Cass Bird is a Brooklyn-based photographer who creates stunning fashion editorials, with a beguiling taste for that contemporary grit.
Cass Bird’s warm and intrepid depiction of her subjects provides insight into the gritty exuberance of contemporary love and life. Her photographs are featured regularly in magazines such as The New Yorker, Details, Dossier, Paper, and Rolling Stone, as well as in campaigns produced by Converse, Levi’s, Sony, and Nike. Cass made her directorial debut with a film for Sophomore, and then continued to go on to produce work for Levi’s, Lissy Trullie, The Raveonettes, and Sky Ferreira.
There is something different about Cass Bird’s pictures—you can feel it instantly—but it can be hard to put a finger on what exactly the difference is. It seems the subjects, often women, and often the most of-the-moment models or Hollywood stars, are simply responding differently to the taker of the photograph than they normally do. They seem not to be playing the sexpot in the conventional sense, and to be engaging instead in an interaction more playful, and perhaps more authentic. Look at enough of Bird’s pictures and you begin to realize what you are looking at is a female gaze, and how very rare this point of view is in celebrity portraiture.
So it makes perfect sense that Bird, who had dabbled in photography before attending Smith College, traces the origins of her sensibility to her days at that female-only, liberal-arts institution. “I think that’s really where it began for me,” Bird says. “It’s where I began understanding that aesthetics are secondary to curiosity and the individual expression of identity.”
Bird’s refreshing eye is regularly cast on fashion’s biggest stars — she has an ongoing and particularly dynamic collaboration with the model Daria Werbowy — but in the summers of 2009 and 2010, on her own time, she turned it on a group of young women less accustomed to posing in front of a camera. Bird cast these women, which included a couple of her interns as well as someone she met on the street, for their adaptable notions of femininity, and brought them to Sassafrass, Tennessee, to take the portraits which now make up her 2012 book, “Rewilding.”
“For me it’s a very modern way of expressing femininity,” Bird says of the pictures in the hardcover volume, which depict the group of androgynous-looking women climbing trees, forming human pyramids and just generally rollicking in their rural environment. “Whereas in the past to be masculine-presenting was interpreted as a rejection of femininity, I was able to see that femininity can be more inclusive than that.