Photographed by Erik Hart + Tatiana Leshkina
Jil Sander F/W 2014
Cities are smells: Acre is the smell of iodine and spices. Haifa is the smell of pine and wrinkled sheets. Moscow is the smell of vodka on ice. Cairo is the smell of mango and ginger. Beirut is the smell of the sun, sea, smoke, and lemons. Paris is the smell of fresh bread, cheese, and derivations of enchantment. Damascus is the smell of jasmine and dried fruit. Tunis is the smell of night musk and salt. Rabat is the smell of henna, incense and honey. A city that cannot be known by its smell is unreliable. Exiles have a shared smell: the smell of longing for something else; a smell that remembers another smell. A painting, nostalgic that guides you, like a worn tourist map, to the smell of the original place. A smell is a memory and a setting sun. Sunset, here, is beauty rebuking the stranger.
But to love the sunset is not, as they say, one of the attributes of exile.
Suno Fall/Winter 2013 backstage by Shawn Brackbill
Rafael de La-Hoz.
Telefonica Headquarters. Madrid.
Untitled (From Sunny Side Up), 2011, Image
In European tradition the mask suggests an inversion of the natural order of things: monstrousness, transgression, subterfuge, and, more recently, sex play. It brings power — rendered anonymous, the wearer has licence to extend beyond normally accepted behaviour. Its association with covert activities also extends to the idea of exclusivity — only the initiates know the identity of those behind the masks.
Exclusivity, power and pretence are all key elements to the magical allure of fashion propounded so adeptly by glossy magazines. Yet in the hands of Grognard and Stoops, they take on an element of darkness far from the traditional preserve of fashion photography. In many of their arrangements, there’s a suggestion of a ritual or rites of passage that seems on some level familiar to us, and yet which one can’t precisely pin down: while they take inspiration from existing cultural practice, their source material is worked and abstracted beyond the point where it is immediately recognisable. Whether that inspiration is from S&M, Goth culture, religious ritual or the visual arts, the resulting work ends up occupying a discrete, mysterious universe peculiar to them.
The traditional half mask allows us not only to transgress in our behaviour, but also to express ourselves anonymously, and thus with complete freedom. It permits us to give vent to emotions that might otherwise be locked away. In discussing their work, this question of forceful emotion comes up time and again — Grognard describes their personal projects as coming straight from the stomach. Both are clearly fascinated by the notion of catharsis and immediacy, the beauty of the accidental.