LONDON, United Kingdom — As guests arrived at BoF’s 5th birthday party in New York earlier this month, many of them came in with breathless reports of a massive video installation happening uptown called “The Ever Changing Face of Beauty,” conceived by fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø, and styled by Marie Chaix, for W magazine in partnership with P&G Prestige and created at Spring Studios.
Inspired by the surrealists’ cadavres exquis and an old children’s parlour game, the installation consisted of two eighteen-meter-high screens, each with large scale videos of the models Lara Stone and David Agbodji walking towards each other, their bodies split into four sections as their torsos, heads and feet morphed into animals, trees and ethereal spirits, constantly shape-shifting to a haunting, multi-layered soundtrack by James Lavelle of Mo’ Wax.
Unfortunately, I missed the installation itself, but was delighted when Robin Derrick, former creative director of British Vogue, now executive creative director of Spring Creative, gave BoF an exclusive sneak peek at a new iPad app that brings the project to life with a level of user interactivity that provides an exciting window into the future of multi-media fashion editorial.
“Part of the brief was that it wasn’t just about fragrance, it wasn’t just about beauty; it wasn’t just fashion,” Sundsbø told BoF. “It was something that was going to join all those things together.”
Using 5 × 5k super high-resolution Epic cameras (the next generation of the RED camera) and shot over two days in London, Sundsbø’s team filmed sixteen different videos and morphed them together in post production, creating a totem-like figure that is part woman and part man, part animal and part nature.
But what does it all mean? “The underlying message is quite romantic. To have a man and a woman walking towards each other, 16 metres tall, in an infinity of motion, but never getting closer to each other,” explains Sundsbø. “At the end of the day we are part animal; we are made of stars; we are made of all the atoms that make up our entire universe. I think it is quite beautiful that those things come to the front, so you see all those things that are part of us, superimposed on the top.”
Originally commissioned by W Magazine as a film, along with still images to appear in the print magazine, Sundsbø, who early on in his career trained under digital pioneer Nick Knight, saw the opportunity to do something even more exciting.
“I’ve always had this dream that the characters that I create when I take pictures should come to life,” he said. “There is a progression of these characters that I’ve created from still pictures to exist on film which is natural for me. And the next step from that, which happened very beautifully this time, is to be able to create your own characters based on the images and the films that I’ve made, so you can manipulate them further.”
Sundsbø put forth the idea of the iPad app to W and asked Spring Creative to help make it a reality. With the app, users can pinch, swipe and tilt — leveraging the iPad’s touchscreen and accelerometer capabilities — to interact with and manipulate the constantly morphing video imagery and soundtrack.
“Different channels do different things,” said Derrick. “Print has a beautiful quality of its own; the installation in New York was breathtaking for its sheer scale and atmosphere; and the iPad app is both an intimate and creative experience that allows you to create you own version of the project.”
For some time, digital technologies have enabled image-makers like Nick Knight, David LaChapelle and Mert & Marcus to stretch conventional notions of beauty and create hyper-real imagery. Now, digital is enabling the end consumer to not just look at, but actively shape, manipulate and participate in fashion imagery as well.
“I feel that we are only now beginning to see interactivity as a benefit rather than a gimmick,” said Derrick.
“The Ever Changing Face of Beauty” is available today for free download from the Apple App Store.
Imran Amed is founder and editor-in-chief of The Business of Fashion