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Zee Fashionista: Behind 'Love is Darkness'


Behind 'Love is Darkness'

It’s mid-afternoon on Monday the 21st of November 2011. We’re on the 8th floor of the iconic Parktonian Hotel in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, and there is complete silence in the hotel suite we’re in.

Silence, save from the clicking of photographer, Yves Paris’, camera and the buzzing of the red fluorescent light shining on model, Ika Modubu, as she poses on the hotel floor.

The couch is draped in white sheets. On the table lie wine glasses, a wine bottle, dollars, cigarettes, jewellery – standard rock star paraphernalia. On the wall are photographs of Rihanna circa Rated R and a haunting shot of a red-lipped Ginta Lapina. 

This is the set of boutique photography and art direction agency, AFTERDEF Museum’s, first editorial, enigmatically named Love is Darkness. I got the philosophy behind Love is Darkness from its photographer, and AFTERDEF Museum Creative Director, Yves Paris.

Zee Fashionista: You've photographed quite a bit of street style for Legit, Jet and Zee Fashionista. As the AM Creative Director, what was your thought process behind the Love is Darkness editorial? The title is quite intriguing.

Yves Paris: The thought process behind this editorial was arguably the most intense I've been involved with. I had just broken up with somebody special and I wanted to portray a woman or an idea of a woman that was so far removed from what I had been dating. So I didn't have to think about the break up.

The process was unstructured, because I just had these ideas in my head of what  I wanted to portray a woman as - a woman who drinks from the bottle, no champagne flute required, wears silk yet has the ability to tell you where to jump the fuck off. So I put all of these visual elements together and held them together with the emotion that you feel when you absolutely hate your ex but love them in the same light. This editorial is the direct opposite of soft, fluffy, and sensual love.  I wanted to portray dark love - "I still love you but I hate you so much I'm going for something that is far from you or anything you'll ever be".

ZF: And the set for the editorial? Why did you choose a hotel room at the Parktonian as the location for the editorial?

YP: I chose to set the story in a hotel suite because hotels are a true representation of rock stardom. When you are jet-setting from continent to continent, partying and spiraling out of control, you don't exactly do it from home; you do most of it in a hotel suite. So I was like, I want this to be real and not just a studio, art directed hotel suite - no it has to be real.

 I chose the Parktonian because it wasn't some modern chic boutique hotel, where you have yellow interior walls that make you feel like you are in your own home. The Parktonian is still an old school hotel: very impersonal. No emotions attached. White sheets. All of which were the aesthetics I had in me and needed to get out. Besides, when you have domestic issues the only place you want to go is a hotel room and just do whatever you want to do. It’s an escape tool.

ZF: You handpicked Ika as the model for the editorial. What was it about her look that you thought would gel well with your vision for the editorial? Looking at the finished product, her great presence in person really did translate onto the images.

A: I wish I could say I hand picked her, nah, it wasn’t so one sided. We had spoken for a while about working together and she wanted to do something extremely different for a change, so we agreed to this idea. I won't lie, I admit that I have this idea of my ideal woman being taller than me - bald and badass. Maybe I want to date models only because I share the same anxieties, issues and insecurities as them. I know it’s super shallow but it’s what I feel amongst other things.

And another thing that convinced me that Ika is as legendary as Grace Jones is that behind all the model features, there is a genius of a woman, who was involved in every step of the process. She is a businesswoman who handles her sh•t. (Insert Jay-Z "I'm not a businessman, I'm a business maaaaan). I was in awe every time we met because she would be directing videos, conceptualizing visual representations, and handling the production of other shoots that she was working on. I was like, she has the special ability to be the star and the director of the show, which is a super important quality for me. 

So the fact that she was the Selita Ebanks to my Kanye West and the Oprah of her creative endeavours just had me fighting for her to be the muse. I didn't want anybody else because I felt safe around her hardworking, genius self - similarities.

SIDEBAR: I will always cherish Ika for allowing me to impose my fantasies/insecurities on her and turn them into an art product. As pop cliché as this may sound she is my Phoenix to my Griffith or Selita to Kanye because had she not been around to get these ideas out there; I think I would have spiraled into heartbreak depression, but we turned darkness in something we love; art.

ZF: The styling of the editorial (by Nqobile Mthembu and The Diame 3000) is impeccable, and that Versace-esque blouse from Fruitcake Vintage is right on trend. I do not have words for the beauty that is that Moschino belt. What was the idea behind the Gianni Versace uber-sexy style feel, if I can describe it as that?

