Damien Neva of Ford Models | Photographer, Writer, Music Documentarian
As Ford’s News Editor and multi-tasking creative force, Damien Neva is one of those individuals who serves as a very visible reminder that the fashion business is filled with intellectuals as well as fearsomely hard-working talent.
His writing is articulate, eclectic, and dense with cultural references showcasing a seemingly insatiable hunger for global culture.
Damien’s interviews with underground musicians (and video portraits of new faces) represent a whole other sphere of creative endeavor worth an exploration.
MN: So obviously you’re a detailed and eclectic blogger with Ford, but also a photographer and something of a documentarian. Judging from the work on your site (ghostfeed.com), underground music and street fashion are subjects you’re passionate about, maybe even a bit obsessed with. What’s your background. Where did you grow up, and where and how did these interests form?
DN: I grew up in Michigan and as an undergraduate studied English literature at the University of Detroit Mercy. I moved to New York to attend graduate school at New York University. There I completed my Master of Arts in humanities and social thought.
My interest in photography was an outgrowth of my passion for music. Going to shows was a regular thing for me, but the photographs of the bands I liked never really satisfied me.
Having a decent 35mm camera I decided to start shooting pictures of the bands I liked in a way that I liked. I have no training in photography — I studied writing after all — but growing up was a fan of Glen E. Friedman’s work.
That said, I was first drawn to making images because it had nothing to do with my formal education, which in many respects freed me to make mistakes in ways I was possibly unwilling to do with my writing. I shot live music for the better part of a decade, but have largely abandoned the art form as I think I said everything that I had wanted to say with it.
The last show I attended, Company Flow at Santos Party House in Manhattan (see photo by Kyle Dean Reinford, I’m the tall skinny white guy in the crowd), I enjoyed going nuts in the crowd without having to worry about my photo equipment.
My need to create, however has not abated.
Much of what I do for Ford Models in terms of daily writing and the occasional foray into portrait photography and video production satisfies my creative drive. I have always liked to make things and am now very lucky to do it professionally.
MN: I dig some of the more unstructured interviews on your site, especially the interviews with Ford’s “new faces.” They almost remind me of the Warhol factory interviews, where he would just turn on the camera and have the subject stand there until something about them came out. Sort of letting the person’s personality shine through with no interference. Are Warhol (and the associated Velvet Underground subculture) influences in what you do?
DN: I definitely admire [Warhol and the Velvet Underground's] collaborations, but never so much had any of their work in mind for the model portraits I have done. I like to strip away as much of the frame as possible so that the subject takes priority. That’s all, really.
MN: How did you come to modeling / fashion in general? And to Ford, specifically?
DN: My involvement in fashion came about through my employment with Ford Models.
My first gig as a graduate student was scanning model portfolios. Thankfully my role has evolved into my current position as News Editor. I have been very lucky to work for this incredible agency, which has afforded me access to some of the most talented people in the industry.
MN: In terms of music, how do you choose your interview subjects? What have been some favorite interviews so far, and who do you plan to interview next?
DN: The musicians I have chosen to interview generally speaking have been down to who is in town any particular week that I dig. Whether or not people know who Dâm-Funk or James Pants are doesn’t concern me. A good interview should be able to interest anyone regardless if the viewer knows the subject. Not sure I’ve achieved that, but conducting compelling interviews is certainly my goal. I’ve enjoyed all my interviews for a variety of reasons.
Whether I’m speaking with Anti-Pop Consortium, King Buzzo, or model Crystal Renn, I am interested in speaking about their relation to the creative process. People don’t have to make music or be models, which makes why some do it — and how they go about doing it — unique and interesting.
Not sure which musician I will interview next, but I have an interview with the Gaslamp Killer that I’ve not yet fully edited. Hopefully that’ll go live some time before, erm, Christmas. The next model I will be interviewing, however is Delfine Bafort. She is a model with Ford and also an actress and stars opposite Vincent Gallo in his film Promises Written in Water.
MN: Anything else you’d like to tell us? Fun travel plans, for example, or other personal or professional news?
There are some ill new Web developments in store for Ford Models that will kick off right around Fashion Week in early September. Can’t say any more than that, but it’s going to be dope.
Thanks for the opportunity to speak with you.