Instagram is saturated with cool photographers. Now I’m not talking the average Jo with an iPhone X, I’m talking those interesting creative-types that portray their vision of the world through imagery. And the most common genre on the social media app? Fashion, obvs. The grid-like design and wide reach instantly lends itself to the industry that spends millions on creating engaging content for its consumers.
The issue is there are too many photographers on social. And then there’s the issue of subjection. Yes, lighting, skill, and content come into play, but there’s still personal taste. Some people might not even like the style of Colin Dodgson, Petra Collins, or even Mert + Marcus. These guys have very different, very distinct visual identities that just don’t speak to everyone. But they’ve worked with some of the biggest names in the industry.
So my thinking here is this: who’s going to be the future of fashion editorials? And what’s going to make them stand out enough to get noticed?
I stumbled across Stuart C way back when during my time as Online Editor of London-based independent title TWIN. He has a strong personal style that instantly resonated with me: it was bold and fresh, yet sleek subtleties ran through the context of the work. The Singapore-based dude was fresh out of school at the time and was creating these collages that stood out in my feed. Now, collaging is no new feat when it comes to fashion, but there was something interesting about this particular body of work, and then there was the name of his site that had me instantly click follow. Fast forward a few years, and I still look out for his images in my feed. So finally, I reached out to find out more about the guy behind the layered lens.
Let’s start at the beginning: how did you end up working in photography?
I picked up photography through my sister when I was 17. Started looking into portraiture as still-life wasn’t that exciting for me back then; I wasn’t really the most patient kid. After a few years of exploring, people around me suggested to either apply for an art school or just assist someone to progress further. And that’s when I googled “Fashion Photographer Singapore” and surprisingly,
WEE KHIM’s website came up amongst many others. I wrote to his producer and after working for both MARK LAW and Khim, I got inspired by some of the best people from there that I then decided that this is what I have to do as a career!
What inspires your work the most?
I suppose it’s my perception of what “beauty” is, while I observe the people and things around me. The things that inspire me might vary and change over time but I’m always inspired by my family – although they don’t work in the same industry – and by the things that they say or do.
Why HOLLY MACARONI?
I used to work as a waiter when I was 15, and being a vegetarian working at a fancy restaurant wasn’t easy as their staff meals weren’t exactly tailor-made to each [person’s] dietary preference. The chef was kind enough to prepare macaroni and cheese for my meals. So when I was finally at the phase where I ought to have my own web-folio, I thought “Stuart Photography” sounded tacky and too restrictive for possible growth for what I can do and pursue in the future. Thus, it was between “Holy Macaroni!” or “Holly Macaroni!”
Why did you begin to explore collage as a form of fashion communication?
While I was doing my undergrad, as well as building up a portfolio, test shoots were (and still are) such a big thing for creatives, and of course I got sort of frustrated as they didn’t mean much to me as I progressed. And so, I thought, I should address the matter of ‘ethical fashion’ through my test shoots as a better use of my time.
The idea of “fast fashion” was rather interesting, as many designers from all over the world were trying to [make sense of it] as well as grow awareness for the cause. I saw that photography in general, is kind of similar. Scrolling through social media – Instagram, for example – you have endless amount of great images taken by people from all over, uploading or reposting content as soon as you refresh your feed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing time to live in, but it got me thinking. So instead of doing heaps of shooting, I started internalising, looking at my archive, and married suitable photographs together. That’s how collaging started for me.
You also create mixes: would you say that what inspires your work in fashion also translates into music? Or is there no connection at all?
That’s such a good and funny question. Back when I was studying in London, a friend of mine (Peggy Gould) who was styling for a shoot we were collaborating on, told me that my choice of music was so bad and that I should probably come by her apartment so she can give me some advice.
After some time, I took an interest in garage house, deep house, tech house, reggae, funk and more chill music. That’s when I thought perhaps I should do my own ‘mixtape,’ for photographers or creatives alike, to use it on their shoots. At the moment, I have a few go-to playlists that I’ve curated for my shoots. I believe in creating an experience for my team as much as it is an experience for myself while I enjoy this collaborative, creative process.
Which photographers/artists do you look up to?
Currently, I look at works of Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Tim Walker, Inez and Vinoodh, Cecil Beaton, Helmut Newton, Hedi Silmane, Robert Mapplethorpe, Peter Lindbergh, Willy Vandeperre, Jonas Lindstroem, Glen Luchford, Damien Hirst, Marcel Duchamp, Christian Dada.
Just a few then! And how would you describe fashion landscape today?
A liberated and empowered youth: the ever changing landscape and the people “backstage” that motivate and drive this movement. The D.I.Y. attitude has never been more prominent and relatable. What inspired me most was a talk given by Virgil Abloh at Columbia University: “this project that was made, it’s made to inspire. To people that can’t see it, it looks like something else. It’s targeted toward the demographic that can afford it, but [mostly] for the demographic that can’t afford it. It’s meant so that you start the competing brand that’s better than Off-White.”
Wherever you stand on Abloh, and his latest appointment as the Creative Director of Louis Vuitton, there’s no denying the fact that fashion is in a state of hype over matter, a place where anything the ‘Pale/Male/Stale’ photographers of the past can do, the young can do just as well. And dare I say it; better. Anything that inspires people to be creative and create cool shit is fine by me.
To illustrate this conversation, Stuart turned me and my Instagram aesthetic into one of his collages. Result below…