Colour and music, more than anything else. Women dress in dreams and colours, as in Bahia, full of sun and joy, luxuriant forests, lush blooms, thousands of orchids shining with vivid colours, their roots trembling in the air.
From white to pink, purple to mid-blue, spatters of yellow, streaks of carmine, crimson or green; starshaped, with a silk-like handle. On the branches, strange parrots bright in metallic blue; yellowy-green marked with black; emerald green and turquoise; faded lemon-yellow; cobalt blue or violet; red; purple; tinged with greenishgrey. Life is conquest, struggle, passion, joy, music...
Dear iDEALS, there is something rather striking about Paulina Otylie Surys' works! Born in 1979 in Poland, the London based fine art and photographer has recently she has launched herself as a fashion photographer. Not long after her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poland, Paulina developed her skills and her distinctive style as a painter. Following her studies, she discovered photography to be her preferred medium for its unique ability to c apture a moment in time ; she could, however, be considered a photographer, painter and art director in equal measure.
Her works exemplify this juxtaposition of the old and the new; using entirely analogue equipment and early photographic techniques, she presents subjects in a thoroughly modern and innovative way (using, very often, items from fantastic contemporary designers that complement her own aesthetic tastes and interests).
Her work has appeared in numerous magazines such as VISION China, Vogue It online, FIASCO, IDOL, Vanity Fair, VOLT, TALK Be., Ballad Of...magazine, Collaboration with Mother of Pearl and Show Studios, DROME, The Ones 2 Watch. VOGUE.com, VOGUE It, The British Journal of Photography, TWILL Features: Calle20.es, Re-Bel, Ballad Of.., Fashion 156, 500 PHOTOGRAPHERS, FUTURISTA.com, K-mag pl, Strand Gallery, Deluxx, VELVET, The British Journal of Photography, Amateur Photographer, DROME, ASVOF, TWIN, VELVET (GEOT Venezuela)
FilepMotwary: Paulina you are a very young photographer, yet your work focuses on the past, characters that belong to historical tales, legends even. Why does nostalgia matters so much to you that it was your decision to give your own interpretation to it?
PaulinaOtylieSurys: Nostalgia, when used to look at the past, is like a filter, it softens everything and makes even very disturbing things bearable, it's forgiving.
A lot of my works, especially my forthcoming projects, are related to the body, death, violence and sexual tension. The circle of life really. It is a theme that seems to be natural to all of us, yet remains largely. The medium of my choice, hand coloured gelatin silver prints and wet plate ambrotypes and tintypes, filters the content, helping the images to appear to come from some unplaceable past age, hopefully filling the viewer with an imaginary nostalgia. Many people would avert their eyes from the subjects depicted in my works if they were shot in an unforgiving, documentary fashion. The technique of my choice makes the subjects sublime, creating a disturbing combination of beauty and the horrific.
POS:Yes, I am currently preparing a solo exhibition for the Richard Young Gallery in Kensington&Chelsea (February to April 2013) and am preparing for the launch of my book in Paris (14-17th november 2012), London (end of November 2012) and Moscow at the end of this year, as a part of the Paulsen Collection exhibition.
POS: I am really excited about it. It is a beautiful hardback, A2 format monographic album titled LIMBO. The book's presentation will be accompanied by a small exhibition of original prints.
POS:"Each precise object or condition or combination or process exhibits a beauty"(Whitman), whether what is being captured is idealised image or brutal reality.
Photography gives value to its subjects, making them equal; this is the most powerful aspect of photography. People believe in what they see, it depends on the photographer as to what he wants to expose as the truth.
POS: The first and most important part is the research I carry out on the brief's subject matter. From then on, I work closely with the team involved to develop my initial ideas. Often I will help with the set design and will direct my assistants in setting up the lights etc. I give very accurate directions to the models about the postures I want to see.
I will set them up as I would a still life; positioning their every limb, the folds of the clothes, their hair etc, with my own hands. After the shoot I develop the negatives by hand. I usually use black and white film but will sometimes use colour. I develop my monochrome films in deep tanks, which means I am in complete darkness and solitude for several minutes; allowing me time for reflection and meditation on both the forthcoming images and other things.
This part of the process is incredibly important for me, the negative is like a stencil and so many things depends on its' quality. I print my photographs myself, I occasionally tone or bleach them and than hand colour some of them. Every hand coloured image is a one off, a unique piece of art, impossible to replicate.
My photographs are carefully shot and hand crafted, the process is slow and resembles more the art of painting than contemporary photographic processes.
POS: My first hand coloured images were a series of landscape peel apart Polaroids which I took in 2003, in order to complete my project for serigraphy. I took them using an old polaroid land camera. The tinting was more dreamy and was particularly inspired by the colouring of Hans Bellmer.
