Malick Bodian’s Double Exposure

The model-turned-photographer discusses his shift to photography.

Malick Bodian’s face is more familiar than his name. As a top model, the Senegalese-Italian has worked with the likes of Dior, Hugo Boss, Salvatore Ferragamo, and so on—in fact, the list is overwhelmingly long, and likely to increase rapidly with time. But in a year when nothing seems to resemble “normality,” change is abound. For Bodian, that has meant stepping behind the camera rather than staying in front of it. And while this shift is not exactly novel for models, it’s rarely done with the elegance and sophistication displayed in Bodian’s work. He is modest—having only been modeling for three years, and photographing for much less—but his knack for creating and capturing a very particular brand of beauty is undeniable, even in its early stages.

Ahead of releasing “Time of Your Life”, a fashion editorial for VMAN that was shot in Paris earlier this year, we connected with the budding talent to discuss his next chapter.

Mathias Rosenzweig: When I look at your images, I don’t feel like they’re taken by someone who is new to photography. I feel like you must have been a visual person, at least, for a long time now.

Malick Bodian: It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I have worked with so many good photographers, and it’s impossible to not get influenced. But I didn’t think I would do it so quickly. And so I just borrowed these small cameras, and every time I was traveling, I was just taking pictures of everything. And I thought, it’s not bad to know how photographers feel, how they see things. So that’s why I wanted to try to do a few editorials.

MR: But is this something you’d thought of doing for a while? Or did it really just spring up as a new passion? 

MB: I never thought that I would take pictures like this. I was just modeling and studying and school, but I just fell in love with this job as well. And the funny thing is, like three years ago before I started modeling, I never really liked fashion, and I didn’t know about fashion. I didn’t know any of the brands I worked with. And I was in school playing football. But I have a lot to do, like as a photographer, I have so much to learn. But it’s nice to have experiences like this, where I’m shooting models. Because sometimes when you’re modeling, you want to complain about something or you don’t understand the photographer, and now I understand it much better.

MR: Do you feel at all vulnerable in this new realm of photography? Just as, maybe, you felt shy to modeling three years ago when you started?

MB: That’s a good question. I honestly think so. There might be people who don’t like the work, but that’s also why I’m not going crazy about it. I’m taking my time. I don’t want to take pictures to take pictures. I really want to take my time and pick stories that make sense. Why do I want to take pictures? To be honest, I’m not really scared about the fact that other people might not like it. Because I already have my relationship with my clients that book me. And I have a lot to do still as a model. But to be a photographer, I really think that’s my dream job. And I feel like, I can’t just come and be taking pictures to take pictures. I have to do something different. And you know, the story I did for VMAN was something new for me.

MR: How would you describe your style of photography? 

MB: My photography is very inspired by Jean-Paul Goude. But the thing is, I realized there are so many photographers who try to take the same pictures, try to do the same thing all the time because they want a certain aesthetic. And I was trying to do the same thing, but then I realized that I can be different and do different things at the same time. 

MR: People can be very strict with their style because they’re trying to build a visual “brand” or identity. 

MB: Right. So I could take pictures like I did for [VMAN], in a house in France. And then I could go to Senegal and take completely different pictures.

MR: And I saw that you were shooting a good amount while on lockdown? 

MB: Yeah. When I was in lockdown in Paris, I did this “documentary” where I shot Paris in confinement. I photographed all my friends from their balconies, or their windows. I think they’re such good photos and I’m proud of them, but I felt like I was never going to publish them. I think now, maybe in five years. They’re going to all forget about it this year. But in a few years, they’ll be like, “Oh my god, what is this? Do you remember confinement?”

Malick Bodian’s VMAN shoot “Time of Your Life” will be released on September 4th, 2020. 

Self Portrait by Malick Bodian for ZARA
Discover More