Anne Menke first began taking photographs at the age of 8, using her father's cameras to take pictures. She recalls, "By the time I was 12, I decided I wanted to be a photographer. My Dad got me my own camera."
Ms. Menke's mother and grandmother owned a boutique. Their sense of fashion, style, and panache definitely rubbed off, as Ms. Menke went on to shoot for Vogue, ELLE, and Marie Claire, while her sister became a stylist. For Ms. Menke, chic is more than a word; it is a way of life.
Ms. Menke recalls her first job in photography was at 16 years old, apprentice in a wedding studio: "It's not what I wanted in the long run. But every day, I would be in the waiting room, paging through copies of Vogue, and it was then that I decided, 'I will work for Vogue.'
“I am from a small town in Germany. I left middle school at 16 and went on to get my degree at 19. I moved to Dusseldorf, where I assisted fashion photographers for two years. Then I started out on my own .I began by testing models and I showed these tests to an advertising agency. The gave me a job, and a year later, I decided to move to Paris. I realized that was the next step, and I lived there for five years. Then I went to New York. And now, I am in Mexico. I have a passion for traveling and for reportage.
“When I was younger, I studied photographers like Alfred Eisenstadt and Henri Cartier-Bresson. These are the books that I would but and look at when I was16, 18, 20 years old. My ideas about fashion came from that sense. I looked up to photographers like Peter Lindbergh. I saw where I wanted to go. I stopped copying and developed my own style.”
That style, one that is as vivid and lush as a rose garden flushing with blossoms and blooms, is exquisitely captured in Ms. Menke’s first monograph, See the World Beautiful (Glitterati Incorporated). Her photographs taken on location while traveling the globe while on assignment are what could best be described as fashion photojournalism. Ms. Menke’s eye is our guide as she takes us to the four corners of the world, showcasing the glorious sensibilities of native dress in its element.
She observes, “You develop a sense for fashion and you look at it. In Mexico, you don’t need much, just a bikini and a tunic. But then you come back to New York, and there is a fashion sense. It’s art. We do beautiful things. To photograph couture for Vogue is such an artistry. Every shoot I’ve done has begun with an idea. I work with the stylist, and we decide the story. We create the image together. It is so inspiring to shoot editorial photography.
“Recently Vogue Netherlands called me and asked me to contribute to their Body Issue. I told them about an idea I’ve had for five years. I wanted to do a shoot with Mexican wrestlers, Lucha Libre. I showed them the pictures I have been collecting over the years. That’s the creative part. You can put your ideas out there. I can tell the story the way I want. You don’t have to show the clothes the same way you would for a commercial client. And that’s the inspiring part of it. It’s total fantasy.”
Whether photographing in Nairobi, Kenya or Ulan Bator, Monogolia, Ms. Menke sees the glory of life everywhere she goes. She explains, “I will always see the beautiful things. That’s how I want to document the world. I don’t see myself documenting negative things, like killing a whale in Alaska. I wouldn’t be able to take the picture.
“I pick places off the beaten path. It started as a kid. (Laughs). I was six or seven years old. I began looking at travel brochures. I told my Dad I wanted to fly to the Caribbean or travel around Europe. I wanted to go far away. And I was able to combine my dreams as a kid. All of these pictures in See the World Beautiful show my real love for reportage/
“I think chic is a matter of personal style. There are a lot of different chics. I find beauty and chic everywhere. Fashion is specific. Fashion starts in cultures far apart. It is everywhere and it’s always existed. It’s not just modern. It goes back forever. It’s a bird’s nest. In the end, it’s everywhere and that’s the inspiration. It comes from anything and we see it with our eyes.” For in the garden of Ms. Menke, a rose by any other name would be just as divine.