fashion

His Name is Baby Tap, and He Doesn’t Know Why

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“Um. My name is Baby Tap. I don’t know why, but, my name is Baby Tap. It’s nice to meet you,” he says in a video message posted to his YouTube account in July.

A more important question might be who is Baby Tap?

But, it’s unfair to the essence of the human behind the art to ask such a question.

After all, it’s not like Avess Arshad isn’t a person in the first place.

With a steady job, full-time hours at a café, and a quaint London apartment he shares with his boyfriend, he’s most humanly human. It’s just that his musical endeavors are unlike anything the patrons he serves within a commercialized London could easily warm up to.

Beats of otherworldy flair. Electronic murmurs. Lyrics some might call crass—the package is chaotic yet calculated; There’s a science to Arshad’s craft. It just takes some getting used to.

Even he struggles a bit to define himself in “normal” terms.

“I feel music, I become music. I don’t sell that shit or ever intend to. It’s far too precious to me,” he says, like a rebel (revolutionary?) defending a countercultural identity as an independent artist. What a dead-on-arrival term in today’s music industry, huh? Independence. For some, it’s synonymous with a lack of grandeur. Of meager means heralded only when recognized by the masses. Is it possible to be an independent artist in today’s world without automatically shoving oneself into a niche with potential for fluke success? We see artists who were once firmly-planted atop the charts of yesteryear (Eve, Radiohead, Bjork) now releasing music independently—free of constraint—to satisfy their artistic craving seemingly stifled years prior.

Indie is synonymous with freedom. With uprising.

How does Arshad explore this freedom?

“I fit into the equation of music as a whole as an enjoyable catharsis through energy and expression, spirituality and dance,” Arshad says of his art. “It’s fire, you know. Music is like fire.”

It’s an elemental likeness that illuminates all the things which make Baby Tap an undeniably radiant spectacle. For Arshad, having conviction in songs like “Gay for the Hip-G Girly Girls,” “Fuck Me With No Rubber,” and “Kill Yourself” transcends mere shock value.

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“I know there are people out there with the same sense of humor as me,” he says of the tracks on his first full-length release, Gem Pop, released earlier this month. “I work hard. I say what I want to say. I am destined to find the most hyphy, insane beats. I am destined to give people the opportunity to release their craziness. Whether that works on a big scale or not, I don’t give a shit. As long as I’m enjoying my own journey I invite others to enjoy theirs.”

For Arshad, it’s a journey nearly ten years in the making. In 2003, a 14-year old Arshad began dabbling in electronic production. Never losing sight of what was once just a fun way to pass the time when nothing else could, he’s amassed hundreds of tracks, ten full-length demos, and a decade of experience. That’s more than most major-label pop stars. For Arshad, however, success has been defined by time spent perfecting his passion after 12-hour shifts at work. Of hours clocked cutting tracks and laying down vocals (with no pay) in a cramped apartment while the rest of the world (or his corner of London) toiled away just outside his window.

“I had to work so long and so hard to manipulate feelings into sounds the way I wanted to. I spend at least an hour on it almost every day,” he says of his process, which still includes balancing a “real” job aside from crafting videos to accompany the tracks in addition to writing and producing music. “I will never appreciate having to work to live under these rules from the government. I would rather just do what I want and take life slower and more freely but I just make sure I kick my own ass into gear and work on that music as much as I can.”

He pauses.

“But, sometimes I am so tired. I don’t know what the outcome is. I will let it be what it turns out to be. I do not know.”

If the amalgamation of pop-culture collage, candy-coated colors, and graphics inspired by the 90s digital era are any indication: does anyone know, really? Do we know how to define art? How to define ourselves? Or do we let a cyber-footprint fill in the empty spaces we’re too lazy to show in waking life? Is there vision in independent expression like the uninhibited beauty which flows forth from artists like Baby Tap? We see a portion of ourselves in this type of art. Perhaps this uninhibited display is what makes independent artists such as Arshad such clear points of interest in this mess of a society where slaving to unseen masters can inspire alternative output.

