At a time of widespread socio-political instability, now is the time to speak out and create works that sparks positive change. "It is our responsibility as humans to use whatever talents we have to create awareness, action, and change," James Pecis explains to over email. "Challenging times encourage the creative passion." The pages of our very own Creativity Issue is testament to today's artistically fertile climate. So is James Pecis and Kimberley Norcott's Noodled, a photographic study. After being drawn into Mission Blue's work around ocean preservation, both the California-born-turned-London-based hair stylist and his longtime art director collaborator Kimberley Norcott became fixated on the idea of matching the movement of hair with magical moments documented out at sea.
"The next five years may be the most important in the next ten thousand ones for our planet," warns Dr. Silvia Earle, founder of Mission Blue. "There are plenty of reasons for hope, yet every day doors of opportunity close. We know what to do. Now is the time to act." The collective action of James Pecis, Kimberley Norcott, Paul Wetherell, and Ben Bugden resulted in Noodled. A labour of love, this self-published tome encourages us to explore the similarities and differences between the beauty of the ocean and the beauty of ourselves. Matching quiffs with grinding waves, curls with lips, and frizz with spray, the familiar craft of hair stylist and portrait photographer Paul Wetherell comes alive when it can be compared and contrasted with Ben Bugden's seascapes. Ahead of the book's launch, James Pecis talks us through the project and invites us to dive into the wide-blue yonder.
What was the catalyst for Noodled? Where did the initial idea come from?
Kimberley Norcott and I are always scheming ideas and creative projects. She was pushing to do a book that would connect elements found in nature with those found in beauty. We were drawn to the movement of hair and particular moments in water. It was a natural connection, as they both bend and shape similarly. This idea took shape while on holiday at the beach.
On a daily basis in your work and beyond, how much inspiration do you find in nature?
Nature impacts us directly and indirectly. It may put you in the right mental state to focus or it may help you see things in a different way. Most importantly, it connects us with something bigger than ourselves and inspires us in many ways.
How did you become involved with Mission Blue? What attracted you to its cause?
We wanted to support ocean preservation, as it is something that means a great deal to us. If you spend any time in the ocean, you know that it is the life force of the Earth and is in extreme danger. Mission Blue was founded by Sylvia Earle, the most inspiring person. She is one of the world's leading marine biologists. She encourages people to use their own talents to support causes they want to get involved in. We were extremely inspired by Sylvia and Mission Blue has been very supportive of this project.
At this time of socio-political instability, how important is it for creatives to stand up for the causes they believe in?
We are in a very strange time right now and it seems to get scarier by the hour. It is incredibly important to stand up for what we believe in, whether occur through expression, support, or simply talking about the issues. It is our responsibility as humans to use whatever talents we have to create awareness, action, and change. Challenging times encourage the creative passion. We all have a voice and it is about finding where and how to use it.
The book is a result of a number of collaborations. How did you work together with Kimberley, Paul, Ben, Shelley Dirkin, and Athena Paginton? Was there a tight brief or did you have a degree of creative freedom?
Kimberley and I conceptualized the idea and approached Ben first. Studying his photos helped me start planning out hair ideas and we knew we wanted to work with Paul for his beautiful poetic portraits from the very beginning. We then approached Shelley Dirkin to cast a range of interesting people and specifically wanted to do this in London. There was a lot of planning that went into the different styles I was interested in doing — but like water, hair moves organically and it was about finding the right movement for each model. The process starts with direction and a general roadmap, but will lead down different avenues in an organic way. The final pairing of the photos took place at a beach house in Costa Rica. All the photos from Ben and Paul were printed out on 1/4 pages and tapped across a wall. We spent days pairing together the right images and laying it out.
Looking through the finished book, how do the images make you feel?
Seeing the images makes me appreciate how individualistic we all are. How we are all finding our way and how much bigger and more mystical the ocean is than us. It lets us do all of these crazy things like living life.
Are you drawn to any images in particular?
We have attachments to each person for different reasons. This team was amazing and each model was very special. For some of them it was their first photoshoot and they traveled with their parents to the shoot. Everyone was eager and proud to be involved with a project with a cause behind it.
If people can take one thing away from Noodled, what would you like it to be and why?
Noodled is about beauty. The beauty of the ocean and in humans. We hope to visually stimulate our viewer, bring more awareness to the importance of our ocean and the delicate state that it's in, and inspire action. There is a spread at the back of the book with simple suggestions and facts about what anyone can do. Any small change in people's habits can make a difference.
Finally, what's next? What are you most excited about for tomorrow and beyond?
I want to start a campaign to make plastic bags illegal.
Noodled is available to pre-order on accidentalism.com and will be on-sale at select retailers soon.
Text Steve Salter