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Willy Vanderperre HURT, BURN RUIN & MORE 2020 exhibition
hurt, burn, ruin and more, 2020Photography by Willy Vanderperre

Willy Vanderperre, Interviewed by Six of His Most Crucial Collaborators

As Willy Vanderperre’s latest exhibition hurt, burn, ruin & more opens at The Store X, Raf Simons, Olivier Rizzo, Jefferson Hack, Susannah Frankel, Jo-Ann Furniss and Romy Madley-Croft pose him a question

Lead Imagehurt, burn, ruin and more, 2020Photography by Willy Vanderperre

Willy Vanderperre is widely regarded as one of the most prolific fashion photographers of our time, working closely with designers such as Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada, and publications including AnOther Magazine and Another Man – he has photographed Laura Dern, Indya Moore, Lupita Nyong’o and Tilda Swinton for AnOther, among others. Conversely, though, his latest exhibition hurt, burn, ruin & more, staged at The Store X in the basement of 180 The Strand, is devoid of fashion and features only flowers.

“What a fashion photographer does at the end of the day is [present] people with beauty, that’s at the core of our work,” he says, several days prior to the opening of this exhibition. What is considered beautiful is, he recognises, relative, which led him to consider emblems of a more universal beauty; a beauty that transcends continents, cultures and centuries. “I came to the conclusion that the only thing that, globally speaking, is considered to be beautiful is a flower,” the photographer says. “We are always seduced by flowers, they are a form of affection, they are a form of seduction. There is a sort of eroticism about them.”

In this exhibition, however, Vanderperre also uses flowers to explore more macabre themes – among them, death, decay and our propensity as a species for destruction. Flowers were wrapped in plastic, burned and left simply to rot, transforming them into something alien. A sense of violence underpins these images, in addition to a beauty.

Ahead of the opening of hurt, burn, ruin & more, six of Vanderperre’s most crucial collaborators – Raf Simons, Olivier Rizzo, Jefferson Hack, Susannah FrankelJo-Ann Furniss and Romy Madley-Croft – pose him a question, on topics ranging from fashion, flowers and photography, to the contents of his rider.

Raf Simons, Designer

Willy, do you feel a different kind of satisfaction between your fashion photography and the body of work you present besides your fashion photography? If so, can you describe it?

“With the kind of work produced for the show, the main difference lies in its conception. It is more individual. An idea, an emotion that you want to, almost need to, express. With fashion photography, it is a dialogue between the team that works on the project. It is also a more instant conversation. The work produced for the exhibition has a different energy; it is longer process, it gives a freedom to let it rest for a while, and revisit. 

“Both are equally satisfying, only on a different level. Both are instinctive, both are personal, both are expressions and reactions.”

Olivier Rizzo, Stylist

Dear Willy, sound or silence?

“Silence is only important when it is followed by sound, just like darkness only lives through light. Both need each other [and] don’t exist without one another. Like emotion is only felt if it resonates and finds its receiver. All silence is emphasised by a sound in any shape or form. Sound and silence, both walk hand in hand. Both belong together, just like we do.”

Jefferson Hack, Co-Founder of Dazed Media, Curator and Creative Director

What are your favourite flowers and why? And when did you first pick up a camera?

“I think roses, thistles, anthuriums and sunflowers. Thistles, in every shape of form, because they are wild, survivors and have a certain aggressiveness over them. Roses, in every state of their being and life, because they are tender and rough at the same time. Anthuriums because they are otherworldly, almost plastic-like. And sunflowers just because.

“[I first picked up a camera] at the age of 16, it was an auto-portrait for the weekend academy I was at. Strange, if you come to think of it, as I rarely let myself be photographed or take a ‘selfie’. But it was the first time I took a camera at hand on another level than as I did for a regular holiday picture.”

Susannah Frankel, Editor-in-Chief of AnOther Magazine

Willy, why flowers? What is their significance and why are they important to you personally please? And what music were you listening to when you were working on this project?

“Flowers are the most universal of beauties. Physical beauty isn’t. That beauty changes over the course of history and varies in every culture, whereas flowers are always and everywhere considered to be beautiful. They’re able to seduce, and at the same time they let me reflect on life as we witness them decay and eventually die. There is a romance in that, that moves me. That beauty can become cruel. The slow aggression of dying. The decomposition to a rotten state.

“Music is always important, for this we worked mainly to Wim Mertens’ Maximizing the Audience and I am sure that there was Depeche Mode on the soundtrack as well.”

Jo-Ann Furniss, Editor, Creative Director and Writer

Willy, can you please tell us what is in your shoot rider? And what you insist on as food at the wrap?

“Ha, the rider! Swedish Fish of course! You know that answer. We have shared some moments enjoying them together.

“Insist is a big word, but a perfect wrap is celebrated with a pig in blanket and some sake.”

Romy Madley-Croft, Member of The xx

Dear Willy, I’d love to know what you would do if you weren’t a photographer? 

“If I wasn’t a photographer, I would have loved to have been a dancer. There is something about the expression in movement that always touches me deeply. Ha, and of course, I would have loved to be the fourth member of The xx.”