Photographer Lee Whittaker travelled to an off-the-grid location in Canada to shoot this dreamy photo series, premiered exclusively on AnOthermag.com, featuring McCartney’s latest collaboration with writer Jonathan Safran Foer
Today marks the release of a new capsule collection from designer and sustainability pioneer Stella McCartney, extending her partnership with the American writer and environmental activist Jonathan Safran Foer, with whom she collaborated for her S/S20 collection, Force for Nature. Titled We Are the Weather, after Foer’s newly released novel on the climate crisis, it features a selection of covetable ready-to-wear pieces and accessories across mens- and womenswear, made from entirely sustainable materials. Bold, weather-themed illustrations and statements like “we are entirely free to live differently” appear throughout, highlighting McCartney and Foer’s shared belief that individual changes, such as not eating meat or living more harmoniously with nature, will make a collective difference to our planet.
To mark the release, McCartney called upon the talents of London-based fashion and documentary photographer Lee Whittaker to capture an accompanying photo series showcasing the collection. For Whittaker, it was the chance he’d been looking for to shoot in a very special, secret location: an island off the coast of Canada, where residents embrace an alternative, eco-friendly existence.
“Lee Trigg, the stylist I worked with on the series, and I had been doing some guerrilla-style fashion projects, travelling to places with clothes and street casting interesting people,” Whittaker tells AnOther. “During a trip to Canada, I heard about this community and became quite fascinated by it.” Some time later, he met with the team at Stella McCartney and told them of his hope to visit the island and document its residents. “Then it just sort of clicked into place – it was a perfect match for the concept behind Stella’s We are the Weather collection,” he says.
With the help of a casting director from Vancouver, Whittaker managed to persuade a number of the island’s inhabitants to feature in his photographs, decked in the new capsule collection. He and Trigg arrived on the island to discover it was “essentially a forest, with wild goats roaming free, surrounded by water”. The residents were a tight-knit group, living self-sufficiently, using solar energy and growing their own food. “There was a harmony between them,” Whittaker recalls. “By living there, off the grid, they were seeking something outside of ‘normal life’, and wanting to coexist with those who shared their values.”
It took time for Whittaker to gain the trust of his subjects, who were much more private than he’d anticipated, but after explaining the thought process behind the collection and his vision for the shoot (which was partially inspired by Joel Sternfeld’s photo book Sweet Earth, documenting experimental utopias in America), he was able to establish “a mutual understanding and real sense of collaboration”. The resulting photographs pay testament to this: islanders of varying ages pose candidly in different locations across their treasured habitat. Poetic black-and-white shots of the models surrounded by woodland or water serve to enhance the connection between man and nature, while glorious colour photographs (which highlight Whittaker’s mastery of natural light) present the clothes against a spectrum of dreamy autumnal hues.
“Aside from its important message about climate change and caring for the earth, there’s a subtext to this campaign, which I think is about trust,” says Whittaker when asked what he hopes viewers will take away from the images. “A return to basic human core values. As someone living in a fast-paced city, I’m really aware of the loss of connectivity between people. Travelling to this island, where life was stripped back, was a reminder of the happiness that can stem from a simpler existence.”
The We Are the Weather capsule collection is available from today.