The collecting philosophy of fashion photographer Craig McDean

Photography by Glen Allsop and Craig McDean

Nov 3, 2021

Like seasons, car collecting interests change over time. For acclaimed fashion photographer Craig McDeans, seasons change in more ways than one beyond the fashion lines he’s captured over the last few decades. After building his dream collection including the likes of a Ferrari Daytona, Maserati Ghibli Spyder, and Aston Martin V8 Volante, he’s parted ways with the heavy metal and set his sights on the next ‘season’ of his collection: cars you can actually drive.

As a tried and true enthusiast, Craig’s passion for cars and motorcycles comes through in his work. His portfolio spans the world’s top fashion brands from Gucci to Yves Saint Laurent, with a unique trademark in incorporating vehicles into his photography. The types of cars that feel tend to feel so right for a photograph, you may not even notice it’s there — unless you’re a car enthusiast.

His car collection has pivoted around his Ferrari Dino and Porsche 911 backdated hotrod, and he’s honed his sight on an Alfa Romeo Giulia GT Sprint Veloce. We spoke with Craig just days before he took delivery of his long-awaited GTV for more insight into his shift in collecting preferences.

Marqued: You’ve had some iconic cars, like a Ferrari Daytona Maserati Ghibli Spyder, and Aston Martin V8 Volante, but your collecting philosophy has recently shifted towards less precious cars that you can enjoy without the sweat and the stress of parking a priceless object. Can you tell us about that shift?

Craig McDean: I think it's where my headspace is right now. I went from a muscle car phase, where I collected Challengers, Camaros and Yenkos — all these 60s and 70s muscle cars. But because I studied architecture, furniture design, I really got into Italian cars and design. Both the Ghibli and Daytona were the poster cars on my wall as a kid and always dreamed of owning them.

Once I’d learned to live with them, I found out it wasn’t exactly what I wanted in driving them, so they can be difficult to enjoy. When I first built my Porsche 911 hotrod I realized how much fun it was to drive. I started looking back at the cars I liked growing up as a kid, the Alfa Romeos and Fiats.

Marqued: So your collecting philosophy has gone through phases.

Craig: To be honest, I was sad to let my Ghibli Spyder go because it was one of the first major cars I had and I cared for that car so much. I knew when I sold it that I'd never find another one because there were only 125 made, and mine was actually a perfect example. I'm happy to move on. I still have my Dino which gives me the same amount of pleasure as the Spyder and Daytona and it's less hassle with the smaller displacement and more nimble handling, that's for sure.

Marqued: It’s interesting to see you’ve kept the smallest displacement car of the collection as the pivot point. Drivability is critical for you then?

Craig: If I'm not driving it, I don't want it. It really is as simple as that. If I'm not driving this car, I don't look at it like a painting on the wall. I really, really don't. I'm so excited to jump in a car and drive it, and take my sons out and explain the history of the car to them. It's like meditation to me. You get to hear every sound, every little click that's wrong with the car.

My former Daytona was such a beast to drive, and it was actually beautiful, but I didn't really get to know the car. I never drove it enough. I didn't know what it was about. With the Dino, however, I wake up in the morning at six-thirty and drive the car to the coffee shop. It's just such a pleasure to drive and beautiful to look at. The view over the hood of the Dino — of the two fenders at the front — is beautiful. Ultimately, it was less maintenance than the others as well which was another factor.

Marqued: Sometimes enthusiasts are willing to trade aesthetics for a performance. It sounds like you're balancing the drivability and beauty.

Craig: You could say that. I'm a fashion photographer, so fashion for me changes every day. Basically to me, cars are like clothing collections. I think, “Okay, now I want a different car to drive, now I want to wear something different.”

Marqued: In line with your pivot towards more drivable cars, you’ve had a few Alfas already but you've just bought a Giulia Veloce, yes? What was it about this particular Alfa that stood out to you?

Craig: Yes, I can't wait to drive this little Alfa. I think it's going to perform like a little go-kart on the road. I'm just so excited to drive it, to tell you the truth. I’ve been trying to buy one for a while now, and the prices have quickly gone up from $40,000 to above $70,000 for some cars. Once I went into the rabbit hole and studied the brand, it was impossible not to fall in love. But good luck finding an Alfa Romeo for sale. Like seriously, really good luck. It's difficult. It's really, really hard.

Marqued: As one of the world’s most recognized fashion photographers, you tend to inject your passion for cars into your work. It’s clear from the curation that an enthusiast was involved in the shoot. What’s your process?

Craig: When I photograph cars, they’re alive. The engines are revving and they're moving and I like to capture the essence of their dynamism. I just did a recent campaign for Zara and brought in a Camaro convertible because it reminded me of a Camaro I had owned, or I used a Citroën SM, with the Maserati engine, in a shoot because I love what that car meant from a design perspective. I basically take my fashion and mash it up with everything I love or am attracted to.

I think it started when I was first coming to America. I became attached to drag racing and even went out to the salt flats. There was something about the explosive motion that I wanted to capture in my photography.

Marqued: You don’t see the car as a prop, you see it as a part of the visual message. Any closing thoughts as you eagerly await your new GTV?

Craig: Truthfully, I'm a humble guy from a humble upbringing and it’s a joy to be driving different cars. I’m so excited for my Alfa to get here. Both of my kids at 17 and 15 just love driving and I’m excited to share the experience. I look forward to passing the baton.

More about Craig

You find more about Craig and his photography via his Instagram (@craigmcdeanstudio).

Meet our contributors

Originally from Sydney, Australia but currently based in New York, Glen Allsop is a photographer who seeks authenticity and a sense of atmosphere in his work. You can see more of his photography via his website and Instagram (@glenallsop).

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