Ever wondered how a shoot is put together - from the inner workings of the stylist’s mind, to the decision-making process of which model to cast, through to the choice on where to focus the camera lens? PETRIe Editorial and Features Director, Grace Carter, speaks with the hugely talented stylist and PETRIe EIC, Zadrian Smith, about his inspiration and work on the “DARK WILT” photo shoot.
Grace Carter: Talk me through your concept for the shoot?
Zadrian Smith: This shoot is a direct spill over of what I was feeling emotionally when we shot in December. Perhaps still caught up in the mishaps of a bad relationship, I wanted to convey through this story the dark side of romance - what happens when the red roses wither and turn black… when it becomes a dark wilt. The images are quite romantically painterly and, even though the model is wearing all black, there isn’t a sense of it being void of colour. I think the black becomes a new colour with many underlying meanings.
GC: What images or ideas did you have on your mood board?
ZS: My ideas when styling usually start with the clothes. However, there are times when I have an idea burned into my energy that I want to turn into images but sometimes designers haven’t created the garments to go with these ideas yet, so they get tabled until the future. Dark Wilt, however, started with the clothes - all black, slightly avant-garde silhouettes, brocades and distressed finishes. They were innately mysterious and enchanting. From there, the photographer, Katja Mayer, and set designer, Philip Cooper, brought their ideas to the table and, before you knew it, there were talks of oil-lacquered roses, paint and post-technical comp, which would all work together to create an alternate universe for our model to exist.
GC: How did you decide on which model to use?
ZS: When casting models you are sent packages from model agencies. You send them an idea for the concept and the team and, based on who is available, you then receive a package. There are so many factors that go into casting and it can oftentimes be a battle of negotiations between team and model agents. With Fay, to a certain degree, it was love at first sight. She possesses a calm, uncanny spirit that, when captured in imagery, is both striking and slightly disturbing – but, in a way, that draws you in. She really knows how to play a character.
GC: What look/story/mood/idea did you want her to convey within the shoot? Did you give her any specific directions or advice?
ZS: My advice to her was to let the clothes guide you through your emotions. Think about a time in your life when you were sad and the world around you was void of colour.
GC: In the penultimate image in particular, the model’s rib cage can be seen and many may describe her as underweight. How would you respond?
ZS: My response to this is simple. There is constant debate on the social responsibility of fashion editors and designers and yes, I do believe when one is in a position where their work is viewed by a large audience, there is a sense of responsibility that should be considered and addressed as much as possible. However, if someone is an artist and seeking to create beauty, then how others interpret this beauty is out of their control. If you tried to manipulate the response of your work in order to please a vast majority of your audience, nothing would ever be done because society’s taste is so varied that you will always disappoint some and please others.
GC: Which of these visuals is most intriguing to you and why?
ZS: The visuals are all equally intriguing because without one, the story misses a chapter. Imagine reading your favourite novel with one chapter missing – your story would be incomplete.
GC: What do you hope the audience takes away from this shoot?
ZS: When I create, I tend not to think about my audience. I think about creating and working with a team who have a singular vision to create something that, for them, is beautiful. A wise person once told me that if you do the work and create work that you feel is true to your nature, then you’ve done your job. The rest is not up to you.