Along a winding Parisian back street – just one block from Canal Saint Martin and three from the palatial archways of Gare de l’Est – a large blueish-grey door and white provincial shutters inconspicuously house one of the cooler photography studios this side of the Seine. Inside, Brooklyn Beckham is leading a creative briefing.
The team are huddled around a series of sketches as 21-year-old Beckham and ICON’s creative director Dané Stojanovic peddle through the brain-bending task of shooting with mirrors, a concept Beckham pitched some weeks prior to today’s cover shoot. (And a decision that sent the production team scouring deep within the nooks of Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen for a barber’s triptych mirror on a Monday.)
An up-and-coming photographer, Beckham – who has shot for Burberry Brit, BMW and Sir David Attenborough in the past – has always had a fascination for working with reflective surfaces; fragmented, spliced, blurry – the list goes on. Today, however, he’s looking to build on this aesthetic because, like any young man, he’s evolving beyond the arty, vignette images he posts to his Instagram feed. “I like the idea of taking it further,” Beckham says, dashing the pencil across the page, drawing attention to two fresh ink jobs – a balloon on his palm and the word ‘Baby’ on his hand. (“I really love little cute tattoos,” he later quips. “I think one day I’ll get as many as Dad. But I’m taking my time, I’m still very young.”)
Cinematically speaking, the most famous mirror work shot in Paris was actually captured by director Christopher Nolan just down the road by the Pont de Bir-Hakeim in the 2010 Academy Award-winning film Inception. In one scene, Ariadne (played by Ellen Page) places two mirror planes opposite one another as she discovers ways to create changes in Leonardo DiCaprio’s dream – or “Cobb” as his character is called. The two mirrors create the illusion of an extended road and the possibility of multiple dream scenarios.
With this in mind, today’s set – with Beckham at the helm – involves an infinite loop of reflections, a way of seeing Beckham from every angle and in a different light. Because, on this set, on this day, the photographer also happens to be one of the most photographed humans in the world – and thus the muse for our shoot.
“I love taking mirror portraits and I’ve always done that in a cool way,” says Beckham who cites Bruce Weber and Alasdair McLellan as photographers he likes. “If I walk on the street and there’s a little broken mirror, I’m drawn to it. I prepared for today by collecting some of my favourite self-portraits from my favourite photographers. I like the shot where I’m sitting down, legs crossed on a wooden box. I have the camera in my right hand. It’s a simple portrait and you can see my hand covering a bit of the lens and I thought that was a nice shot. I really went into today with an open mind and it turned out amazing and I’m very happy with all my selects.”
Beckham’s first job was working in a French café in London when he was 15 years old. “I worked there for two years and helped with the food and made coffees on weekends. I loved it,” he remembers.
When I ask the young photographer if he’s ever experienced moments where he has wished he had anonymity, he’s quick to answer – ever so nonchalantly – that he simply doesn’t know any other way of life. “I grew up with all of that and I’m kind of used to it now. I don’t really think about it in any way. It’s just normal for me,” he says. “I don’t know, it doesn’t really bother me. I kind of just live my life and see what happens.”
After spending years lacing up his footy boots, lots of people thought he might look to football as a career. But Beckham – keen to tread his own path – turned to photography.
“I always loved football – I always will love football and I love playing it – but I wanted to make my own career path because I fell in love with photography. My dad bought me my first Fuji film about six years ago. I fell for the camera, it was so easy to use. I just started taking pictures all the time, wherever I went, and began posting them on Instagram. People liked them and it all just started from there. I’ve never been happier doing anything else than when I have a camera in my hand. Getting to know people when I photograph them is the coolest thing. I never want to let it go.”
Beckham headed for New York City in 2017 where he attended the prestigious Parsons University to study photography. In 2018, he decided to defer his four-year course and return to London to focus his energies on internships with photographers such as Nick Knight and Rankin. But he’s not done with the concrete jungle just yet. “When I moved to New York, it was amazing. I loved it, it’s where I want to be based when I’m a bit older and I’d like to start a family there,” he says. “I’ve always been in love with New York. Everywhere you go, there’s interesting people, interesting places to take pictures, the food is great – I’m a very big food guy. You need to try a pizza restaurant in Brooklyn called Lucali.”
Aside from being one of the most well-spoken young individuals I have had the pleasure of interviewing, Beckham is as down-to-earth as they come. He understood the magnitude of shooting for an international masthead and was incredibly adamant about organising his selects post-shoot. He’s a hard worker. He’s curious. He’s inquisitive. He knows what he likes. He knows what he doesn’t. He’s nice. Ultimately, Beckham wanted to push himself creatively; he wanted to experiment and he wanted to learn.
“My mum and dad have very good work ethics,” says Beckham. “They’ve both had such amazing careers and they both work so hard. They’re both my role models.They’re my best friends and I look up to them and everything they do. And I think I’ve become quite a nice man,” he continues, laughing.
“I love working, I love my job so much and it’s one of my favourite things. I carry my camera with me everywhere – and I try and work hard.” Beckham also pushed to experiment with different beauty looks before arriving at a pink shadow. “To experience and wear it in a shoot like today, it’s been different and it’s really cool.”
If Nolan’s closed mirrors signified a limitless dreamscape, Beckham’s interpretation showed us a Brooklyn we haven’t seen before. As the photographer celebrates his 21st birthday, the reflection in the mirror is now that of a mature young man. And, like the famous director’s film, the possibilities that lay before Beckham – in life and in work – are infinite.
Photography: Brooklyn Beckham
Creative Direction: Dané Stojanovic
Fashion Direction: Luca Falcioni
Styling Assistant: Mihaela Popa
Photography Assistant + Digital: Julien Dauvillier
Producer: Federica Barletta
Hair: Hos Hounkpatin
Grooming: Tobi Henney
Interview: Jessica Bailey