Fashion & Beauty / Culture Talks

Willy Vanderperre’s Testament to Youth for an Instagram Age

The inimitable photographer presents a new fanzine project featuring his ultimate model muses – get your first look here

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/12Photography by Willy Vanderperre

“Let’s focus on the kids,” says Willy Vanderperre. “This is a celebration of Julia, Clément and the others, as opposed to a celebration of myself.” It’s raining in London and raining in Antwerp, where the photographer is speaking to me over the phone, having just returned after working abroad. As we talk, images from his new advertising campaign for Calvin Klein – where his long-term collaborator and fellow Belgian Raf Simons is now working as chief creative officer – are being disseminated. Featuring the stars of Oscar-winning drama Moonlight, these images are whipping up a frenzy of likes and regrams on Instagram. Vanderperre is behind some of the most widely seen and celebrated fashion images of our time, and a desire to “focus on the kids” in his latest project speaks of a man who is humble and self-effacing.

Launching at Comme des Garçons Trading Museum in Paris today, /12 comprises 12 fanzines starring models he’s “obsessed with” such as Julia Nobis, Clément Chabernaud and AnOther Magazine cover star Natalie Westling. Instead of styled shoots, Vanderperre has captured them in the nude or, in the photographer’s own words, their “purest being” – warts ‘n’ all (minus the warts). With a mix of close-up and long-shots, the IDEA-published fanzines paint very intimate portraits of his subjects, many of whom he has worked with since the very start of their careers (which adds to the intimacy of the photographs). With detailed shots of their body parts, these fanzines border on anatomical studies, depicting Julia’s splayed feet and Clément’s slightly pointed ears. Here, the imagemaker tells us more about /12, what drew him to his muses, and why print media is anything but dead.

On his new fanzine…
“Some books are very centred on the photographer, but for [these fanzines] I wanted to place all the attention on the subjects. There are 12, which I think is a beautiful number, and each [features] a different person that I cherish.”

On why there’s lots of nudity in it…
“I wanted to show [the models] in their purest being. There’s something about nudity these days. But if nudity is not over-sexualised, it is pure and free from any connotation, it shows a person in their purest state.”

On Julia’s feet and Clément’s hair...
“For these fanzines, we focused on the details. For example, Julia does this awkward weird thing with her feet, which I think is beautiful and very unique to her. As for Clément, he shaved his head for this, which illustrates how precious our relationship is – it was a big deal for him to do that.”

On what first drew him to his muses...
“Clément was a free-spirited kind of guy, he was super young but had already seen [so much of the] world – I was just drawn to him. When Julia walked in, she was at the very start of her career. I was instantly moved by her energy and, of course, her beauty. Sometimes I’m triggered by beauty, sometimes I’m triggered by personality – Clément and Julia have both, which is why they’ve been a part of my life for such a long time.”

On his beauty ideal...
“I can be infatuated by somebody who is pure beauty, and at the same time, someone who could be less of a beauty girl, but has personality. It’s about personality – I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all triggered by.”

On how his youth in Belgium has shaped his beauty ideal...
“I think my youth in Belgium taught me a lot, and still does – I think that’s why I’m still here. I think the people I am drawn to are less loud, and that if I was from a different country I might prefer something that was a little more out there.”

On the enduring relevancy of print media…
“I think print still is very relevant today. It’s collectible, whereas if you save something to your desktop, you forget about it. There is something nice about the paper too – it feels like something you want to touch. In fact, I think print is valid because it’s something that you can touch.”

On the age of Instagram...
“I’ve always been a supporter of technology, because this is just the age we live in. That’s why Instagram is important. Social media platforms are there for a reason and it’s naïve to think otherwise – they’re a huge part of pop culture.”

The first two issues of /12, published by IDEA, will be launched together during Paris Fashion Week at Comme des Garçons Trading Museum on March 1, 2017.

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