What brought you to this topic?
I went to a party in September of 2009 that Harry King, the hair guru [who appears in the film], was giving. I walked into a room that smelled like Charlie the perfume and I met a number of women who were supermodels. I immediately thought it was a photograph, if not more.
The participants run the gamut. How did you select who was included?
In the beginning it was this core group of '70s and '80s models that I photographed. You see the making of the photograph in the film; it was a curated selection of legendary models. Then I realized that the film needed to be broader. It needed to go further back, into the '60s, the '50s, and the '40s because Carmen [Dell'Orefice] and China [Machado] were working in the '40s.
Were you trying to cover the history of the business?
It's not a history of modeling-that'd be a 10-part series. It's really a look at reinvention, a look at beauty as it ages, a look at success and achievement and failure, through the eyes of especially beautiful women.
What's your definition of a supermodel?
Someone who's tall. I'm not a fashion photographer. I'm not a part of the fashion word. I think you have to love clothing and fashion and hair to really be a part of that world. I'm more interested in grammar than I am in fashion.
Can you discuss the logistics of your filming? You have the models in the studio, at home, in their curlers...
The initial group portrait was the core of the film. When we were putting that together in New York and L.A., I filmed everyone individually as they came out of hair and makeup, or when they were in their curlers, and got certain amount of material. From there I sat down and thought about who else I wanted and reached out to a wide range of women.
Did you have an idea of what topics you'd cover?
There are certainly subjects that are of interest to me personally. Race is something I don't ever shy away from. I wanted to hear what Beverly Johnson, Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison and China Machado, the first non-Caucasian model, had to say. The women were very open to me. As a photographer, I know from the moment someone walks in my studio how to make that person feel at ease. I think I did that here. So by the time that Jerry Hall was on the set, sitting in front of the lights, the lights would be to her liking because I knew all these women would look at them and think, "is that going to make me look good?"