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When Kris Van Assche met Jeff Burton

For Kris Van Assche's AW08-9 ad campaign, he asked Jeff Burton to undertake a special shoot which took place at a laundromat in L.A.


Kris Van Assche portrait by Jeff Burton, Jeff Burton self-portrait of his eye

On their first encounter with each other…

Kris Van Assche: I’m a big enthusiast of contemporary photography, and of photography in general. Jeff Burton’s work has always interested me on the highest level as his approach is so unique and radical. He’s chosen to have a displaced view of the porn industry and he focuses on minute details that transcend his subjects and subject matter.
The result is quite poetic and moving and transforms the trivialness of what he’s observing.
So I decided to contact Jeff Burton so that he could do the ad campaign for my own Kris Van Assche label. It was pretty much driven to do so as a pure fan.

Jeff Burton: I believe Kris and I first met in Paris the night before his first show for Dior Homme. I was amazed at how calm he was going into that scrutiny and so flattered to have dinner with him alone. No!  Wait!! I took his portrait in NYC! That’s when we met. The strongest IMPRESSION was having dinner with him the night before his first DIOR show and experiencing how generous, engaging, and curious he was about everything around him but himself. Spending time with him one on one without the pressure of shooting his portrait allowed for a more personal connection.

On being inspired by one another…

KVA: it’s not what I would call a ‘direct’ inspiration, rather an attitude that appears close to what I’m doing. We can be part of the same family without looking alike. This is the feeling I get in front of Jeff Burton’s work.
My inspiration has nothing at all to do with the world of pornography, it’s not something that holds a particular attraction for me, though I don’t oppose it either. Nevertheless I admire Jeff’s approach because I find it to be poetic and exacting. His photos are extremely well constructed and they have many different readings. On my side I’m also looking to create subtle fashion. It requires getting up close to it to really appreciate the details in certain looks, the architecture of certain silhouettes.
Understanding our respective work requires an effort. It’s this degree of precision that excites me.

JB: Honestly, I wasn’t specifically aware of Kris’ work before meeting him.  I don’t actually study fashion or what I see around me in an academic or conventional way. I have a peculiar way of seeing, prioritizing the various elements, and recording visual information. I was aware later that I had admired Kris’ work without knowing he’d created it. Meeting Kris, making a connection with him, his work, and observing the generous spirit behind it all is inspiring for me on a level most worth mentioning here.

The collaboration…

KVA: The ad campaign shoot took place in a Laundromat in Los Angeles. Three porn actors served as the models. The experience proved to be disconcerting, captivating, and very funny in equal measure. Jeff and I discussed a wide range of subjects such as creativity, doubt, pride, shame, family, vulnerability, respect and freedom. I didn’t involve myself in the shoot, though – I wanted to maintain the viewpoint of a witness or spectator.

JB: Working with Kris was one of those experiences you dream of as a photographer. It takes a very strong and fearless person to choose the photographer they want to work with and let that photographer find their way. Unfortunately, some people mean well and want qualities they respond to in a photographer’s work but in the end intervene constantly and destroy the very thing they were hoping for. I think this quality is one of Kris’ great strengths. There is a way of working for him based in honesty, trust, and courage. This is almost miraculous for someone under such pressure.  When predetermined ideas perverted by fear lead the way you know you are in trouble. Kris doesn’t work this way.  I love this approach Kris has that opens possibility. He knows what he is doing and doesn’t let doubt get in the way of his instincts.