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Iceland Isamaya Ffrench Josh Wilks Nick Royal makeup fashion
Photography Josh Wilks, fashion Nick Royal

Getting feral in the Icelandic wild with Isamaya Ffrench

The beauty alchemist goes on a journey with photographer Josh Wilks, and creates a compelling photo story along the way

Having embarked on a 2000-mile road trip across the abandoned enclaves of the United States last year with her creative collaborator Josh Wilks, Isamaya Ffrench is back with a new photo series. While the collaborators’ first series explored the rusty landscapes of North America, this one sees the paid head to the breathtaking Nordic landscapes of Iceland. “We wanted a contrast to the heat and dust of our previous story in Utah and Arizona. Following on from the road trip, we wanted to expand on this exploration where we create a narrative totally defined by the places we find ourselves in,” says Ffrench. “It’s normally just me and Josh but we brought our friend Nick Royal along to style and help us create this Icelandic character.”

The character Ffrench speaks of is the protagonist of the story. “It’s Isamaya if she were a semi-feral Icelandic creature. Part nomad, part Mowgli,” explains Wilks. “The narrative was developed by the landscapes we found ourselves in – hunting, dancing, climbing, eating and so on.” Appearing part human, part animal, in Ffrench and Wilks’ words their flame-haired character (played by Ffrench herself), who sometimes appears with pig-like ears bandaged to her head, is “a mythical person, but with primitive human traits.” “We found this an interesting juxtaposition – a lost girl living alone and secluded in a bleak foreign land and adorning herself with things she finds and collects,” says Ffrench. 

“Isamaya bounding through herds of open-mouthed tourists doing karate kicks in full body paint” – Josh Wilks on the most memorable moment of the trip

Spending six days driving from Reykjavik along the southern stretch of the ring road to the east, rather than pre-selecting locations the duo employed the organic approach of stopping exactly where they fancied; whether that be at a glacier, a geyser, a waterfall or one of Iceland’s many rugged black basalt sand beaches. The resulting imagery sees their Icelandic creature fighting for survival, sprinting across the sand with her worldly possessions strapped to her back, taking refuge on a jagged black rock mountain face, scavenging for water and presenting herself to the elements covered by body paint in the rain. The most memorable moment? “Isamaya bounding through herds of open-mouthed tourists doing karate kicks in full body paint,” says Wilks.

With the road trip acting as a vehicle for ultimate creative independence, providing imagery that could only be created from such an act of spontaneity, the best part of the process for Ffrench, Wilks and Royal was that the didn’t have to answer to anyone. “There was no-one tapping us on the shoulder saying, ‘We need the Louboutins in this shot’ or, ‘I know the editor and she won’t like this!’”

Photography Josh Wilks; fashion Nick Royal; hair and colour Alex Brownsell at Streeters using Bumble and bumble; make-up and model Isamaya Ffrench at Streeters; nails Naomi Yasuda at Streeters using CHANEL Le Vernis; fashion assistant Anne Lauritzen