Creatives 4 Change Is Alexi Lubomirski's Commitment To A Brighter Future
Alexi Lubomirski has been taking photos since 2003 (most famously, perhaps, of the engagement and nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle), but it wasn’t until 2012 that the photographer really took hold of his power to say no — to shooting fur, that is. Soon after, he added exotic feathers and exotic skins to that list, putting a stake in the ground as an animal rights activist and vegan.
“It was sort of a slow momentum where I realized that the photographer and the creative do have the power to make decisions,” he says. “We are allowed to be responsible with our creative output.”
Now, he’s scaling up that commitment in a big way, with Creatives 4 Change — his initiative that prompts other artists with a pledge to pursue creative fulfillment in a way that’s environmentally responsible, starting with a rejection of fur, exotic feathers, and exotic skins. You can sign the pledge here, and get to know the mission behind Creatives 4 Change from Lubomirski himself below.
What was the catalyst that really pushed you to start Creatives 4 Change?
Since 2012, I won’t do shoot that involve fur, and in the last year or year and a half or two years, I added feathers and exotic skins to my rider. It was sort of a slow momentum where I realized that the photographer and the creative do have the power to make decisions. We are allowed to be responsible with our creative output. So, really after I shot the Royal Wedding with Harry and Meghan, I realized all of a sudden that my name got a little more press, and it could open some more doors. When you are given that opportunity like that, where you’re given a platform, you really have to use it while you have it. As anybody in this industry knows, you might be nobody tomorrow. You might as well do it while you can. That was really it.
In the same way that we stopped putting cigarettes in fashion photography… that’s the power we have to inspire people. We are lucky enough to be able to create and inspire people. We help put the magazine together, and try to do a good job at the end of the night when we go home. And, we don’t realize, or we forget, that the imagery we put out then goes out to the world, with a massive ripple of inspiring in a positive or negative way. But I wanted to remind people of that, photographers, and magazine editors, writers, clients, and celebrities: this is the power you have, it’s not just your work, we all have a platform now, we all have a social media platform.
It’s not going in there pointing fingers saying you are doing bad things, you need to change; it’s going in there and listening to them. At the end of the day, we are all educated people, we know exactly how these things are made. We can’t feign ignorance anymore. Now that you have this power, you’re on top of your game, let’s make a decision to choose what we put out there, and what we choose to promote and make look aspirational. Young people are going to look out there and see their heroes, and if they see their heroes doing it, they’re going to want to do it. When DVF says she doesn’t shoot certain things anymore, she has the power to influence a whole generation of young creators to make the right decision and start off on the right foot.
When you were speaking to people about signing the pledge and being a part of the movement, what kind of reactions did you get?
Mostly positive. To be honest, it’s fascinating meeting everybody, because everybody has a key to turn to get them to sign it. So some people, you just go in there and start the conversation and just listen. And people will tend to go through the range of emotions, whether it’s defensiveness, or trying to rationalize why it’s OK to use fur, or feathers or exotic skins, and if you’re listening, because people are educated already and they know how these things are made, they will end up talking themselves into signing the pledge. At the end of the day it’s common sense. Do you really want your craft and what we call “luxury” clothing and “luxury” items to have this guilt attached to it? This bloody history? It’s 2019, we’re above that now. It belongs in the past.
I think that we’re also aware as a generation now, we have all the information in our pocket on our phones. We’re inundated with imagery; everything is a cause. You can’t say you didn’t know it was a bad thing…so it’s about giving people the opportunity to ask themselves that question. The public is hungry for brands with a message. They don’t want to find the latest shoes, handbags, or jacket, they want to know that their money is going towards buying that product but also going to a company that has some sort of message, whether it’s saving the rainforest or recycled materials. It’s an added badge to wear, a badge of honor. So I think it’s important that we push that idea and really try to create some change. Make our industry the best version of itself it can be, before we get thrown out of it. There are so many innovations and so many new materials and types of technologies to work with. It’s time to get rid of the old stuff that does not align with our ethics.
I guess this is part of a larger conversation that it seems everyone is having about climate change in general. Are you optimistic about the future with the state of climate change right now? What about for the next generation of people who are inheriting the planet?
I have to be optimistic. My wife is the environmental backbone of our family. So she is the one who really covers the ground. I hear all the latest developments. It takes people like her to educate other people and inspire other people, and more and more people want to do good, they want to feel good about something. My wife and I’s role is to give a positive message to inspire people to do good and change, rather than pointing a finger and saying you’re bad, or this is all your fault. When you start to do one small thing that is good, you get a hunger, a taste for it. When I tell people I’m vegan, or about Creatives 4 Change, they look at me like it’s too much, it’s too big a hill to climb. Just drop fur, just drop feathers, have a meatless Monday. Don’t look at the mountain and think you have to climb it in one big jump. You can take daily steps. As long as each step is a step forward, you’re going in the right direction. It’s really just about waking people up.
When you were younger and starting out in your career, was there anything like this then? How do you think you would have reacted to it?
No way. I couldn’t do it back then. The people who did it were like Stella McCartney back then. Now it’s a movement, everyone is dropping fur left, right, and center. Which is why, unfortunately, when you look at the Met Gala, everything was feathers. No one wanted fur anymore, but they wanted luxury trim, so they went with feathers. I started shooting in 2003, and for me, I just thought I had to shoot whatever was put in front of me. I didn’t know I had a choice. But there comes a time when you start waking up, and there was one point—I never liked shooting fur, it was for an editorial or campaign—and there was one day when I was asked by a supermodel of that time to shoot her in this big fur campaign for a company called Black Glamour, an iconic fur company. Everyone has worked for them, Elizabeth Taylor, any icon you can think of. Diana Ross. And, my agent told me about the job, and asked if I wanted to do it. It was a lot of money. I was faced with this conundrum—the whole job was fur, full fur, and I was going to be paid for it. I had to ask myself, how do I feel about this? Do I want to do this? And the first thing that came to mind was, “blood money”. I told her I’m feeling weird about it. She said I was crazy, the money is so good. But I thought, if I do this now, I’m going to go down this path. I’m at a crossroads, I have to take a left or right. So I said I’m sorry, I can’t do it. They got angry and said I was crazy. But I was able to choose.
And yes, I lost many jobs, especially during Autumn/Winter seasons for magazines and covers and campaigns. They would love to work with me, but there is going to be fur. I lost those. I’ve also gained. I started working with more clients, ones that are picking up more and more. There are so many brands wanting to do the ethical thing. I think people are scared of rocking the boat. They’ve been looking at it through fear, they need to start looking at it in a positive manner. Looking it through karma, look at it through branding. Anything can be a positive outcome.
Definitely. So looking ahead for the summer, what do you guys have planned for Creatives 4 Change?
We’re going to continue targeting people. Carrying on trying to get more people to sign. We keep getting more everyday. With each new person, there comes more people signing up. We all want to know somebody else is doing it. And then after that, we’re going to move onto bigger fish to fry. In the future, leather.
That’ll be a tough one!
Yeah, that’s the normal reaction when I say the word leather, but people are changing already. There are brands that do vegan leather, and have different options. I’m working on a collaboration with Movado watches; because of what I was talking about with Creatives 4 Change, they approached me to design their first ever vegan watch strap series. So I’m working on that now, it’s coming out Valentine’s Day next year. People are changing. They have to change. They have to stay ahead of the curve, time is moving so fast now. The conversation is on the table, and if you don’t change with the times, you’ll lose touch.
Featured image courtesy of Thomas Whiteside
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