It's early evening in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and a famous young man named after the borough, Brooklyn Beckham, is reclining on a low, leather bean bag seat. Contrary to popular belief, David and Victoria Beckham did not name their first son Brooklyn because he was conceived in the local vicinity — rather, the name came after former Spice Girl Victoria found out that she was pregnant while working in New York City. "I've always loved it here and I know that I want my professional life to be based out of Manhattan when I graduate," says the 18-year-old, who moved to the East Coast three weeks ago to pursue an undergraduate program at Parsons School of Design. In tandem with starting his college education, Brooklyn is midway through a promotional tour to celebrate his first book with Rizzoli. Titled What I See, the hard back edition is a compilation of Brooklyn's personal photographs, taken while traveling the world with his celebrity parents and siblings Cruz, Romeo and Harper Seven over the past four years.
In person, Brooklyn is soft-spoken with a West London lilt. A subtle American twang can be detected occasionally, thanks to five years spent living in Los Angeles while his Dad played soccer for the LA Galaxy. The family packed up and left for London (again) when Brooklyn was 13, and it was around this time that he discovered he had a talent for photography. "I had a really tough time at school in LA," he recalls. "I don't know why, but I just wasn't ready and there was so much expected of me. I'm a slow learner with subjects like math and English, so when it came to picking my GCSEs [the British equivalent of the SATs], photography jumped out at me. To think that I'd later be approached to make a book and be an author at this age is something that I never saw coming — it's a dream."
Read on for Brooklyn's take on his new creative career path, how his parents reacted to his move across the Atlantic and the story behind his favorite photographs in What I See.
First of all, welcome back to the United States! How are you enjoying New York City?
I love Parsons and I love New York, so when it came to picking a place to study it was easy for me. The city is awesome and I know that I want to be based here for a good few years professionally. Parsons also offered me a scholarship, which is so cool. I feel really lucky.
I assume that you're majoring in photography?
Yes, my major is photography and then I'm minoring in art. The first year you do all the boring stuff like math and English, which I struggle with. I'm just trying to get through my first year, so I can really focus on improving my photo and camera techniques.
How are you acclimatizing to life here? Are you homesick?
I'll always miss London and my family. Before I was 13, I'd lived in three countries [England, Spain and America], because of my dad's job, but London has always been home to me. Los Angeles is good for a vacation, but I wouldn't want to live there again. It's not busy enough and I find it kind of boring. When I lived there as a kid, I picked up a really strong American accent. I had to work hard to get rid of it when I moved back to England.
Have your parents been supportive of you moving to New York?
They are having a tough time with me being away. I'm the eldest child and you know how parents can be. We're a super-close, tight-knit family.
How did the book with Rizzoli come about?
I started taking photos about four or five years after picking up the subject at school. My mum encouraged me to try it and then my dad bought me my first camera, which was a Fujifilm. I think the first photo I ever took was a portrait of my parents. After a while, I started sharing my photos with my followers on Instagram and then Penguin Publishing in the U.K. got in contact and asked me if I'd like to do a book. All I could say was 'oh my god,' because I never thought I'd be an author. I gathered all of my photos together and then narrowed it down into what I think is a pretty cool book. Rizzoli is publishing it in the States.
There are a lot of photographs from family vacations in the book. How involved were your parents in the selection process?
Most of the photographs that I wanted to be included made the cut, but it took quite a while to persuade my mum to put some of my favorite pictures of her in it. Mums —especially ones like mine — can be pretty picky. My parents are really proud of the book, though. My mum cried when we got the first copy. She was super-happy.
What's your favorite photograph in What I See?
There's a section when we went to Iceland [and went] salmon fishing as a family. It was a really special trip, and I think we got some of my best photos there. The scenery is incredible and it was just us spending time together as a family.
Growing up, you were surrounded by cameras. Do you remember the first time you were part of a professional photo shoot?
As I child I wasn't in photo shoots, but I would often be on set with my parents. I remember watching them and how the photographers would tell them to pose. When I moved back to England in my early teens, I started doing a bit of modeling. My first-ever cover shot was taken by Alasdair McLellan for Man About Town. He was really awesome, but I've never really enjoyed being in front of the camera. I'd much rather be the one directing the shoot.
Which other photographers do you admire?
My favorite two photographers are Bruce Weber and Steven Meisel. They both shoot portraits in natural light, which is my favorite style and what I'm trying to do. It's my dream to assist either of them after I graduate.
Is there anyone you'd love to photograph that you haven't yet?
My dream people to photograph are Liam and Noel Gallagher from the band Oasis. They're so bloody cool; they're my favorite band, and they write my favorite kind of music. I'm not really that into pretty, young models, or well-known celebrities, though. I'd much rather take photos of models that's no one's heard of or really old people who have tons of personality.
How do you deal with negative comments in the press or on social media?
People are always going to be negative because of who I am. They'll never stop saying that I only got to where I am because of my parents and that I'm just some rich kid. And yeah, my parents are who they are and having my last name does help, but I'm also working hard to make my own name as an individual. Hopefully this book will help people respect me more and my path in photography.