“At the end of the day we die alone and nobody will really understand us as we understand ourselves, so I’m just following my desires and needs,” he says. “Baby Tap represents the acceptance of confusion and the ability to ride on the flow of life.”

Whether it’s recording into the wee morning hours, filming a video like a pop icon on a London park bench, or merely toying with new sounds—boyfriend and day job tucked at his hip as a reminder that life exists outside of art—we’ll indulge in the flow of life Baby Tap wants us to see, and realize that a separation of the two is mere child’s play.

Download Gem Pop for free (payment optional) here:

Baby Tap will be playing from 10PM-4AM on Sunday, August 25 at:

Star of Bethnal Green
359 Bethnal Green Road
E2 6LG

Directions:

Tube: Bethnal Green
Overground: Shoreditch High Street

Bus: 8, 106, 388, 254, D3
Nightbus: N8, N253

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Shameless Self-Promotion: Peep Me (and my article) on ANTM Winner Naima Mora’s Website

I just wanted to take a quick time-out today to point my faithful readers (all two of you) in the direction of “America’s Next Top Model” winner and Galaxy of Tar frontwoman Naima Mora’s website, “Model Behavior,” promoting the release of her upcoming self-help book of the same name. She’s poured her heart and soul into the project and I’m very thankful to her and her publishing team (namely Tracy Saville) for working with me on this. The shoot was a blast and Tracy’s guidelines for the article challenged me to step a bit outside of my usual “bitching about pop culture” box and write something semi meaningful.

Check out www.naimamoraonline.com if you just can’t get enough of my beautiful face.

When Art Becomes the Artist; ANTM Winner, Model, Musician, Naima Mora is a Melting Pot of Expression

An Interview with Naima Mora

By Joey Nolfi

She’s a world-class fashion muse and a quirky tomboy; the face of an industry that prides itself on the image of untouchable perfection while still finding time to mentor crowds of young people as a very tangible inspirational speaker. And she’s about as different as she appeared on reality television as the words “Chanel” and “men’s clothing” are from each other.

Naima Mora is a slew of contradictions, and that’s certainly not a bad thing.

Mora’s catapult to fame as the winner of the fourth season of Tyra Banks’ wildly popular “America’s Next Top Model” is only a blip on the radar of this young artistic maven’s long list of career milestones. From posing on the beaches of the Cayman Islands to rocking out onstage with her band at a gig in New York City, Mora can do (and has done) it all.

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Mora’s roots run deep within the realm of artistic expression.

“My parents are musicians, and I remember waking up every morning to some different kind of awesome music from a different part of the world,” she says of her childhood, “They always encouraged my twin sister and I to follow our artistic endeavors.”

After studying art at summer camps and crafting the illegal kind in her free time (she says she enjoyed slumming downtown, tagging and spray painting trucks and abandoned buildings), Mora channeled her interests into the fine art of dance.

“In slight contradiction to my tomboy way of life I was a ballet dancer and I loved it,” she says, “When I moved to New York City I was dancing all day with my ballet company and in the evenings I went to night school for creative writing.”

Soon after, the same girl who was so graceful onstage in ballet slippers was soon gracing the set of “America’s Next Top Model”, a competition Mora says far exceeded her expectations.

“America’s Next Top Model was a very emotional journey,” she says, “When I do build the nerve to watch back a couple of episodes, I look back on a younger me. I think I had a lot of balls going out to win that competition, although I can tell I was really nervous most of the time.”

Mora’s nerves proved for naught, seeing as she was crowned “America’s Next Top Model” by Tyra Banks herself, winning out over runner-up Kahlen Rondot, who has since quit the modeling industry.