POS: A lot of magazines prefer crisp, digital images but this sort of photography has become so ubiquitous that even good examples can be missed when flicking through a contemporary magazine; because of this, I think analogue photography can really stand out.
Many publications are, however, still reluctant to present artful photography of the sort I produce; for some reason they do not consider it strictly "fashion photography", there is still a trend for more documentary style imagery. I have done a few commercial jobs using digital cameras, I think successfully, yet I do not have the same enthusiasm or interest in this medium.
FM: How does your own personal heritage, your roots reflect in your work?
POS: There is a very strong influence, the experiences of my childhood are, to my eyes, apparant on my work. I was raised in post-communist Poland but luckily, thanks to my family (particularly my mother), I was raised with a lot of art around me. It was something very exclusive in those days, the art books were sold "under the counter".
Lots of things were strongly censored or banned in the post-communist block. This was a world where people were given pieces of paper stating how much dairy or meat they are allowed to buy, and even then, it was almost impossible to get them. Also, Poland's approach to religion is particularly devout and sincere and (despite the fact that my family have never been church goers) I had compulsory religious education at school and had to attend Mass. This has undoubtedly influenced my work.
POS:Yes, I studied painting and graphic techniques in Poland. My ability as a painter can be seen in most of my work since 95% of my images are black and white photographs that I have hand painted. It is also an enormous help when visualising composition and colour and in directing the model.
POS: I have started separating my fashion/advertising work from my personal projects, where I inevitably have greater creative freedom. I have plans for some big conceptual projects over the next few years, connected with the human body and religion.
I am starting the first one very soon and it will hopefully end up as a book (Autumn 2013), a series of big prints and an installation.
I was invited to attend the international conference organized in connection to Fashion Philosophy Fashion Week Poland in Łódź. The conference was held in Łódź's amazing Andel's Hotel, located in the Manufactura neighborhood, a huge, former industrial complex. The city of Lodz used to be the capital for Polish textile industry until the major factories closed down during 90's. In recent years the city is recovering with great initiatives like the Fashion Philosophy Fashion Week Poland, Łódź design festival and the impressive Manufactura. It is now considered as "the place to be" and as the avant-garde cultural capital of the country.
Yes!!! Polish fashion emerges, there is room for improvement but there is loads of potential in the scene. The international conference 'Promotion of Polish Fashion Industry on the International Market' gave more insight in the general development and possibilities of the Polish fashion industry. The schedule of the fashion week offers a broad and rather full program with shows from established and 'celebrity' designers, emerging talents, Off -Schedule program, showrooms, young fashion photographers' exhibitions and parties.
Almost all catwalk collections were wearable. Not many were as strong though. My personal favorites were from emerging designers like Ima Mad, Magdalena Kubalanca, Piotr Drzał, Kamila Gawronska-Kasperska and graduates from Łódź Art Academy ASP. Above all was the collection of Mads Dinesen, who showed on behalf of Not Just A Label.
It seemed that he general attention went more to established labels though it was young designers really stole the show. At last I have to mention and thank the initiators of the conference and the fashion week for the warm hospitality and good organization. It could not have been a better occasion for me to visit Poland, attending the conference and Fashion Week in Łódź.
Text and images
Beyond its famous fashion & photography festival, Hyères’ Villa Noailles hosts throughout the year a number of photography, fashion, design, architecture and film-related events. For the annual photography commission, fashion photographer Cécile Bortoletti captured the Mediterranean flora of Hyères over the course of one year, her visions now revealed to us in a new exhibition, “sur-nature”…
Antoine Asseraf: The title of the exhibition is “sur-nature” ["over-nature"]…
Cecile Bortoletti: It’s a contraction of “super-nature.”
AA: But there’s also a reference to the super-imposition which takes place in some of the pictures…
CB: It was rather complex to get a complete vision of nature around Hyères, very bountiful, luxurious…
I live in the countryside, i take pictures of special moments, but to do something like this, like a one year long walk, I had never done. I had done a series of trees at night for a UNESCO/CNRS exhibit about black matter, with a more scientific aspect, but it wasn’t so scattered in time, with all the seasons, like this project.
RH: What was the challenge compared to your editorial work ?
CB: Managing time… I’ve never worked one year on a project. Even if you know the end date, the exhibition date, it’s difficult to manage it. When you work in fashion, you’re on an addict schedule, everything is last minute, very fast.
And here i was working alone, with a lot of time, many kilometers to explore, time to think, changing weather and moods, and each time I came I thought it was better than the previous time.
It’s a matter of stimuli. I learned many things but I was happy that it ended, it was very intense.
Sur-Nature exhibition view. Photo by René Habermacher.
AA: You’ve come to Hyères for a long time… did some things still surprise you ?
