Making a name for himself as the go-to photographer for burgeoning magazines such as (the now obsolete) Face and AnOther back in the early 90s, Borthwick has since established himself as one of the most avant-garde, prolific photographers around. He is often credited with helping such publications develop the trichromatic relationship between art, fashion and photography.
Part of his success is rooted in a refusal to bow down to trends: in the early noughties when many photographers were transitioning to digital cameras, Borthwick stayed steadfast and continued to use analog. His seminal series ‘Not In Fashion’ explores, among other things, this preoccupation with the transient nature of fast fashion. He is openly adverse to using digital cameras, telling Dazed in 2009 “as long as I can buy film, I will continue to work with film. I’m interested in the transparency. It’s the luminosity, the nothingness.” The rawness that this method affords is what makes his photographs so special: they offer an honest, partly blemished insight into his rainbow world. Shooting in analog enables Borthwick to manipulate his images during the developing process, allowing him to leak different levels of light onto his photos, resulting in his iconic aesthetic.
Central to Borthwick’s work is the exploration of the interplay between fashion and identity. Often, he highlights the unproportional amount of value we place on clothing by having his subjects literally swamped by their outfits, their identity shrouded by clothes. He plays with the clothes’ functionality too, using shoes as shelves or sheets as dresses. This allows him to effectively challenge the conventions and limitations of fashion photography.
In more recent years Borthwick has returned to taking personal photographs. Still experimenting with light, his newer images depict radiant landscapes, youthful lovers and free spirits. They are all tinged with the same sun drenched frames and refracted lighting, evoking feelings of nostalgia and romance.