For every ounce of fame Mora has garnered since her appearance on the show, now heading into its 17th bi-annual “cycle”, an equal amount of backlash follows. Claims of the show being “fixed” after Cycle 9’s winner, Saleisha Stowers, appeared in countless national print ads (as well as on “The Tyra Banks Show”) prior to her tenure on the show have led to some fans questioning the legitimacy of the show itself as well as Ms. Banks’ investment in the girls.

Mora says those claims, echoed loudly and publicly by other former contestants (namely Lisa D’Amato, Lauren Utter, and Adrianne Curry) are simply not true.

“I do believe Tyra genuinely cares about all the girls on the show and I believe that she wants all of the models to move on to pursue wonderful careers,” she admits, “But we cannot expect Tyra or the network to just drop the jobs and work into our hands. I have had to learn the ropes pretty much on my own since winning the show. ‘America’s Next Top Model’ is not only mentorship between Tyra and the models, it is a business as well. There have been a lot of contestants, and while I do believe Tyra cares, I also know that she is working on not only the show but other facets of her own career.”

While Mora enjoyed her time on “Top Model”, she admits that the pressure of having a crew document her every move over the course of a few months took its toll. The audience, however, responded in a largely positive manner to her onscreen character as the rather subdued “reformed party girl”.

“It all depends on how you portray yourself,” she explains, “It’s sad to see though that with more reality television arising, people feel the need to portray themselves in such a bad or negative light to get attention and the American public feeds this by supporting it.”

Whether she was “edited to look that way” or simply too nervous in the spotlight, Mora’s demeanor on the show has facilitated her fans’ confusion with the next step of her career; hard rocking frontwoman of the band Galaxy of Tar.

“The idea that you can know someone completely from a month’s worth of filming is a bit odd,” Mora says in response to the confusion, “I have always loved rock music and the older I get the more I have matured inside of rock culture. I think people were given a chance to witness the kind of person I am, but not who I am entirely from the filming of ‘America’s Next Top Model’. I have always been a bit dark and I’m intrigued by the more magical side of things.”

“Dark” and “magical” are yet another opposing set of descriptors that perfectly profile Galaxy of Tar’s sound. But her current frontwoman position of the group isn’t Mora’s first foray into the realm of sonic heaven.

“A couple of years ago my best friend invited me to sing for his band,” she says of Chewing Pics, the band in question, “That project broke up last year, but it gave us a chance to do something we really wanted to. [We] were interested in pushing some boundaries while the other musicians wanted to make safer music. After we all agreed that it wasn’t going to work out we moved on.”

Despite the demise of Chewing Pics, Galaxy of Tar has achieved success. The band released their first EP, Pneuma, in May of this year.

Although Mora says that she enjoys crafting music and the artistic outlet it provides, some of the output puzzles her just as much as it has for her fans.

“Galaxy of Tar sounds weird a lot of times to me, but that’s a great thing in my book,” she says, “we constantly aim at creating something new. I love the challenge of making sense out of [bandmate Elias’] creation. Most of the music I love now and that inspires me was difficult to understand at first, but the project is particularly special to me because it is something I have set up in my life that will consistently challenge me and perpetuates my own artistic and humanistic growth.”

And she’s got the fiercest onstage moves this side of Karen O., to boot.

“Performing is an extension of myself. It’s definitely evolved since the days of Chewing Pics,” she says, “I just wrap myself up in the moment and the music and allow myself to go wild for a while. I allow myself to fall desperately in love or become angry with vengeance.”

While she moves like a veteran rocker she also maintains the elegance and grace of a model walking down a Versace runway. Although “My music has one hundred times more of an effect on my modeling than vice versa,” she says.

Whether it’s tearing up the stage in front of a crowd of fans or promoting only the most chic of fashions in an ad campaign, Naima Mora says the one thing that keeps her going is self confidence.

“At least once a week I question whether what I am doing is crazy or not,” she says, “all my heroes are crazy too or at least were perceived as crazy at first. I brush that doubt aside. It only lasts for a moment or so.”