CB: Now I know it much better, I can find my way, and I’ve discovered the salt marshes and its flora, with impressive survival strategies. I didn’t know about that at all, it was a bit like desert flowers…They’re emotional because they look fragile but in fact they’re tough. As a whole the exhibit shows the fragility of nature, because many times one week later flowers I had shot would no longer be there.
Cécile Bortoletti and the salt marsh flowers. Photo by René Habermacher.
AA: There’s also the film about the palm trees’ sickness…
CB: When I arrived here I didn’t know about this disease which eats the palm trees from inside out, and to save them they are shaved and trimmed. So I met with the palm tree rescue team, and followed them as they tried to save the trees and stop the disease.
Each time people gathered around, very concerned about why we would do this to the trees.
It’s very impressive, all the leaves are cut and only a stump is left.
It’s a recent phenomenon, but all over the mediterranean area.
The film is 7 minutes long, and my friend David Tévé did a soundtrack that’s 40 minutes long, to give the film different readings, more comic or dramatic.
Sur-Nature exhibition view. Photo of a photo, René Habermacher.
AA: Yagos wrote a short story for the catalog, how did the idea come along ?
CB: With Jean-Pierre [Blanc, Villa Noailles director] we were wondering how to accompany the photos, and we thought it would be good to talk about nature rather than about the photos themselves, and so naturally I thought about Yagos’ work.
AA: Could you define for me the term “homodiegetic” which appears in the texts describing the exhibition ?
Cécile Bortoletti: “homodiegetic” means an observation where the author is at the center…
Yagos Koliopanos: it’s a Greek word – “diegesis” is narration, so let’s say that “homodiegetic” is a narrative where the author is part of the story. It’s a recent litterary term.
AA: Are you “in” the narrative then ?
CB: in fact yes. i used to be against narrative, but I think it helps us better understand, and escape narrative itself.
There’s another very beautiful word in the text accompanying the photos, “serendipity.”
YK: It’s the happiness of discovering something by mistake, happiness of luck…
CB: it’s happiness and surprise at the same time.
Dear iDEALS, thanks to my friend Tatiana Varda, I came across London-based womenswear label ISA ARFEN. Founded in late 2011 by Serafina Sama,after following a small collection of summer dresses inspired by the retro glamour of Slim Aarons’ society photographsthe pieces were sold exclusively through private sales, and the enthusiastic response led the designer to develop these initial themes into a broader collection.
Growing up in Ravenna, Italy, Serafina was surrounded by strong female figures whose individual, eccentric and irreverent styles are reflected in the ISA ARFEN design aesthetic. Drawing on the canons of Italian style with equal doses of pride and irony, the label is relaxed, feminine and fun, shot through with a touch of aristocratic sensibility. “To me fashion is about desire, beauty and fun. It's not about dressing up in a costume. ISA ARFEN is about a real woman dressing for her real life and really enjoying it.”
Serafina Sama graduated from Central Saint Martins School of Art & Design in 2006 having gained studio experience at Marni, Lanvin and Marc Jacobs. For the following two years she worked in Paris as design assistant at Chloé before returning to London in the summer of 2008 to start a family. She subsequently worked on free-lance projects for Chloé, Louis Vuitton, Acne and Charlotte Olympia. The last time I saw her was some years back at Hotel de Crillon, during a private party for Louis Vuitton...
FilepMotwary: How did everything start for you?
SerafinaSama: I spent the majority of my childhood drawing. And my subjects were always girls in different outfits… Hundreds of them! As soon as I realised that that was something I could study at university and do for a living I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do!
FM: Why you have chosen fashion as your profession in the first place.
SS: I couldn’t really imagine doing anything else! I tried to convince myself I could be an architect when my parents wouldn’t let me study fashion (“too frivolous!”) but that didn’t last long!
SS: I wouldn’t call her a heroine… I don’t design for a fantasy woman. Growing up in Ravenna I have always been surrounded by strong female figures and their eclectic, irreverent and individual style has been a great influence on the Isa Arfen aesthetic.
FM: And who is this woman?
SS: She is relaxed, sophisticated and with a sense of humour.
FM:Serafina, do you feel fashion is changing? If yes to which direction?
SS: It’s becoming faster , more accessible but also more disposable.
SS: I don’t think I am in the position to give advice to other designers, but I personally think it is important to be humble, be true to yourself, work hard, put love into everything you do, and have fun while doing it.
FM: How important was for you, the fact that you have worked for other designers before you launched your own collection?
SS: Extremely important! I wouldn’t have had a real view of how this industry works, but only a romanticized version of it, if I hadn’t worked for other designers before.
SS: I feel so enriched and lucky to have been able to work with a lot of very talented people and learn from them. It helped me to grow up, believe in my personal taste and define my identity as a designer.
FM: What shall we expect from you in the near future?
SS: My winter collection of course!! AW13-14!
SS: In the middle of confirming stockists right now… watch this space!