Images courtesy of Seven

this photobook challenges how the fashion industry creates and consumes images

View, like, scroll, forget isn’t the experience New York-based stylist Alex Robertson-Dunlop has created with 'Seven.'

by Steve Salter
02 January 2019, 1:43pm

Images courtesy of Seven

In reaction to the ever accelerating conveyor belt of the fashion industry (as well as the infinite scroll of the media documenting it), New York-based stylist Alex Robertson-Dunlop has commissioned work from both established and emerging artists that shares a moment in time.

The result is Seven, a limited-edition photo book. From performance artist and choreographer Trajal Harrell -- who discusses his exploration of Butoh and six degrees of separation with Rei Kawakubo -- to artist Lotte Reimann, searching for an “entrance into the world of reflectoporn,” each story is subtly bound together by the idea of reflections.

"Seven came from a place of wanting and needing to work on something purely creative without boundaries or restrictions,” Alex explains over email. After seven years working on editorial and commercial projects across Europe, the stylist returned to New York to embark on an authentic, commercial-free project that called upon seven of her favourite creative collaborators.

“The intention was always to have the opportunity to really build upon an idea and be able to truly collaborate without the constraints of seasons and fixed deadlines,” she says. “We are often seeing product and images so quickly that they lose their value or meaning. For example, we see years of work and imagery erased on social media overnight when there is a changeover in creative teams. To me, that sends the wrong message.” Creative work should not be disposable.

With Seven, the aim was to create a treasured object that can be revisited and reflected upon. Instead of a set brief or tight deadline, the project afforded its seven collaborators the time, space and opportunity to set their own guidelines to create work that resonated with them personally. “I had the idea of ‘reflections’ in mind as an anchor throughout the entire process,” Alex explains. “By setting this intention, it gently guided creative decisions and created a tone and mood that meant I could link the works together from one story to the next." With that in mind, furniture and interior designer Jermaine Gallacher and photographer Andrew Vowles’s exploration of the relationship between the human body and furniture, sits alongside stylist and consultant Nancy Rohde’s photographs of her son, and Alex’s curation of photographer Joe Skilton’s archive.

“It has been such a luxury to have the time to enjoy the process of shooting, to have the space to let the work breathe and then the ability to make changes and have it evolve organically throughout the year,” she explains. “Printing Seven felt important as a way of marking a moment in time in a tangible way. For myself and many of my peers, books are a way to connect to a favourite artist or designer by being able to have a piece of them in your home in a way that you otherwise might not ever have access to."

A man's naked back

Alex was most moved by the experience of collaborating with Baud Postma. The London-born and based photographer shoots on a large format 8x10 camera and the photographic process he has created is entirely unique. “He shoots directly onto paper negatives and has the ability to develop the images on set,” she explains. “I have never seen the models or anyone sit for a photograph and be so engaged and connected to what they were doing. His method requires everyone on set to learn about the process and work together in order to create the image. This involvement from everyone created such a special atmosphere on set. So much consideration and thought has to go into every click of his camera. Contrary to this is the element of uncertainty of not knowing how the image will turn out and embracing the imperfections that come with this kind of process. We shot in three stages over the course of a year and throughout the whole process of shooting, developing, printing and editing it was really rewarding to be a part of.”

Trajal Harrell performing in Comme des Garçons.

“I’m most excited to share Trajal Harrell,” Alex further explains. “To quote Dan Thawley: ‘At the intersection of voguing and contemporary dance, performance artist and choreographer Trajal Harrell is a trailblazer'. Photographer Benedict Brink and I had the opportunity to meet and work with Trajal in the city that he calls home -- Athens. The Breeder Gallery kindly opened their doors to us where Benedict documented Trajal performing The Return of La Argentina. If you have ever seen his work you know how captivating and dynamic of a performer he is. I love these images because I think you can feel what we were able to feel from being in that room with him."

Trajal Harrell performing in Comme des Garçons.

Seven challenges how we consume media. With just a click and a scroll, we are flooded with images in such high volumes that ideas can either be lost or left behind in the ever accelerating digital landscape. That isn’t the experience Alex has created with her limited-edition printed publication. However, while Seven delights in the tangible reality of print, Alex isn’t blind to the opportunities that digital affords. “Print and all the craftsmanship, tradition and history that come with it are always going to be important,” she explains. “Being able to have a sensory and tactile way of interacting with images will forever be something I want to experience. What is so great about the digital world is the reach it has and the speed in which ideas can be communicated. I think it’s important for this reach to be used to give back to the creative industries and the artists in it. Whether to better communicate ideas, give credit and celebrate the talent, skills, time and energy that goes into creating the work that we take so much from.”

Far from dead, print is alive and evolving. So, just as Seven photobook lands into DSM (and online too), the Seven site launches with the aim of further communicating the work and world of its contributors. “We want to encourage people to support by going to see a show or exhibition being held by the artist or to buy prints," Alex says. "Whether it’s going to see Baud Postma’s photograph that is currently part of the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery or to see one of Trajal Harrell’s upcoming performances, the world of Seven lives on long beyond the turn of a page."

Seven can be purchased exclusively from the Dover Street Market shop.

A reflection
A skateboarder fast asleep with his board.

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This article originally appeared on i-D UK.