While that goes to show that even the most pristine of faces can crack, Mora says that remaining an independent force amidst an industry of deprecation is key to finding success.

“I have sacrificed jobs for integrity. I have sacrificed sometimes integrity for jobs. But that is the growing process of life and learning,” she says, “I really don’t like the politics of a lot of things in both the music and modeling industry, but I have learned to approach these things on my own terms.”

And those of us that get to admire her beautifully diverse career are genuinely appreciate of that.

Follow Naima on Twitter: @NaimaMora

Follow Joey on Twitter: @joeynolfi

Paris in Pittsburgh; An Interview with Paris Nicholson

The following Interview was written by me and published in East End Fashion Magazine’s June 2011 issue.

Paris NicholsonA coffee shop in the middle of Pittsburgh’s Oakland district is just about the last place you’d expect to run into a world class male model fresh off the runways of Milan. And pokemon stuffed animals are just about the last thing you’d expect to see gracing the interior of any serious model’s bedroom.

But the day I interviewed editorial model and photographer Paris Nicholson, I encountered both.

To describe Nicholson’s approach from across the room as an intimidating experience would be a colossal understatement; to place it into perspective for those of us “normal” people not chiseled from a perfect statuesque mold, it’s probably one of the most intimidating experiences you’ll ever have in your life. His bone structure, towering height, and altogether…well…godlike physicality can’t help but place you into a complete frenzy of self-deprecation. He’s probably going to look down on you in more than just a literal sense. His topical savvy is probably going to make your fashion “knowledge” look rudimentary at best. He probably swaps texts with Anna Wintour about all of the meaningless peons like you who just can’t seem to come close to touching them up on Mt. Couture Olympus. In short, next to Paris, you’re probably going to feel like a three seasons-old Martha Stewart sweater collection being hawked next to Von Furstenberg’s Fall line.

And to be quite honest…I was wrong. And our conversation was easy.
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The second Paris begins talking, each and every one of the aforementioned (and altogether unsubstantiated) pretenses melts away. Although he might look like one on the most superficial of levels, you immediately realize you’re not talking to just another vapid, pampered mannequin who uses his good looks to coast through a fashion-related “career”; Paris is, at his core, a quirky photography student with the same relatable qualities that you’ll probably find amongst your own social circle…that is, if you don’t hang out with the fashion elite.

That’s right…Nicholson is almost as ideologically disconnected from the fashion snobs of New York and London as your grandmother who considers tax returns her own personal Spring collection. That’s not to say he doesn’t care about fashion, because he certainly does. It just doesn’t have a pretentious reign over his life. “I definitely think more people should understand fashion in a city like Pittsburgh,” he says, “but I don’t like indulging in it. I like creating it as an art form, but I would never personally buy something ‘designer’ if I could get it cheaper somewhere else.”

It’s this kind of unpretentious, realistic view towards fashion that sets Paris apart from others in his field. He tells me that rubbing elbows with the likes of fashion royalty doesn’t impress him much, rather he enjoys meeting a person versus a fashion “name”. “It’s funny because at a party I could be talking to a really sweet older lady and think nothing of it, walk away, and somebody will be like ‘oh my god that was Donna Karan’. It still doesn’t faze me.”

Even after hearing something like that, you’d still wholeheartedly expect his experience modeling for clients such as Givenchy, Missoni, and Dior to have warped his perception of a city like Pittsburgh for the negative. But that’s not the case, considering he’s in the city building the foundation for a career in fashion related areas.

Paris NicholsonParis is currently a photography student at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. He focuses primarily on fashion photography, which is entirely unsurprising; however, what got him started in the medium undoubtedly is. “When I first started doing it in sophomore year in high school, I had absolutely no interest in photography whatsoever,” Paris says, “I only took the photography class because the teacher was hot, but while other kids were taking typical pictures of like, a flower or a plant, I was getting inspiration from the shoots on America’s Next Top Mode.l” In essence, he styled and shot his friends in outlandish costumes and elaborate, amateur-couture pieces while the other students continued to play it safe. From then on, Paris’ interest in shooting fashion concepts grew to encompass his career ambitions.

