sport, he placated us—during an international layover, naturally:
LA CANVAS: SO, WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING YOU?
HENRIK PURIENNE: I’m never really happy or sad. So apparently that makes me a psychopath? I get to travel and do what I like. Does that make me happy? No. But it sure does not make me sad.
LAC: CHILDHOOD ASPIRATIONS?
HP: An architect. Obviously. But the idea of so much stereotypical human activity taking shape within or as a result of my creation repulsed me.
LAC: WAS THERE EVER ANY INDICATION THAT YOU’D BE DOING WHAT YOU ARE NOW?
HP: When I was about eight years old I discovered a Sony Betamax video camera at my best friend’s house. Turns out his mother was a bit of an amateur filmmaker before she started a family. She actually made the most beautifully sensitive wedding videos. I became totally obsessed with mastering its technical and narrative potential. Even back then, I found the idea of having to rely on others to make a little film quite frustrating. There I was, hooked up to this Betamax backpack shouting instructions from the rooftop like a wrecking ball. I was all sweaty and sunburned, and my friends really just wanted to play Nintendo and drink cream soda.
LAC: HAS THE PROCESS OF TAKING PHOTOGRAPHS CHANGED THE WAY YOU LOOK AT THINGS?
HP: I think the way I look at things determines how I take photos.
LAC: IN WHAT WAYS, IF AT ALL, HAS YOUR STYLE OR SUBJECT MATTER CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED?
HP: Since my black and white landscape days at art school, I have moved on to the shooting-my-girlfriends-snapshot years, to a more classic approach in my recent fashion and personal work. Although it’s always been pretty much the same language.
LA CANVAS: TOGETHER WITH FRANK ROCHOLL, YOU FOUNDED THE MAGAZINE, MIRAGE. COULD YOU TELL US YOUR THINKING BEHIND IT?
HP: Mirage is a scrapbook serving as an outlet for my more superficial obsessions—architecture, girls, cars, and summer holidays. Or maybe these are the important things and everything else is superficial?
LA CANVAS: HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS BITING YOUR IMAGERY?
HP: Photography is my lover, not my wife.