Throw-away objects in our life, the abundance of which loom larger every day, are rarely more than immediate, yet for Bay Garnett, 'stuff' is more than clutter, it's the product of a life lived and props in a story worth telling. Now in it’s second cycle, her portrait project, Double Exposure, exploring life, identity and values for Louis Vuitton profiles BAFTA winning actress Thandie Newton. Presenting a deeply intimate glimpse into this fascinating woman, the traditions of the objects she keeps close to her heart play off of the craftsmanship of Vuitton as seen through portrait techniques of old. We spoke with Garnett about the project and what it means.
Dazed Digital: So, what is Double Exposure?
Bay Garnett: ‘Double exposure was conceived of six months ago and the first person was the artist Sam Taylor Wood. It was sort of an amalgam of ideas that was brought together using the collodion process which is this sort of archaic photographic medium that was very laborious and technical.
DD: Digital photography is the norm today, what made you segue into the past?
Bay Garnett: The mission statement was to take a photo of someone that was painstaking. One that wasn’t digital - it did matter - that one photograph did matter because if you didn’t get that one right you had to wait half an hour for the next chance. I wanted to tie up the past and the present in a light hearted way.’
DD: How does this medium relate to a modern audience?
Bay Garnett: ‘I think it relates, and becomes interesting, because the content and the subject matter is so definitively currant. I love that how the collodion is used now, people dressing up in western gear and looking back into the past, is a bit deceiving, you see this old photograph that you immediately think was taken 104 years ago and you say ‘Well, no, it’s Sam Taylor Wood’. I really like that the past and the present has to link up, you’re faced with the actuality of ‘now’ linked with this completely old fashioned way of looking at something - it’s that fusion.’
DD: This season you’ve chosen BAFTA winning actress Thandie Newton, do you have a certain criteria for your subjects?
Bay Garnett: ‘Thandie like Sam - these women are so clever, I just love hearing them talk - Sam wanted to make a movie, loads of people want to make a movie but she went ahead and did it - great! I hate the word respect, but I do admire them. Fundamentally I’m genuinely interested in what Thandie’s favourite objects are - for people who pretty much have everything, who lead these sophisticated lives... what really means a lot to them? I’d rather know that than hear about their latest project or go through their wardrobe.’
DD: Were there any references or inspirations tapped into in this project?
Bay Garnett: ‘Thandie had great references, she put on the clothes and just shouted ‘This is so Malick!’’ (referring to famed Malian Documentary Photographer Malick Sidibé) Me and Thandie often talk about him, he’s one of our favourite photographers. People who are a great visual thinkers always have his book - you must get it! Thandie, whose Mother is from Zimbabwe, visits Mali a lot with her charity work, she tried on these clothes and it conjured his work.
He took all these black and white photos of these kids looking so brilliant in all their clobber, giving it large. It was pre-hip-hop, pre-rap and so beautiful. That was so nice, to engage with the person who’s having their picture taken and nice to have that story to go with it.’
DD: How Important is the ‘image’ in fashion?
Bay Garnett: ‘Isn’t it almost everything?!’ she proffers. ‘Giorgio Armani, David Beckham - whoever it is, we’re seduced by the image, it’s hugely powerful. Catwalk shows are much more literal, in campaigns you apply your own emphasis; how you want it to move, how you want it to sell. When I was going through the rails for Paris, I was just so struck by the craftsmanship, the level of luxury, it was quite mind boggling. Thandie was just 'Wow'. It's great seeing it on the runway but when you see them all up close, it's on another level.’