Paris hopes to become a successful fashion photographer and make a decent living, and who wouldn’t? But his ambitions don’t stop there. “I like creating images that stir the pot and force people to reconsider their ideas towards something whether they like it or not,” he says, “I guess I like to be obnoxious and force my own opinions on people.” A playful smirk crosses his face as he says this. I can tell he has something more on his mind. I ask him what he means, and he immediately lunges into a full-on description of his latest concept he was obviously waiting for me to ask about. To describe the concept in family-friendly terms is next to impossible, considering the description I received from Paris. The project is essentially a mock ad campaign for Prada. All the basic elements for a typical Prada ad are there; a gorgeous model, the product perfectly showcased, and perfect fashion lighting and composition dominating the frame. The only thing that keeps the shot from gracing the pages of Vogue as a real advertisement is the presence of a thick white residue that happens to be splattered across the model’s face. I’ll leave it to your own perception to figure out what Paris told me the substance is meant to be, but I have the feeling that if I’d seen the picture first without him explaining anything to me, it’d take me a minute to fully understand what exactly I was looking at. And that’s the beauty of his images; they’re not always thematically intelligible upon first glance, which is undoubtedly a refreshing alternative to the explicitly overstated images photography students typically craft. His outlandish ideas often come from his dreams, a surreal place he often taps into when he’s fresh out of concepts and wants to challenge himself to present an image.

It’s this kind of perspective that gives Paris and his work such an alluring quality. There’s a mischievouParis Nicholson photographys, almost childlike quirkiness about the attitude he possesses as well as work he does, and that truly sets him apart from most of his peers. But that doesn’t mean Paris doesn’t harbor a great appreciation for the skills of others pursuing fashion careers in the city. “If you weed through all the bullshit, as you’d have to do in any field, there are definitely other talented people in fashion in the city,” he says. Specifically he mentions fellow students, photographers, stylists, and local fashion designers he feels all have potential to make a name for themselves within the industry. “There are definitely people in Pittsburgh who do awesome work and are going to make something of themselves” he says, “I really have a great appreciation and admiration for others around me doing the things I can’t do myself.” Paris specifically cites the photographic skills of Danielle Yagodich as well as the fashion-savvy styling prowess of Danny Lutz, both of whom are also students at the Art Institute.

Paris also hasn’t kept his face out of circulation in Pittsburgh fashion publications either. Another local fashion magazine recently recognized and utilized Paris’ skills as a photographer and model when they allowed him to shoot and star in an editorial for a local brand.

But what interested me most about our conversation had to be Paris’ clear favoring of topics concerning his photography versus his modeling. “To be honest, I’d much rather be known for my photography than modeling,” he says, “modeling is definitely more of a job to me than a lifestyle…photography gives me the chance to be creative and express myself by injecting my own personality, and with modeling you can’t fully do that.”

Paris NicholsonDespite his low-key attitude towards the exposure modeling has garnered him, that hasn’t stopped the public from lapping up every tear sheet or runway appearance he can credit to his name. There’s even an online forum dedicated entirely to his modeling work, with various users gushing over his many endearing physical qualities like a lion to fresh meat. “By far my biggest fans would have to be my family,” he says, “my mom goes crazy when she sees me on a runway, but in all honesty I don’t understand why simply working for a designer is much of an accomplishment. It’s just a job to me.”

Despite his humble feelings towards modeling and fashion, it’s undeniable that Paris’ modeling career has thus far been an incredibly diverse one. Jobs have taken him everywhere from New York City to Milan, with agencies like Boss and D’Men. It’s this kind of experience that gives Paris an elite, untouchable quality reminiscent of a true world class fashion model…that is until he shows me pictures of the pokemon toys he has sitting around his room. “I’m a total dork” he says excitedly. And he’s certainly proud of it.

