KENZINE: Could you introduce yourself and say a few words about your style?
Mathilde Agius: My name is Mathilde and I am 26 years old. My style is a bit “coucou”.
K: Did some artists in particular influence your work?
M. A.: I got my first photography book when I was 12. It was a horizontal format monograph by Swiss artist Urs Lüthi, published in 1978. On its cover, there are two polaroids, one of a globe and the other one of the topless artist blowing a bubble with gum. I think that Lüthi’s tone and humor made a lasting impression on me, and that the question of how to make something beautiful, sensitive and funny at the same time is central in my work.
K: You just made a series of photographs around the MONSTER print for KENZO blog, can you tell us a bit more about it?
M. A.: The idea behind the series was to tackle the mechanical and fragmented aspect of the MONSTER print, with repetitions, errors and twists in the rhythms. I tried to create a character that was at the same time sensual and strict, allowing these two aspects of the KENZO woman to relate.
K: You know that the 2014 Fall/Winter collection was inspired by David Lynch’s works. Are you, like Carol and Humberto, a Twin Peaks or Mulholland Drive fan? Did his movies influence your work?
M. A.: Isabella Rosselini is absolutely stunning in Blue Velvet. I admire the way David Lynch depicts female characters: their complexity, their weaknesses, their strength, and of course their madness.
K: If I mention the word “monster”, what does it evoke for you? A particular creature? A fear? A specific anxiety?
M. A.: I instinctively think about the protagonists of a book I loved when I was a kid, 'Where the Wild Things Are', by Maurice Sendak. It is the story of a boy who dresses up as a wolf to cause mischief, before being punished and sent to his room where he meets other monsters.
K: How would you define the strangeness that characterizes KENZO today?
M. A.: Electric, fluorescent, like a broken neon whose light flickers.
K: How did you express this idea in your series?
M. A.: The superimpositions of images are like a form of flickering.
K: You chose to work with Marie and Masha, who are very different. How would define the KENZO woman and what could bring these two personalities together?
M. A.: The KENZO woman is determined and rigorous, while being sensual. She’s also a bit fierce. Masha and Marie each possess these qualities in their own way.
K: What is your favorite item of the Fall/Winter collection?
M. A.: This sleeveless vest with zips because of its hypnoti-zip power.
K: It seems that the photographers that went to ECAL are apart from other photographers nowadays. In your opinion, what is it that you learn at ECAL that afterwards sets you apart from the photographers that went to school in France or England for example?
M. A.: ECAL has the means to invite a very interesting range of experts from different fields while being affordable to everyone. The technical infrastructure of the school is also exceptional.
K: Like you, a lot of young photographers want to go back to film-based photography. What does it add to your work?
M. A.: In my view, the film format, or more exactly the chemistry it contains characterizes photography. The magic process of light materializing on a physical medium fascinates me. It is a great surprise every time I discover my negatives.
K: Give me 5 places that one should absolutely go and see in Switzerland?
M. A.: There are a lot of magic places in Switzerland. Just to mention two of them, I would name my hometown Geneva where the sky always seems different and dramatic because of its geographic location. And the area between Vevey and Montreux from where you can see the reflection of the Alps in the Léman lake.
K: The song that would best illustrate your series?
M.A.: Makigami Koichi - Egoe
K: A color?
M.A.: A dark turquoise very close to blue and whose exact hue could not really be defined
K: A smell?
M.A.: A mixture of coriander and hairspray
K: A feeling?
M.A.: The surprise when you dip your feet into the cold seawater.
K: A dish?
M.A.: A coconut sambol.
Discover some of Mathilde Agius' images below and for more information visit her website.
Original Design and styling Ugo Pecoraio.
John Armleder for Kaleidoscope Spring/Summer 2014.
We asked Swiss photographer Mathilde Agius to shoot an editorial story around the Monster print. The pattern is inspired by David Lynch's work : experimental, weird and strongly rooted in the industrial North of the United States. Born from a mix of everyday life tools referring to the industrial nature of the area, monsters take the shape of fossils, dinosaurs but also coral or exotic flowers. Things are not always what they look like.
