Wolov’s Ballets Russes
by Maria Luci
Our fashion photographer Samantha Wolov‘s recent project combined all of her favorite elements: a creative team she loved, an amazing location, “chiaroscuro-esque lighting”, and all things art deco. It was, in a word, “perfect.” The shoot was the brainchild of Samantha and her then styling partner Alanna Anderson. At the time, Alanna had been in contact with up-and-coming knitwear designer Jeanette Au whose latest collection was inspired by the Erté-era Ballets Russes (or, The Russian Ballets). Au’s specific muses included the ballets of Sergei Diaghilev‘s and the paintings of Léon Bakst. Having once worked in a gallery that sold Erté serigraphs, Samantha knew she had to shoot the collection.
Working on the concept for the shoot, Samantha decided to highlight the theatricality of the collection and it’s inspiration through both the lighting and location. She adds, “I knew we needed to be at a location that subtly referenced Au’s source material, but not in a bash-you-over-the-head kind of way.” With this in mind, she chose the Paramount Theater in Oakland, an art deco landmark. According to Samantha, the space has “the same degree of elegance and drama as the collection, but isn’t so similar in aesthetic that it would compete.”
With the location chosen, Samantha got to work with her “dream team” with Alanna heading up styling and her friend Anna as the model—who Samantha says is the closest person she has to a muse. Samantha and Alanna share an art history background, which Samantha believes keeps them on the same page, and lets them “see the bigger picture faster.”Alanna understood Samantha’s need for “timelessness and classicism” in the styling and “worked hard to create looks that were opulent and appropriate for the story.”
To create a chiaroscuro affect, Samantha, who’s typically fairly minimal with her lighting, had to add extra lights to capture the desired look. She also wanted to bring Erté’s style in—”the saturated colors, the crispness of his line”—which meant a very conscious approach to framing her subject. Samantha adds, “I think it’s hard to translate [his sense of space] into a photograph, it’s a challenge to do him justice.” But she had to try, and she considers the resulting photos to be some of her best work yet.”I knew this was going to be a great story,” she says, “And it was. It’s one of my all-time favorites.”
The photos were recently published in GLASSbook, a fashion magazine based out of Toronto.
View more at samanthawolov.com.