At one point during our interview I paused to gather my thoughts on which direction I should take the conversation next. The silence was broken by an impromptu rendition of Yael Naim’s “New Soul” coming from across the table. I stared at Paris for a second and couldn’t help but laugh. I asked him what made him decide to sing. “Wasn’t that like, the song that was just playing in here?” [side note: It definitely wasn’t]. My interest is entirely piqued at this point, considering I’ve never had anyone burst into song during the middle of an interview. But then again I’ve never interviewed someone quite like Paris Nicholson before. It’s not often you come across a model or photographer as experienced as him, especially in a mid-sized city like Pittsburgh. But it’s even less likely to find someone of Paris’ stature who will freely confess their undying love of video game characters and McDonald’s. Because of his elite background in the fashion industry, Paris (and anyone else of his standing, for that matter) ultimately comes with a slew of preconceived notions unfairly tacked on to his personality simply because of how he looks. But I think I can gather, at least from the short time I spent with him, that Paris would much rather be seen for being a thought provoking visual artist than a pretty face. Someone who idolizes animated characters versus someone who’s attended parties with New York fashion royalty. And ultimately someone who enjoys being the person who can push through such superficial judgments. “I just like doing me,” he says. And as many times as we’ve all heard people say that before, I think with Paris we can all actually believe it.

Tyra(nt) Turns it Around; Cycle 15’s Ann Ward in Vogue Italia

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Saying that a singluar contestant, one of the many long-legged (or stub-equipped, as in the case of Cycle 13) beauties who have graced our television screens on Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model since 2003, is the crowning achievement of the 8 year old series would be similar to hailing a track on Christina Aguilera’s Bionic as the most listenable; in other words, it’s not much of a compliment. But Cycle 15’s Ann Ward is certainly looking to prove each and every one of the show’s detractors wrong by being the first of such alumni to win one of the most sought-after modeling opportunities in the actual fashion industry itself, a realm Tyra’s little wannabes have had trouble strutting into ever since the show’s inception.

Ward won’t be the first Top Model cast member to grace the pages of Italian Vogue (Cycle 3’s Toccara Jones fabbed-up the pages a few years ago as part of their “Black Models” tribute) but she will be the first to land a cover of any sort of publication within the Vogue family; while she won’t be headlining Vogue Italia, she’ll be splattered front and center with the words “America’s Next Top Model” no doubt gaudily plastered in conjunction with her face, emphasizing why she’s there as if someone in the  industry would dare think the illuminati the Vogue family would ever put a winner of a reality show on one of their covers by the grace of their own will. Francesca Sozzani apparently has a sense of humor and a void in her wallet; mama has bills to pay, and Tyra is apparently playing sugar daddy for this little Italian gold digger…and, well, I guess Ward would be Tyra’s gargantuan forcibly-entered penis penetrating the pages of Vogue as compensation.

Anyhow, the first set of pictures from Ward’s freshman (and probably only) stint in the Vogue family have been released, giving us a glimpse of the true supermodel Ward could have been if only she hadn’t appeared on America’s Next Top Model. Give me more weave pats, drunk shrubbery conversations, and just more Angeleas and Jades in general because seeing the scum of our generation’s reality is less depressing than showing us what genuine talent you’ve destroyed with the stigma of your show, Miss Tyra.
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Photo-Forward; Seeing the World Through Jenn Hoffman’s Eyes

An Interview by Joey Nolfi

Jenn Hoffman – Photographer

Photobucket(above: Portrait of Jenn Hoffman)

To put it simply, through a photographer’s eyes the world becomes a different place. It is their visionary, imaginative, and creative point of view that enables the rest of us to see things from (literally) an entirely different angle. And judging from the looks of the extensive images in the portfolio of photographer Jenn Hoffman, that world is an artistically-chic and edgy playground inhabited by some of the fiercest people on the planet.

