For the past four years, Emily Hlavac Green has traveled from New Zealand to Shanghai, China, to photograph emerging New Zealand designers juxtaposed against Shanghai backdrops. For each trip, Emily tries to photograph her models in diverse locations, this year shooting at a traditional water village with cobbled streets and canals, as well as a film park with grand buildings and a train station. This year Emily travelled with eight designers, photographing their pieces for a couple of days around the city.
Emily says that for her artistic style, working in a new space often brings her to the concept she’d like to create. Bringing the fashion of one culture and immersing it into the world of another gives her the opportunity to think and see possibilities in a new way.
My style is often informed by the space. I like to build an image based on the environment and it is just such a different atmosphere that it invokes creativity with every turn of every corner. The Shanghai backdrops are often heavily themed, which means there’s opportunity to create a story. The light in Shanghai is also particularly special. Often diffused and golden or soft, it allows me to create work that can feel nostalgic or dreamlike.
Before heading over to China, Emily and her group communicate back and forth to people in Shanghai to get visuals of possible locations to photograph in. Emily says that communicating between New Zealand and China has plenty of challenges, least of which is language. They also had to work extra hard with the Chinese team in finding locations that were acceptable, as many public areas are restricted from photography.
Once in Shanghai, they attend a model casting to pick models. Emily says that language barrier also becomes apparent when communicating with the models and trying to express the ideas for the shoot.
In saying that, the cultural exchange makes the project that much more interesting; it is both western and eastern influenced and has a layered feel.
Following the photo shoots, the designers’ show their work in Shanghai Fashion week, still using models they’ve chosen at the casting, and Emily photographs this event as well. Emily has been displaying the location shots alongside the catwalk photos back in New Zealand with really positive feedback. She says that people are often intrigued at how the garments can change so drastically when photographed in these different contexts.
Fourth year running, I imagine this project will continue to grow. There are so many great relationships formed from a cross-cultural collab. One of my favourite things is to shoot out of the ordinary and off the cuff things and I will always be looking to combine the known with the unknown.
To view more of Emily’s work, visit emilyhlavacgreen.com.