Silk monster shirt and knit dress
Monster pants with Monster jacquard top
Photography and art direction: Mathile Agius
Photographer assistant: Chloé Cohen
Models: Marie at Ford Models and Masha at Silent Models
Set designer: Tony Frontal
Set designer assistant: Thomas Griveau
Hair: Kasuko Kitaoka at Sybille Kleber
Makeup: Anthony Preel at Airport
Styling: Annabelle Lacuna
"I spend so much time checking pictures on Instagram or Twitter that I forget the pleasure I feel when I handle a beautiful book. The book "Avedon Women" is like a ceremonial: a presentation box that reveals a series of unbounded pages, with portraits of women and monochrome pieces of paper that give a rhythm to the succession of blacks and whites. A foreword written by Joan Julit Buck, a former editor at Vogue, accompanies this voyage into feminine country. Of course the powerful images by Avedon bring all the beauty to the adventure. But especially for those of us who closely watch each season how women are represented by the fashion universe, this collection of images by Avedon is like a lesson, as he knows exactly how to capture the woman behind the model, and the universal behind the particular. From the studio to the streets, from the princess to the worker, Avedon produces time in his portraits, so that we can spend time looking at them."
"Avedon Women", 2013, 200 p. Ed. Rizzoli.
Kenzo - 60, rue de Rennes, Paris.
The book corner section highlights the most original aspects of this season's themes and culture, through works selected from our KENZO boutiques and reviewed by Angelo Cirimele. On the Lynchian theme of "things are not what they seem", his eye was drawn to this strange little book of photographs by the strangely named Ralph Eugene Meatyard.
These images - black and white photographs in a square format – are likely to have a profound impact on us. Ralph Eugene Meatyard composed his photographs with what he had on hand: shacks, undergrowth and his own children as models. He would often add contorted dolls and masks. To look at his pictures is to be overcome by certain gentleness, while also bearing witness to some strange mystery. Adult masks on children’s bodies, scattered dolls… Meatyard recreated a theater in nature; out of time and disturbing. These rural no man’s lands are familiar to us, reminding us of our playgrounds when we were kids, when reality and games coexisted naturally. After closing this book, we leave somehow persuaded that these images are also part of our own story.
'Dolls and Masks', Ralph Eugene Meatyard, 2011, 132 p. Ed. Radius books.
KENZO - 60, rue de Rennes, Paris.
The book corner section highlights the most original aspects of this season's themes and American culture, through works selected from our KENZO boutiques and reviewed by Angelo Cirimele. This week's pick in 'The New Cars' by Lee Friedlander, which capture sone of the quintessential elements of modern American life - travelling by car.
I have always thought that the best way to tell the American story is to talk about travelling. Covering the cities of course, but mostly the wide open spaces: the great West, California… And so the car asserts itself as the most natural vehicle for this. This book by Lee Friedlander has a back-story: commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar to take a series of pictures about the latest car models in 1964, the photographer - true to his style - scattered the cars across the city, ensuring they inhabited the cityscape and stood right in the midst of city life, shooting it all on his 35mm Leica. The magazine had been expecting a series that showed the products in a more 'advantageous' light, so Friedlander was paid, yet the pictures were never published. Resurfacing a few decades later, their documentary value has remained, and they also present something typically American: exploring its great wide open spaces driving a car.
'The new cars' 1964 – Lee Friedlander, 2011, 86 p. Ed. Fraenkel gallery.
KENZO - 60, rue de Rennes, Paris.
The book corner section highlights the most original aspects of Californian culture all summer long, through works selected and reviewed by Angelo Cirimele. Photographer Joel Sternfeld was part of a small group working in the ‘70s and ‘80s who legitimized the use of colour film, generally reserved for ‘amateur’ recreational use, in art photography. His first publication in 1987 was this book, American Prospects. Now considered a landmark publication, the book presents the results of Sternfeld’s many road trips across the country, where he employed formal and expansive framing to subtly document socio-economic issues in the U.S.A. with his trademark irony and humour.
