LOU CHRISTOU

1.How has your style evolved over the years? Who are the models that you look to for inspiration?

I've got what I would consider to be London clobber pedigree. Sounds like it could be a line from a Guy Ritchie film, that, eh? I like it ... I'll go with it. London Clobber Pedigree. My paternal grandparents settled in Finsbury Park when they immigrated from Cyprus in 1951. My nan was in the rag trade, and sold sought after European brands from her stall in Holloway's Nag's Head Market and her shop in Harringay. My grandad was a well-turned-out chap. Immaculate, in fact. When I was about ten he gave me an invaluable lesson in moustache trimming. (I'm half Greek, it was only about another year or so before I was putting those grooming tips to good use).

In the '70s and '80s my old man went through various incarnations: Skinhead, Suedehead, Soul Boy, Elitist Casual. He used to regale me with tales of these alluring subcultures and the threads, which were of paramount importance, that separated them from the mass of conservatives and conformists. 

That early education was hugely impactful, and instilled in me a desire to be different and express myself through the way I look. 

My style is constantly evolving, which implies a fluid development, and for the most part that is the case. But if I ever need to hit the reset button before heading off in a new direction, it's to those sartorial roots that I return. Analogous to going straight round to me mum's gaff for a bit of maternal TLC whenever I break up with a woman. A bit of comfort and familiarity before I'm once again ready to go and get into birds' pants (I'm talking about being experimental with clobber and wearing ladies' strides, of course; not dating. But I can see how the analogy might've misled you.)

There aren't really any specific models I look to for inspiration, to be honest. I'm inspired mainly by books, films, old photos, and, being a bit of a flaneur, I like to saunter round London and people-watch.

2.Why do you think people are enamored with tattoo art? Specifically, especially with the popularity of social media, tattooed models have become increasingly popular. Why do you think this is? What is the attraction? Deep human need to change everything around us, including our own skin, or just a love of beauty?

The ubiquity of heavily tattooed people, particularly models, is something I never would've envisaged fifteen years ago. It's fantastic, and indicative of how, as a society, we've become so much more open-minded and non-judgemental in recent years. But as you alluded to, it's transcended merely being acceptable and is now considered to be attractive and desirable. I suppose it makes sense if you think about the relationship that humans have had with art since time immemorial. It's always elicited a visceral response from us. We're enraptured or moved by the viewing of it, and we seek pleasure, catharsis and meaning from the making of it. To me, it seems natural for it to be something we want to carry around with us. Something we want to be a part of us. And something we appreciate looking at on others.

3.Dead or alive who would you love to shoot with and why?  Photographers or models? Or both? 

Erm ... I hear that Danny Woodstock geezer is pretty good. I'd like him to be behind the camera. And in front of the camera with me ... Ol' Dan the Man's got that agency, ain't he? Fuck, what's it called? ... Woodstock Models! That one. Yeah, any model from there.  

4.Any projects, events, or collabs coming up in 2019 that you’d like to share? 

I've recently finished writing a semi-autobiographica l novella, which I'm hoping to publish. It's something I've wanted to do for a while. An attempt to look at how my psychological afflictions are inextricably linked to one another, the different ways that they've manifested over the years, and the effect that my upbringing has had on the development of some of those afflictions. I think it's an interesting read (I suppose I would think that ... I wrote it). And at times, in spite of its heavy content, quite amusing.  At the end of June I'm going to be featured in Men's File magazine, which I'm really looking forward to. From what I've seen, the shots look great. I was very flattered and grateful to be given the opportunity to work with editor-in-chief, Nick Clements. I'm a big fan of Nick's photography.

I was also lucky enough to be asked by Bjorn Franklin, another photographer I'm a huge fan of, to be part of a project he's working on, entitled 'Public Enemies'. I did a shoot with Bjorn last year and the images he produced were incredible. So when he mentioned collaborating again, I knew that he'd have something amazing planned and I was excited to see what it was. Without giving too much away, I haven't been disappointed. The photos that inspired Bjorn are right up my street, and what he's creating with that inspiration is fanatastic. Keep an eye out for Public Enemies and Bjorn's work in general. He's an industrious bloke whose immense talent is matched by his affability.

