#4 In conversation with Zoe Karssen

by Unseen September 07 2017

At Unseen Amsterdam 2017, a number of site-specific installations will be created for this year’s Onsite Projects programme. Featuring a number of interactive ventures, the Onsite Projects complement Unseen Amsterdam’s mission to foster and promote innovative developments in contemporary photography. This year, fashion designer Zoe Karssen is presenting an Onsite Project that highlights the critical partnership between fashion and analogue photography.

Zoe Karssen is an Amsterdam-based fashion designer whose pieces have been worn by celebrities such as Kate Moss, Beyoncé and Cara Delevingne. Karssen recently launched ZOE publication, a fashion magazine rooted in the powerful potential of analogue photography and storytelling through clothing. For this feature, Karssen spoke to us about her interest in traditional methods, and how she sees them influencing the future of fashion and editorial work.

In what ways do you consider fashion photography an art form?
A fashion photographer ensures that the story of a brand’s clothing is brought to life through their imagery. The ability to translate a designer’s idea into an image that connects with people, making them want to buy the garments, is where a true art form lies.

With the explosion of Instagram and street style blogs, fashion photography has become an immensely popular language for today, as more and more people use the art form to express their individual fashion stories.

Photography plays a major role in your magazine. Can you explain where your love for photography comes from?
For me, the Zoe Karssen brand encompasses more than just clothing. It stands for something – for an attitude, a lifestyle, and for what inspires me. I love photography, and at the beginning of the brand’s journey, I generated all content for Zoe Karssen myself. Now I work with some wonderful photographers, and I try to create images that have the power to move people or provoke some form of emotion, much like photography has done for me over the years.

Your project at Unseen Amsterdam highlights the use of analogue photography within the fashion industry. How have you seen the role of analogue photography change, and what do you think are the reasons for this change?
I think the change begins with the fashion photographers who have started to rediscover the analogue medium again. We live in a world where more is more, and we have to be quicker than ever to visually document a moment, publishing it for everyone to see. So, it's not so strange to see these photographers break away from this excess and let the true art of fashion photography stand on its own again. Ithink the move away from digital photography, for some, is part of the backlash directed at what has been going on in our culture, which is now so digitally driven.

Digital photography is sharper and cleaner, and it captures a lot of information, but it is cold. Analogue photography gives you less information, but it is emotional. And what do we connect with more – information or emotion?

Do you think the resurgence of analogue processes within fashion photography is affecting the way we experience fashion today?
I see that the rise of analogue photography is in line with an overall shift in the fashion industry today. We are exposed to so much content on a daily basis, and we as designers need to be able to think on our feet to generate original, unique content that stands out in a crowd.

If the majority of this exposure comes in a digital form, then it is not so crazy to see a rise in analogue as a new entity. The resurgence of analogue, in part, restores an emotional connection to fashion, which can often be lost in the high speed digital process.

What were your main reasons for setting up the project Analogue (Back) In Fashion, and why at Unseen Amsterdam?Photography as an art form is one of the main pillars of our brand. Aside from the clothing itself, it is how we communicate with our consumers. We are extremely image-driven, and after witnessing the shifts in the current market, I really started to think about the rise in analogue photography and how wonderfully raw and emotional it can be. I was pretty taken by the images made by Israeli analogue photographer Yaniv Edry, so I asked him to join the first issue of ZOE publication. He produced a wonderful selection of images, and from then on I was even more hooked on the medium. Unseen Amsterdam is a great event that not only showcases, but celebrates, an immense range of talent and passion within the industry. So, the idea of Zoe Karssen being a part of an event like this is something we are very excited about.

Could you tell us more about the artists that you have chosen to work with for this project?
I wanted to work with Paul Bellaart because I have loved his work ever since I first saw it in Vogue Netherlands. He makes fantastic images that are truly beautiful. Paul and I worked together for the first issue of ZOE publication, and as I had hoped, he delivered some great content for the magazine
He is a very social person who is intrigued by the many faces of ‘real people’. It seemed like a natural fit to work on this Unseen collaboration with him. It also happened to be a project he was always hoping to do – the idea to capture many real faces in one time.

Sophie van der Perre has worked for Zoe Karssen once before, and manages to capture a feeling of freedom, youthful sisterhood and an abundance of love in her images, and I was very drawn to that. I think we have a similar love for these types of images within our fields. In a recent interview she spoke about her interest in photographing adventurous, charismatic women, and how their energy contributes to her photographic process, and that really resonated with me.

See more about  ANALOGUE (back) IN FASHION here

Photo: The Back Yard © Yaniv Edry