From visionary conceptuals, stunning fashion pieces, classic wedding photos with a contemporary twist, to celebrity portraits (we’ll get to that in a minute) of some of the hottest names in fashion, Hoffman’s portfolio is as diverse as the people she shoots. From models of all skin colors, backgrounds, and roles in the fashion world to actors, actresses, and ordinary people that don’t fall into any specific category, Jenn Hoffman has shot them all. “I love to shoot all kinds of people, but my personal favorite are fashion models! Tall, skinny, interesting faces…so fun!” says Hoffman, and that’s definitely apparent in her work; some of her clients include top outlets for models such as the LA Models agency in California, magazines such as Fiasco, and even international publications such as Popcorn Magazine in Germany.

Celebrity clients are also nothing new to Jenn Hoffman. Hoffman has shot Hollywood actors and actresses, notably Danielle Harris, one of the stars of the recent Halloween remake. Hoffman has even worked with modeling royalty like Janice Dickinson, for whom she shot a promo for Season 4 of The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. Hoffman says that Dickinson “…was just AMAZING! She knew her modeling, so when I was shooting her I barely had to say anything!” and that she enjoyed working with some of the male models from Dickinson’s agency as well, most notably Brian Kehoe and Paul Vandervort.

Photobucket(above: Supermodel Janice Dickinson by Jenn Hoffman)


You’d think that working with such high-profile subjects would drive anyone absolutely insane from anxiety, but Hoffman says that with her, that isn’t the case. “It doesn’t bother me anymore” Hoffman says about her nerves, “I used to get nervous before agency model shoots, but now it’s a breeze because it’s part of me. It’s a privilege!”

But, putting together these shoots isn’t easy. Each of Hoffman’s shoots usually take at least 3 hours to complete, and even more prep work before anyone sets foot in the studio; “Honestly, there is a lot of computer work, loads of e-mails, and constant networking” says Hoffman, but the creative process behind her work is more than worth the hassle; “All of [my concepts] I have thought of. I do believe a great team can make a huge impact on the final shots as well. My red phone picture [shown below] was a spur of the moment shot!”. It’s refreshing to see someone still so passionate about this craft to be truly devoted to it, even in free time, to constantly come up with the brilliant and striking concepts that Hoffman produces. She even incorporates very powerful religious imagery into some of her more artistic pieces, most notably one in which she used a male model to represent Jesus dying on the cross; “I chose the perfect model for that, Jesse Holland. He got into character beyond belief” she says of her careful process of selecting models for projects like this. But what’s more interesting about art like this withinin contemporary photography is that the religious theme is so overt. “I think other art inspires me to create my own,” Hoffman says, “the fact that I can make my own lifestyle and create art with many different people is rewarding…I do have a Christianity [sic] about me, and this shoot just depicts an icon in life. Jesus is an icon.”

Photobucket(above: Photo by Jenn Hoffman)

It’s clear that Hoffman is as dedicated to her craft as any true artist is, but her ideal way of life that she lives every day almost didn’t happen at all. Hoffman’s early life in Raleigh, North Carolina almost steered her on a completely different path, one that didn’t include the art of photography at all. “My original major was graphic design” she says, “but I realized that wasn’t my forte.” After a random occurrence at the age of 17  in which she witnessed a friend transform a common shoe on the side of the road into a piece of envisioned photographic art, she realized photography was her true passion; after taking a photography course in Raleigh, Hoffman began a new course which would take her to the successful place in which she’s comfortably sitting right now. “I was fascinated by the way photographing something was so fun and adventurous. I then started shooting models, kept going and going, then decided to move to LA to pursue the dream!” Now residing just outside of Los Angeles, it seems as if the dream is already being lived.

But the road to success wasn’t always easy. Hoffman, at one point a struggling photographer like so many others, says she’s felt like giving up; “Sometimes in this field of freelancing, you feel like giving up either due to finances or the slowness of business, but I keep telling myself to go and go! I really could not imagine doing any other job!” Thankfully, Hoffman’s stuck with the craft, because the images this photographer produces are some of the most stunning shots this side of Vogue.