YP: I have always thought that Versace represented a certain type of woman. A woman who has been through a lot in her life but still has the swagger of a damn rock star. Versace for me was and still is Lil Kim sexy. Badass. I eat barbwire with my caviar type shit. Another thing is that I'm a visual kid, I really love the visual movement of silk under lights, the gold baroque prints and that slim fitting pencil skirt and how it sculpts a woman's body and accentuate her contours.  

I genuinely feel that Gianni Versace's pop baroque collections were made for women who were living on the edge and who wanted to feel beautiful, and we wanted that to come through. Lastly, this editorial could be a modern interpretation of what I grew up around -  I had an aunt who wore Versace prints/Medusa-era, drove a drop top BMW, wore a lot gold and was the fastest living person I knew, and I loved her because she was super different from my mom and the regular parent.

ZF: I cannot help but think of Rihanna and her whole super daring style aesthetic when I look at these images. Was she one of your influences for the editorial?

YP: Yes. Yes. Rihanna is the Madonna of our era. She was actually my main point of reference for this editorial. I remember when my stylists would ask me to explain the style palette of the editorial and I would e-mail them back and say "Rihanna's Rated R", and they would be livid because I wasn't giving them a detailed breakdown of it. But I knew that if they went and listened, watched the videos, saw the visual identity of the project, they too would get the idea and work from there.

I really believe that Simon Henwood (Art Director for the Rated R project) and Rihanna created a neo modern pop culture moment with that. I connected with a lot of the motions on that album - visually and audio wise. I'm probably the type to set my ex on fire because she hurt me and watch her burn, but I know that I'll be first one to want to save her and put the fire out because I still love her. It’s the Passion of Yves. 

Rihanna is my pop icon because since then she's consistently managed to set the world on fire. Remember how after Rated R dropped she maintained her fashion aesthetic above everybody else? Who wore a tuxedo with nothing underneath to a party? Who dropped a pink army tank on the world? And still sold out tours? But I won't leave out Brigette Nielsen who played Ludmilla Drago in Rocky IV, she was the ultimate badass, so cool and sleek.

ZF: It's interesting that both you and Ika are perfectionists when it comes to each of your respective positions. Did the editorial turn out just as you envisioned?

YP: The editorial was slated to go live the day after we shot it because I wanted it to be fresh off the press but Ika and I weren't sold on it (perfection is a gift and a curse). So we spent weeks and sent a trillion and five e-mails back and forth, critiquing our work and choosing the right shots. 

The funny thing is we actually wanted to reshoot the entire editorial again so we could be pleased with it but then we would have reshot that one too. I sat with these for months until I was like, fuck it, let's look at them again and now I'm so proud of these shots because they represent my ideas so clearly. Yes, I am nervous about them because of how they show my fantasies and insecurities but they are super dope. This is Louvre ready.

ZF: What can we expect from you and the AM Museum in 2012? Any more editorials in the pipeline?

YP: I'm not saying anything, because the world won't believe it. I want to surprise the world but all our projects are going to be dope. I'm working on a dress that I feel women in clubs are missing; it’s a dress I'd want to see a woman in - no clothing line though, just one dress. Oh, and a music artist who is going to be a legend.

ZF: For those whose first encounter with the AFTERDEF Museum is this editorial, how would you describe what the AM Museum is about? Who do you cater to?

YP: AFTERDEF Museum is about creating credible art products. Yes we create art you can put in a museum but we are also about putting products the world can see, engage and use. I want all our shit to be in institutions of art but also in the middle, back page and cover album of the dopest pop publications. We cater to ourselves and to our clients, be it commercial retail giants, rappers who need new aesthetics or simply private portrait commissions.

ZF:Finally, what are your thoughts on the pop art scene in South Africa? What kind of an impact are you hoping to make on this scene?

YP: I have been privileged to be friends with the most contradictory of people, on the one hand super art snobs, on the other street culture kids. I think the pop art scene is doing well but it’s becoming monotone, there are too many "I'm swaggin in my snapback and MCM kids" or "I'm the next Bryanboy blogger" kids around. I respect that people are relating to that, but I want to be the kid wearing a everose Rolex in a sea of Flud watches. 

What impact am I hoping to make? The impact that will get art curators to come to hip hop shows to come pick out their next exhibitions or that will get non-art kids into art museum because there is a representation of our culture in the annals of art institutions. I am going to the most influential pop icon of our era, simply because I want that spot, I am willing to put in the required work, I'm not scared, and I want it while I'm still alive.

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At January 10, 2012 at 12:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this.


she is so beautiful

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