I Am a Sinner
Nastasia Nem a creative producer from Moscow, represented by a production agency New Now Agency, collaborated with a fashion photographer Victoria Neretina and a stylist Leeza Kazbekova to create the new story. 'I am a Sinner' was inspired by the old historical publishing house in Moscow that currently exists in poor condition and in spite of that is rented to small businesses. Historical heritage of the country is brought in contrast with the desire to profit, and the lack of budget for the restoration of the building is conflicting with the active businesses which will lose the grounds once the house perishes.
With Kendrick Lamar’s song in the background and mysterious occurrences on set, a metaphoric story is created. Low camera angles, the decor and strong presence of the talent on shoot bring forward the dramatic effect thrusting a viewer towards the connection with reality.
"The main idea of the story is to reflect the contrast between the present situation and the forgotten heritage".
What was the main idea you and the team had for shooting ‘I am a sinner’?
The main idea of the story is to reflect the contrast between the present situation and the forgotten heritage. The federal level historical building in the old Moscow center is in a very bad condition, but there are no funds for restoration, moreover, it is rented for small business offices. The gorgeous entrance of the building is now a part of daily life for people who come here to make money and nobody pays attention to the unique decor that deteriorates and needs to be renovated asap. The shooting is made as an antithesis play to reflect the contrast between consumer culture and heritage. Thus, every detail highlights the cultural purity and the dark side of gold digging: white hood vs. black skin, lots of jewellery vs. discoloured walls of the building, big white shabby doors vs. brutal leather trench. At the end of the narration, the model puts her hands on her lowered head as if she wants to admit: “I am a sinner” and to confess, but her hands are still full of jewellery which suggests that she might sin again.
Tell about the scouting for the location and the story behind the place.
I found this location a year ago when searching for a polaroid film office located in Novaya Basmannaya 19b1. Inspired by the building entrance decor and colours, I had stored it in my mind for a future project.
I plunged into the building history and found that it was built in 1839 and rebuilt in 1882. It is known as V. Khludov’s Mansion, and for many years it has been the residence for Publishing house “Fiction”.
What were the main aspects you needed to decide upon with the team before the actual shot took place?
I would say that the two key people made this story real. Evolving the concept of the story, the styling was addressed by the person whose sense of fashion I absolutely adore - Leeza Kazbekova - a stylist, vakproject art director, talented editor, who studied design in London. She made the story exceptionally stylish and aesthetic: the way the attitude coordinates with the items and the colours match with the combined accessory details.
Victoria Neretina - our dear friend and an independent photographer with graphic design background, who was the right person to catch the beauty of the building and it's architecture reflecting the idea by showing the narrative intimacy via light and shadows.
Also, I am very grateful to the model - Helena Thomas - that is a real discovery in Moscow and is definitely a true queen for this shooting. With such a gorgeous team it was easy to convince the building administration for the shooting.
"It was a real mystery at the end of the shooting when suddenly our light fell down on the steps and got crashed".
The low angle shots and the poses are insanely powerful and provide this additional perspective on a character in this place in time. Were the angles predefined before the shoot or enlightening moments that happened on set?
Yes, posing is a very important factor in my work as a creative director, and for this shoot, the particular lowered angle reflects the idea of a human 'being above the world' and being arrogant which is a sin. So the references were carefully collected to support this idea. Of course, some angles were defined on set. Especially, the shot where she rests her hands on her head, that was the moment that set the scene. The background music also did it justice. Those are the lyrics of Kendrick Lamar's song:
“I am a sinner, who's probably gonna sin again Lord forgive me, Lord forgive me Things I don't understand”
What was most exciting about this fashion story?
It was a real mystery at the end of the shooting when suddenly our light fell down on the steps and got crashed (they say this building has the most vicious ghost that isn't fond of the light).
To finish the shooting we had to run around the building in the hope to find some alternative light. We found a couple of table lamps that really saved us. It was quite comic the way our team had to run around the model holding the table lamps in agony to get some more light in the picture.
We felt anxious about the light and the quality of the second part of the shooting because of the light accident, but we were thrilled to find out that the snaps turned out beautifully and the dimmed lighting really set the scene for this fashion story.