A Unique Look Behind the Scenes of Fashion Shows
Text by Monique Todd, London, United Kingdom (2017)
Published in AnOther Magazine, London, United Kingdom (2017)
When photographer Quentin De Wispelaere speaks about the entrancing textures of fashion week, he isn’t referring to the clothes. Rather, it’s the reflective surfaces, anonymous figures and luminous technology behind the scenes that prove his most seductive subject. These details, the Belgium-born 27-year-old maintains, hold the locus for disorientating the viewer; where the fashion show spectacle is revised through micro-studies of LCD screens at Kenzo’s Spring/Summer 2012 show, for example, or shots of desolate rows awaiting press and celebrities.
In a series of backstage photography commissioned by AnOther over a course of several seasons a few years ago – and now part of a global shortlist of emerging photography on show at this year’s Voies Off Festival at Les Rencontres d’Arles – De Wispelaere proposes an alternative reading of fashion week’s hyper-stimulation. Don’t look at these images to learn about the collections, he warns; instead peruse the series to explore the dreaminess lingering around the lighting, cameras and sets. Below, the flight-school grad discusses his interest in creating ‘photographic hallucinations’, his obsession with fashion’s spatial storytelling and finding the otherworldly in the mundane.
On the concept behind the backstage photo...
“Fashion is all about selling a dream and even though people are aware of it, in some ways they like to dream just for the sake of it. I was 21 when I did the first images, and it was more about uncovering the general ID of a fashion show – the mise en scène. When you are in the middle of shows, visiting multiple environments during the day, it’s really crazy to go from one completely different atmosphere to another. These brands invest a lot of money in creating these moods and images, through music, set design and casting… the clothes are a small part of it. That was the general idea of what I was interested in: how can a fashion brand create an image from the clothes and then apply it to space, to music, to light?”
On the use of texture, mood and light in his work…
“As the shapes, materials, textures and objects disintegrate into separate layers, [I wanted the] photographs to playfully explore the boundaries between representation and hallucination. I actually barely retouch anything at all. All photographs were shot almost as they are and I would rather use special techniques while shooting to give them their otherworldly feel. I also like reflective surfaces and innovative technologies – such as LCD monitors for instance. This very limited realisation of post-production becomes core in creating what I like to call ‘photographic hallucinations’.”
On navigating the chaos of fashion week…
"I have to say that when I’m shooting, I never fully understand what is going on and I lose track of time. The only thing I do care about is the images that I take with the camera and it’s already got me in crazy situations – such as dropping my camera in the ocean or falling off a ladder and waking up in an intensive care unit.”
On challenging ideas of perception and reality…
"Disorientating the viewer is really what I am looking for – what happens when you ask ‘is what I am seeing real?’ or ‘can I relate to my own senses?’ I want[ed] the viewer to experience and emotionally acknowledge my interest in [these] surroundings in a dizzy, blurry, confusing, messed-up way, while still being real. Whether I am shooting fashion or a personal series, I like to investigate the different levels of visual perception and tear them apart. I’m interested in how we perceive three-dimensional contexts, and how this relates to a lot of things like hallucination and optical illusions. It’s not really about how fashion should look or appear, it’s more about how we perceive objects and surroundings.”
Voies Off runs July 3 to September 24, 2017, as part of Les Rencontres d’Arles Photography Festival.