Reece + Dean are fashion photography’s rising storytellers
Despite only graduating less than a year ago, their work is already plastered all over across London billboards and buses.
Photography Reece + Dean
Reece Owen and Dean Hoy just graduated from the BA Fashion Communication and Promotion course at Central Saint Martins in June last year. Theirs was a degree which encouraged its students -- often aspiring fashion photographers, art directors and stylists -- to find what makes them different and to run with it as far as the eye can see. Alumni of the program include Campbell Addy, the photographer and director behind Nii Agency, WAH Nails founder Sharmadean Reid, and Fashion East recipient Gareth Wrighton to name a few.
Prestigious as the course may be, however, none of these talented individuals could have achieved what they have without a healthy dose of determination and a strong faith in their own ideas. Reece and Dean’s work ethic is almost as scary as their horror-inspired Based on a True Story project, but for all the pitchforks and haunted houses in their work, there’s also eye-popping clownish comedy -- just take a look at their images of CSM MA Fashion alum Edwin Mohney’s graduate collection. They’re not ones to shy away from more serious subjects either, as seen in their ‘Dangerous Summer’ series, which explores the future effects of climate change, depicting sweaty sitters attempting to cool off in a never-ending heatwave. Despite being less than a year out of school, they’ve also started shooting commercial campaigns. It’s pretty likely that the Londoners among you will have seen their work while out and about; the duo were tapped by Converse for their latest campaign, which now graces billboards and buses across the capital.
Eager to learn more about the pair of upstarts, we caught up with R+D on which fashion designers they rate, when they began collaborating and how the eeriness of the suburbs inspired Based on a True Story.
How did you meet and when did you start working together?
Dean: We met in secondary school but didn’t start working collaboratively under R+D until our first year at CSM.
Reece: I used to think that we started working together because our ideas were similar, but I’ve realised that it’s our differences that make it work.
You’re both from Tonbridge in Kent, do you think that’s influenced your work?
D: I think growing up in queer in suburbia always subconsciously affects people. Also, the curtain twitcher and neighbourhood watch aspects of suburbia have inspired our practice. We have used the mundanity of where we grew up and turned it into something more cinematic.
R: Definitely, I think a lot of our cinematic style comes from our childhood. Exploring forests and suburban neighbourhoods provided the perfect backdrop for our imagination to run wild.
What can Reece do that Dean can’t and vice versa?
R: We never set any boundaries on each other about what our roles are. Dean's strengths lie in his ability to research and realise ideas. He’s also way craftier than me, often making garments or sets and props for R+D shoots. I can’t even thread a needle!
D: We both definitely have synergy with ideas and taste. Strengths...Reece is great at exploring new digital techniques and has a great awareness of the fashion landscape.
Who are your favourite double acts?
R: Lilo and Stitch
D: Scooby and Shaggy
You’re doing pretty well considering how recently you graduated... What is your top ‘OMFG as if’ moment?
R: When we had a meeting with Pat McGrath at a hotel in Paris. It was very formal. Dean and I looked very out of place. Or instantly OMFG when Grimes followed us on Instagram - my teenage heart skipped a beat!
D: I feel like it was the execution of the exhibition, getting a bashed-up car into our venue. I also get OMG moments when I can see that the photos are going to be strong. I got this when we shot Edwin Mohney’s MA collection and when we photographed Lily, a model we cast from Anti Agency, in a tree wearing a cardigan we made for Based on a True Story.
What’s in your kit bag?
R: Torches as you never know when an extra light (or three) will come in handy! Shorts in the summer, as bending into poses and crawling on the floor can leave you ‘hot ’n’ bothered.’
D: Camping torches.
What makes a good fashion image?
R: A great team of people with their own creative interpretations of an idea. There’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’ so it's important to be informed by others.
D: Good lighting and committed creatives.
Your degree project, Based on a True Story, was inspired by horror, what attracts you both to the genre?
R: Horror is perceived as two-dimensional but once you begin to look deeper, it’s a treasure trove of references, easter eggs and hidden parallels to our own societal fears.
D: The intensity, intelligence and power of it.
If you could do the project again, would you do anything differently?
R: I would leave what we created, but if we were to continue the project further, we would use more motion alongside stills, that’s something we want to push.
D: More gore.
What advice would you give aspiring fashion image-makers?
R: Do your own thing, stick with what inspires and excites you.
D: I’d say always try to be kind to everyone who is part of the team. Also remind yourself that people have employed you because of your work -- talent should always surpass!
You’ve worked with many fashion designers, who do you think is most aligned with your aesthetic?
R: Our work centres around narratives so I really admire and love working with Edwin Mohney.
D: Gareth Wrighton. His work is an amalgamation of storytelling, craftsmanship, the internet, and has explicit undercurrents. I could go on, it’s just brilliant.
How would you describe your work?
R: It's like looking into a funhouse mirror, we give you ‘our’ reflection, a warped depiction of reality.
D: Fabricated (often camp) narratives that are often an allegory of society.
What’s it been like seeing your imagery on billboards and buses around London?
R: So surreal, it’s gratifying to see your work IRL.
D: So much more exciting than just posting it to Instagram, especially for my mum.
If you could only keep one image each on the R+D Insta what would it be?
D: The photo of Aweng for King Kong. It’s our only black and white image but I feel like it could stand the test of time.
R: The shot from our series Dying, starring Sasha & Zhuo encapsulates our aesthetic. I’d like to see if the message behind it is still relevant in ten years time. Hopefully, it isn’t.
What’s the dream?
R: A studio space. My room’s become an emporium of potential shoot props. My long-term dreams are always evolving so ask me again in a year or two.
D: Dreams are forever changing.
The future of fashion photography is…
D: More than just photography, I hope that it will become less about profit and more about creativity.