5.Tell us something about your personal life past or present that will blow our minds :)

Ooh, that's a tough one. I'm a hermit. I lead a pretty monastic life, spending most of my spare time ensconced in my flat reading or drawing. Erm ... I tattoo myself a lot, which probably isn't surprising, and certainly not going to blow anyone's mind. But one of the most recent tattoos I did on myself was on my Brighton Rock (shouldn't be too difficult to decipher that bit of rhyming slang). It's a small heart that becomes slightly distorted when my Hackney Wick is ... erm ... tumescent. Which, I suppose, is actually very apt. My heart becomes distorted when I'm horny. I wouldn't recommend tattooing your own willy, by the way. It was hard.

6.You used to battle with alcohol & drug addiction and you're now 6 years clean. What was the moment you knew something had to change and how do you deal with it now especially in the industry that you find yourself in?

I was young when I first realised that I had a pernicious relationship with drink and drugs. From the age of sixteen or seventeen I was aware that alcohol and coke (my main drug of choice) affected me differently to how it affected most of those around me. I used to suffer from suicidal comedowns. The morning after a heavy night, my pals would get up relatively early, go and have a fry-up and be as right as rain. Playing football in a park somewhere by about midday. I, on the other hand, would spend the next forty-eight hours curled up in bed with the duvet over my head, racked with an all-consuming and inexplicable guilt. (I say 'inexplicable' because hedonism and debauchery are the done thing at that age, ain't they? In theory, I had no reason to feel guilty.) But, in spite of that, I couldn't stop. And would get on it every few days, repeating the cycle of binge, followed by suicidal comedown, followed by hollow vows never to do it again, followed by binge ... and you get the idea.

That went on, the severity and frequency varying, for a few more years, before an older friend (herself a recovering addict) who'd watched me descend into dependency, eventually took me to a twelve-step fellowship meeting. I was twenty-one. By that time I'd developed anorexia and was using coke daily as an appetite suppressant. In order to help keep my weight down I'd also become fanatical about exercise, and would run ten to fifteen miles every day without fail. 

I can vividly remember that first fellowship meeting. It was in a dank, poorly lit church hall in Hampstead. I can still smell the odd and distinctive mix of must, cheap instant coffee, and stale cigarette smoke. A combination that was to the nose what a cacophony is to the ears. The moment sobriety and God were mentioned (both concepts were equally alien and elusive to me at the time), I decided twelve-step recovery wasn't for me, and four years elapsed before I attended another meeting.

During that time, I continued to drink and use drugs in a similar vein. Alongside the ongoing substance misuse, eating disorders were always there, lurking, waiting to pounce every time I thought I'd regained a modicum of dietary normality. Slowly morphing into slightly different eating disorders, or suddenly metamorphosing into completely different eating disorders. But always there, in one form or another. All equally injurious and impossible to vanquish. 

There was, however, a sweet-smelling paisley-shaped petal amid all of that shit; I became a father to my beautiful daughter, Paisley Anastasia. Her arrival should've been the impetus for me to change. But it wasn't. In fact, I got progressively worse until my behaviour eventually forced Paisley's mum to take action that prevented me from seeing my daughter, which definitely was the impetus for me to change. Not playing a part in my girl's life was unimaginable. I started to have regular counselling sessions, and I started to go to meetings again. This time under the guidance of an incomparably compassionate sponsor; someone who has become a very good friend of mine. I've been clean since.

Recovery from addiction is a daily battle. I always have to be vigilant and take measures to guard against complacency. As for the industry I work in ... drink and drugs, and people who drink and take drugs, are ubiquitous. What I do for a living doesn't change what I need to do to stay clean. My behaviour did irreparable damage. I hurt people I love and became a person I despised. No drink or drug is worth that price.


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The Woodstock insight

Article by

- Danny Woodstock -

@dannywoodstockphotographer

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