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Art is ever-present in today’s society, and that presence is growing day by day. “I think other art inspires me to create my own. Other photographers are an inspiration to me as well…[photography] is an addiction you cannot explain,” Hoffman says, “It really is about the way you connect with your subject and the way you put passion into your work that will make it ‘good’ or ‘successful’.” But as far as labeling goes, within the art world it’s easy to become pigeonholed into a generalized category in which you specialize, and Hoffman feels very strongly about her place in the industry; “I consider myself to be an artist, not a photographer” she says with a smile. And trust me, the rest of the world sees you that way too, Jenn.

Jenn Hoffman Photography – Official Site

(below: Brian Kehoe and Paul Vandervort, photo by Jenn Hoffman)

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Milla Jovovich Reveals New “iCB” Teasers; Far Cry from “Jovovich-Hawk”

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Milla Jovovich has always been one of my favorite figures in contemporary pop culture. An anomaly within the fashion world, Jovovich has managed to escape the snooty, agenda-ized, better-than-you demeanor most of her supermodel compatriots fell victim to (I’m looking at you, Tyra) shortly after their careers took off. But after being discovered by the legendary Richard Avedon when she was barely even a teenager, Jovovich took the artistic high road and took advantage of the opportunities superstardom had afforded her; free-reign over fine arts. She’s been singing (and writing) fantastic folk-rock music for years on top of her modeling, yet Jovovich also has an impressive track record in something else; design.

The ill-fated “Jovovich-Hawk”, a collaborative effort by Milla and fellow model Carmen Hawk, debuted its first collection in 2003 to extremely positive reviews from contemporary fashion critics. The sleek yet altogether rustic folk designs, at least in their presentation, evoked the truly layered, complex (yet still grounded) quality Jovovich has retained through years of modeling with the pretentiously uptight fashion elite.

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As with many up-and-coming fashion lines, Jovovich-Hawk eventually folded; after what seemed to be a promising first five years (designs were worn in public by the likes of Mary-Kate Olsen, as well as a commercial-consumer line produced for Target)  the pair produced their final pieces for the Spring/Summer 2008 season and subsequently ceased operations. I can’t say I’m surprised, seeing as the whole “rustic chic” look can be very easily (and for much less money) recreated with a quick trip to urban outfitters (or even a local vintage store), but Jovovich-Hawk’s designs evoked a much classier, sophisticated hidden elegance within the seams that set them apart from fellow lines. Their work took time to appreciate; they weren’t immediately striking or enticing; they were true pieces of surprising work that were as layered and complex as the past of the woman who helped design them. A true mashing of contemporary rustic chic with classic 20’s and folk infusion combined to make Jovovich-Hawk one of the most refreshing lines in recent memory.

It’s always truly uplifting to see someone remain so encompassed and rooted within the arts as Jovovich is, considering her career would wholly suggest otherwise (she’s a cult action film icon and has appeared in Men’s spreads for Maxim), so it’s truly inspiring to see her designing (and modeling) skills still utilized after the discontinuation of her own line. Her first campaign for Japanese-based line iCB debuted earlier this year, designs that were completely polariazed from the likes of Milla’s Jovovich-Hawk days. Slim, almost mod-inspired pieces were showcased alongside more masculine, streamlined offerings combined together to create sophisticatedly-chic designs that are yet still easily pairable with other off-the-rack products.

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Jovovich released this teaser (as well as the first photo in this article) for her upcoming designs for iCB today:

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I can’t say I’m either impressed or unimpressed as of yet (the shot looks like a direct cellphone-to-computer capture) but Milla does look extremely fierce and as beautiful as ever. The top half of that design reminds me a bit of a cosmopolitan schoolgirl take on some previous Jovovich-Hawk pieces, but I’m sure (as always) Milla’s end product will be a true work of art.