Friday, July 5, 2013

Interview with Michael Labica | Absynth Photographic

Absyth Photographic’s vision is certainly unique... The creative duo of Michael Labica and Sandrine Dulermo work hard to capture the magic a camera can summon under the brightness of light, or hidden deep in shadow. For over a decade, they have been experimenting to reach a certain perspective, to show a deep appreciation and concern for what is and what could be… beautiful. Even more so, they strive to make each feeling palpable... tangible.

The artists they work with must place their trust in them, for the duo fancy an ever-changing approach, setting out to capture the not-so-natural expressions… the unusual, all the while avoiding the mundane. Challenging talent with unusual styling, poses and designing sets often askew and off kilter. One must enter a world of momentary fantasy. Take risks… and play a game. Michael and Sandrine encourage the artists to challenge the norm and themselves… to reach for something more.

Practicing photography like craftsmen, treating the studio more like a laboratory, they challenge perspective, experiment and continuously seek new techniques to enhance their creative vision.

About Michael and Sandrine

By age 13, Sandrine was already smitten with photography. Preferring to skip school so she could run off to shoot her little brothers with her Zenith in the woods. By 18, she had her first campaign for a perfume company, which in turn, then led to her very first exhibition.

Michael, a former student from Louis Lumière, Paris, was first enticed by cinema but instead found him self learning the ropes as a creative working in the advertising world. Despite the fact he was never a model student, he learned his lessons quite well and soon developed and expanded an extensive list of corporate clients, but even in success, there was something missing.

Then Michael met Sandrine… a moment when everything seemed to fall into place and together they found expression through a lens, as a team their creativity sparked to new heights. London became their cradle of creativity and home. Their work and family life all take place in the heart of their beloved photo “laboratory,” Coconut Studios, which is located in West London.

Jonathan: A hypothetical... Harper's calls... has an exclusive preview of McQueen's 2014 Fall Collection, Sarah Burton wants... say Codie Young for the spread, the rest is up to you and Sandrine. What happens next? Could you tell us a little of the process going into a project from start to finish?

Michael: We will have a happy moment to start as we love Alexander McQueen.

I would imagine the idea would come quickly. We would start by creating the main character of the story and place it within the scene (i.e. where she would come from, how does she looks like, etc.). Inspiration comes from many sources (art, locations, movie, music, dreams, etc.). We would then draw a storyboard and source the suitable location.

If we decide to do a set build, we would design/make the entire scenery by working closely with our much-loved scenic painter/set builder, Jude Singleton. As we have our own studio, we have also the capacity to create, do the work on a specific set until we are completely happy.

On the day of the shoot, Sandrine would be behind the camera and I would be myself sorting out all the lights and ensure the set up is as originally envisioned. Our photo shoots always tend to be very hectic and ambitious, so it's normally a long day for us. After the shoot, we usually take a little bit of time before previewing at the images, we then do an editing and select our favourite images and then do our own post-production during our spare time.

Pre-Raphaelite | Amica
Model: Bianca O’Brien
Stylist: Marie-Louise Von Haselberg
Hair: Gerard Hawe
MUA: Jo Frost @ CLM

 Jonathan: The colour sense of your work is wonderful... playful and vibrant, what are your thoughts on colour and the importance it plays?

Michael: We both very much love black and white images so unconsciously, our use of colours is always full on. A very colourful image makes an amazing black and white.

In our minds, the extended use of colours bring our images somewhere between surrealism, exoticism and poetry. Surely not what you see in our everyday lives, the main idea is to create harmony, we mostly do a coloured fill light to create an artificial atmosphere.

Viva La Vida | Amica
Model: Agnes Sokolowska @ Modelwerk
Stylist: Laurent Dombrowicz
Hair: Keiichiro Hirano @ DWM
MUA: Marco Antonio @ DWM

Jonathan: As a professional can you tell us what was your big "AHA!!!" or possibly "Eureka!!" moment? The point where, maybe you weren't there yet but just knew you were on your way.

Michael: Our "big AHA" moment is probably when Sandrine and I originally met in a south-of-France photo lab. We both were on our way for a good life doing something we both loved doing… We can't however really say we've had our "Eureka" yet. We are still searching…

I envy Paolo Roversi, Sara Moon, Helmut Newton and few others for their distinctive styles!

Lily in the Sky with Diamonds | Plastic Dream
Model: Lily Cole @ Storm
Fashion Director: Neil Stuart
Hair: Garry Gill
MUA: Julie Jacobs @ One Makeup

Jonathan: Professionally, what is your camera of choice?

Michael: We own a Hasselblad H2, 80mm lens with and phase one digital back. Very basic, we like it for its simplicity and technically, there is no limitation, like on a SLR with shutter speed. Saying that, we are now very interested by the new Canon/Nikon as they are very flexible with the ISO.

Orient Express | Amica
Model: Hilda Lee @ Modelwerk
Stylist: Laurent Dombrowicz
Hair: Keiichiro Hirano @ DWM
MUA: Emma Miles @ Emma Davies

Jonathan: What was the most hysterically funny thing to ever happen on a shoot?

Michael: Well, I can't really think of anything specific to be honest, it's more about crying with us. They are so many stories I could come up with but they are always more dramas than hysterically funny moments on a shooting day.

Omaggio Cocteau | Italian Amica
Model: Luize Salmgrieze @ Elite Stockholm & Dave Norwell @ BMA
Stylist: Laurent Dombrowicz
Hair Christos Kallaniotis
Make Up: Phyllis Cohen @DWM

Jonathan: If you had a pick a favourite shoot so far, which would it have been? Why?

Michael: The one shoot I loved the most - not only for the images we created but also for the fun we had on the day was, in fact, a test shoot we did with actress Anna Friel.

We met Anna via our favourite make-up artist, Karen Alder. It was a summer evening at Anna’s house in Windsor. We started by a bottle of wine and end up drinking all night, David Thewlis singing Johnny Cash songs in his guitar.

From this moment, we end up shooting a "Gothic" themed story. Few months after, we found ourselves in the middle of the winter with freezing temperatures, shooting Anna in various locations from Oxfordshire to Windsor without any budget. Anna is a talented actress and we loved this experience. The images of this shoot, taken 7 years ago, never were published yet.

Gothic | Test Shoot
Model: Anna Friel

Jonathan: Okay, I am pretending to be a young photographer with more talent than sense (business sense for sure), what advice could you give me, something you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Michael: I would probably recommend becoming an assistant to the best photographer around you, it is the best way in. It might take a few years for you to fly on your own but you will be able to connect with so many people; from stylists to make-up artists, from models to publishing people, etc. Doing so, you may even end up testing with top assistant stylists.

Alessandra Ambrosio | Plastic Dream
Model: Alessandra Ambrosio @ DNA NYC
Fashion Director: Neil Stuart
Hair: Eamonn Hughes @ Premier
Make up: Kenny Campbell @ Premier

Jonathan: Thanks so very much, Michael, and thank you, Sandrine for spending a little time sharing your world and thoughts with us. Wish you much happiness and continued success. Cheers!

Michael: Thank you, Jonathan, it was a real pleasure to meet you.

To check out Michael and Sandrine's Coconut Studios click HERE
To see more of their amazing work, click HERE


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