American Prospects – Joel Sternfeld
"Landscape photography is often considered to be the heir apparent of painting. As far as I am concerned - and all contrariness aside - I prefer to think the other way around and I look at a picture as if it were a painting. As such, I like to break them down into pieces: separating the foreground from the background, being lost in the contemplation of the light, or wondering about how long it took to create this image. With the work of American photographer Joel Sternfeld, it’s all a breeze: his landscape pictures are snapshots of America, displaying the insignificance of human interventions in the vast openness of scenery. Cars are pervasive, and so are leisure activities, embodied by swimming pools or lakes, suggested in the pictures with foam or stretches of water. While the photographs were mostly taken in the 1970s and 1980s, they remain to a large degree utterly timeless."
'American Prospects', Joel Sternfeld, 1987-2012, 140 p. Ed. Steidl.
KENZO – 60 rue de Rennes, Paris.
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Discover the KENZO Spring/Summer collection here.
Book Corner #8: "Impresario": Malcolm MacLaren and the British New Wave"
The book corner section highlights the most original aspects of Californian culture all summer long. To trace the history of Orange County's punk scene, one needs to head back to the birthplace of punk: London, where Malcolm Maclaren was documenting the counter-culture scene in the style of a new kind of artist. "Impresario: Malcolm McLaren and the British New Wave" was an exhibition opened at the New Museum in 1988, and the catalogue is Angelo Cirimele's pick of the week.
"While passing the poster for the "Europunk" exhibition, which came to us in Paris from the V&A in London, I thought to myself that a museum was really the last place you would expect to see punks, whose counterculture is founded on the anti-establishment attitude. Then I came across this exhibition catalog devoted to Malcolm McLaren: the manager and creator of the Sex Pistols, former boyfriend and general partner-in-crime of Vivienne Westwood, the renowned designer and “mother” of punk. I absolutely relish the idea that the New Museum could, in 1988, dedicate an exhibition to someone who is not an artist but an artistic director. The museum curators finally grasped something: the act of putting together (mixing), highlighting (producing) and drawing attention to a movement was, in and of itself, the actual movement. This small catalog has a detailed chronology and contains many passages, including one by Dan Graham, who recounts this recent and enthralling history."
Impresario: Malcolm McLaren and the British new wave, Paul Taylor, 1988, 80 p. Ed. New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York.
KENZO, 60, rue de Rennes, Paris.
KENZINE: Jean-Pierre Blanc invited you to create a photo series in the recently abandoned Villa Romaine, in Hyères. Tell us about your first thoughts on the project.
Charlie Engman: This work occupies a rather different space from my other work. I don’t normally work this way where the project has a very specific narrative and historical aspect, but I was intrigued. When I was invited by the festival to come and check out La Romaine they really gave me carte blanche, saying “you have this house, you can do anything you want even if it’s just using a tiny corner”. I had no obligation to present the house. But it was just so loud, there was so much going on, even without all the furniture and trappings, and so it inevitably became part of the narrative process.
K: La Romaine is an enormous mansion on the hill above Hyères, just like the Villa Noailles. Tell us about your impressions of it?
C.H.: La Romaine was built by an individual who had the intention of erecting the modern Versailles. He precised in his will that is was donated to a charitable foundation who then in turn sold everything they could sell, leaving the shell of the house in a strange state, which is how I found it. All my models are local people from Hyères. There is this very opulent atmosphere within the house, but it has a very outdated quality about it. I suppose the presentation of the fruit in my photographs suggests that too. For me La Romaine was a baroque failure, and there was a reference for me there. I also got the impression that it had been a very weird gay bachelor pad; it has some very sensual Greek motifs – there is an uncomfortable, forced homosexuality about it.
K: What kind of energy is there in La Romaine?
