Hedi Slimane's Girl Return
Aleksey Zubarev is a photographer based in St. Petersburg, Russia. ‘Hedi Slimane’s Girl Return’ was shot with the stylist Maks Vans and revolves around the model Katya Grechenkova being a focal point of the story. A strong personality is streaming through the gaze which translates into building a connection with the camera and creating an existential statement and a definition of the self. Femininity is reevaluated through different variations of looks and styling decisions that create a complicated personality with diverse traits and moods.
Slightly low angles build a connection with the stare that is perceived almost as from the eye level. Aleksey has his own approach to shooting editorials in which he builds a character based on a parallel personality while the focus is on enabling space in the frame to breath life into the story.
Tell about the story and the concept? Hedi Slimane drives a lot of attention as his decisions are dramatic and resonate with the world. What does it mean for you Hedi Slimane’s Girl Return?
Let’s start with the fact that I noticed this model a long time ago. In 2014, Katya had only one catwalk, because she signed an exclusive contract with Saint Laurent. This meant that the model was absolutely in line with the style of the collection, and Hedi Slimane wanted the girl to appear only in his shows and no other ones.
CERTAINLY, I WAS INTERESTED IN THIS AND IN THE FACT THAT KATYA WAS SHOT BY ONE OF MY FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHERS, FANNY LATOUR-LAMBERT. I WANTED TO UNDERSTAND HEDI SLIMANE’S CHOICE, WHAT ATTRACTED AND INTERESTED HIM IN THIS MODEL. OF COURSE, A MODEL WITH SUCH EXPERIENCE IS A LUCKY FINDING FOR A PHOTOGRAPHER. ACCORDING TO KATYA, SHE COMMUNICATED A BIT WITH HEDI SLIMANE: “IT WAS AN AWESOME TIME,” SHE SAYS, “HEDI SLIMANE IS AMAZING, A VERY POSITIVE PERSON!”
The shooting’s concept was based on an idea of simple tests with a goal to reveal the inner world of the model, to show her mood and power. When choosing style and inspiration, I work according to the scheme of internal parallels, the similarities of particular personalities. In Katya’s case, the choice fell on Rianne van Rompaey, although they are not similar at first glance, there’s a certain degree of calmness, simplicity, and shrillness that is present in both.
As for the clothes, the shooting of Interview Magazine, September 2017, with Rianne van Rompaey helped us a lot. I said: "Max, let's get inspired from this one in terms of mood and style!". I know that it suits us, Katya also agreed. The name of the shooting was born in my head after the shooting took place, sitting at home next to the monitor, during the processing I sent a few frames to Katya and in delight exclaimed:
“I think I know the title!”
“So, what’s the title?”, she asked, smiling.
“Hedi Slimane’s Girl Return,” I replied, “this shot should help you return to the world of high fashion.”
The thing is that after working in Paris, Katya was very ill for a long time, she was in hospitals: skin problems and so on. I did not ask for details, but, of course, I inquired about it, as the girl disappeared from the modeling horizons.
What was important for you when choosing the talent for this shoot? Was it about the facial expression, the attitude, the prior knowledge of working with this person?
Speaking about the model, Katya has an insanely piercing, predatory stare, as if a large American eagle soars above you, with amazing statics, and of course, a certain degree of grace in her movements. The Parisian theme emphasizes her aristocracy and enables to understand that this appearance, those looks, exist out of time.
Cowboy motifs, as I have already mentioned, reveal her point of view (the inner world) and a certain accent that so often attracts photographers and people of the art scene - an eternally displeased facial expression. As the model puts it, laughing: “Yes, that’s my face, what should I be happy about?! We live in Russia, in St. Petersburg, there is no sun, it's cold... ”. Regarding the fashion and preparation of clothes, Maxim quickly chose the looks, which I was pleasantly surprised about.
"THAT’S MY FACE, WHAT SHOULD I BE HAPPY ABOUT?! WE LIVE IN RUSSIA, IN ST. PETERSBURG, THERE IS NO SUN, IT'S COLD".
Tell about the main aspects of working in the studio with lighting the space? What are some of your tips?
As it comes to light, I can say that I am shooting with daylight, natural light. I choose the most spacious studios filled with light, so it’s easier to breathe and feel the surrounding space, that liberates the model, enabling her to get into the shoot.
The fashion styling refers to several eras and genres touching slightly on the 70s, going through the cowboy style to other creative decisions. Tell about the preparations for the shoot.
My choice: no complicated lighting schemes. Even when you are shooting with artificial light, revive it, create glare or a surrounding interior, place a model in the utmost comfortable conditions, so she will unfold her personality.