Two words that read like a welcome combination in response to an excess of pressure. Two words that are almost militant in these hyper-connected days. This is the impression that Marcela Makarova and her companion Philippe-Henry offer us in their travelling exhibition (and soon to be book) Around the World in 80 Styles. The idea? Navigate across continents in search of new styles, but also to tell the stories belonging to the many people they met. This interview with Marcela and Philippe-Henry took place at a rest stop between two destinations. We talked about photography, travel, and modern narratives…
“Street-style” sounds like a hackneyed discipline, especially given the glut of content available online and the circus of the hundreds of different Fashion Weeks. And yet, in your world tour, every style is striking. Is this more of an ethnographic study than a work about fashion?
Of course, our approach focuses on travel and discovery, so our editorial angle is very open in terms of the styles that we want to capture. Our only criteria was that the person’s style must call out to us, whether it is eccentric, traditional or fashionable. The originality of our photos also comes from our desire to capture both the person and the setting where we found them. To do this, we chose a wide-angle lens, allowing us to have the background and the person in the foreground both in focus. Each photograph is thus both a portrait – an encounter – and an invitation to travel, given the environment and the context.
What were the criteria to keep the best portraits?
It depended on each part of our project. During the trip, we were writing columns for a couple of web magazines and the choice of pictures was quite large in order to illustrate our impressions of each country. From one photo to another, a journey would unfold in front of the readers’ eyes.
In the book, the series takes on its full meaning; the portraits resonate with each other and allow for a glimpse of the world through clothing style.
Finally, for the exhibition, we privileged the photos that were the most striking visually.
You show that there is still room for original stories. What advice would you give aspiring photographers?
I’m not sure that we are legitimate enough to give advice. We wanted to have a project to complete throughout our trip, but in conditions that suited us. And we wanted it to remain fun. Telling a trip, or rather having people travel through portraits, or photos, seemed like an interesting and feasible idea.
Does working as a couple bring a different perspective to the photographs you take?
For us, working as a duo was essential from the earliest stages of the project. When we’re shooting, it allows for a second opinion, and thus helps us avoid certain errors related to the urgency of shooting on the street. It also allowed us to divide up tasks: one of us was taking photos while the other was asking questions and taking notes, leaving us the opportunity to create a link and make real encounters. For everything else, working together also provides two complementary perspectives, and therefore inevitably enriches the content and result.
When are you hitting the road again ?
Every time we travel, we naturally continue to make portraits. However, right now, we are focussing on our exhibitions in France and putting a book together. We’re also already working on some new ideas… to be continued.