C.H.: I have a very ambivalent relationship with La Romaine. I have to admit I personally found it quite disgusting, and that has positive and negative outcomes for me as a photographer because of course disgusting can be quite exciting. I found the fact that it had been stripped by the foundation, and the fact that the owner had deigned to gift it to the foundation in the first place both quite disturbing. The building itself was in a really bad way; there was mold everywhere and it was really hard to breath in the basement for instance. No one is taking care of this place. It’s unheimlich.
K: Your exhibition is on display at Villa Noailles in this very long and narrow yellow-painted stairwell leading up to the hanging garden. Did the exhibition space inform the way you approached this project?
C.H.: When I approach a show, I usually take quite a formalist approach to the installation. I wouldn't say the exhibition space informed much of the work itself, but when it came to mounting the work, of course the stair's inevitable progression of up and down and the closeness of the left and right walls (and their stucco texture and strange yellow color!) had a huge impact on the mounting of the work. It's very physical and intimate. So I would stand on the step and feel it out: ‘this should actually be printed much smaller, this bigger…this needs to be framed, and this needs some bling… (pointing to a gold chandelier earring attached to a photo). Actually these were left over in my props bucket from the shoot. I thought they went very well with the motif on this door here…(pointing to an image of a door with gold moulding).
K: Are props something you bring from your fashion photography?
C.E.: I don’t have a relationship to photography-as-documentary, because I think that comes with a lot of baggage. Of course you have to deal with reality; it’s an essential component that has to be confronted. For me play is an important thing, and so is engaging the camera as an active participant in the photograph. I am much more interested in directly putting my hand into the image rather than capturing a ‘pure’, unadulterated moment at a distance. So perhaps the bag of props on hand is a good metaphor for my work.
K: What do you like most about the Hyères festival?
C.E.: To me it’s the energy. There’s so much generosity and excitement. Often with these things you hear “carte blanche…” but that offer is always tempered with issues of ego, and of political economics. Here, I was really trusted and given total respect and freedom. The Villa Noailles is just bursting with positivity. There is no ‘no’. Every kind of thought I had was given a consideration. I think how Jean-Pierre Blanc has built up the festival is incredible: the way he has engaged people coming into his orbit, latching onto people who are really trying to communicate something. The generosity and conviction is overwhelming.
I had already had the pleasure of meeting Steve Hiett several times, on diverse occasions such as the making of a magazine; on a jury panel or a at a vernissage. What had always struck me was his apparent detachment, even if he was perfectly aware of what a « good picture » should be.
The same things struck me while casting an eye over his exhibition set in the Squash Room of the Villa Noailles in Hyères, during this year’s 29th International Fashion and Photography Festival: his pictures seem effortless, yet the framing is always perfect. Whether in his more sociological black and white photography from the 1960s, or his work from the 1980s in all its gaudy colorful glory, these elements of efficiency and composition always reign supreme.
Later, I ran into him on the stairs:
- Steve, did you start as a photographer or as a graphic designer ?
- I studied design and then I was in a band, but I started earning my living as a photographer.
That is so typical of Steve: always doing three things at the same time. I very often think that I would have loved to grow up in the ‘60s. There was more freedom; you could study art and then start something different and move on to another thing, without anybody making a fuss about it. Indeed in the exhibition, the showcases displaying the books, magazines and vinyl covers designed by Steve may offer the key to understanding it all: Steve is an art director who started crafting his own images. That’s why he can get away with being so playful in his framing. Whether he’s behind the camera, or as has been known, in front of the camera letting the models shoot him instead, it’s the work of a skilled artist.
Steve Hiett is more inspired by the outside world than by his own studio. In his pictures, you can see streets, houses and other urban backgrounds that are transformed into another dimension because of a red car or a lost-looking model suddenly appearing in the frame. His use of wide angles transforms each frame into a more cinematic experience.
By the way, the name of the exhibition is « The Song Remains the Same » and, the latest on the street is that Steve has reformed his rock band…
Steve Hiett, 'The Song Remains the Same', on view at the Villa Noailles until the 29th May 2014.
Montée de Noailles