For a few decades now, fashion editorials have been much more than just a vehicle for the industry — they’re an art form in their own right. The combination of clothes, body and the setting seen through the prism of photographic talent makes is designed to inspire, seduce and, at times, questions our aesthetic ideas. Truly cult editorials have always created a ephemeral fictionalised universe, even if filmed inside the four walls of a studio. In that sense it’s not a coincidence that the rise of the post-Soviet aesthetic in fashion was enabled not just by outstanding design work — from the likes of Gosha Rubchinskiy, Demna Gvasalia and DELADA — but also by the emergence of a new visual language in fashion photography.
The fact that the movement has a label — “post-Soviet aesthetic” — implies that it’s delimited by a certain look. Yet the work of emerging fashion photographers from across the area shows the depths behind familiar surfaces. It’s less a question of using Brutalist architecture and tower block estates as a backdrop, and more about reaching into one’s unique background, memories and experiences to create something new. The issues they take on — from sexuality to national identity to reclaiming history’s oppressive settings — are crucial in today’s cultural dialogue, with fashion one of the prominent voices in shaping its future.
Originally from Kiev but based in Berlin, Dmytro Zubytski is among the emerging names in the industry. Like a lot of his peers, he is drawn to desolate locations and gritty aesthetics, but also has an eye for the intimacy behind the grungy backdrops. The unpolished, fragmented narrative he creates fits in the new kind of urban romanticism that is understood by younger generations all over the world. His vision is global but not rootless: his most recent series was shot in his grandmother’s house, where he spent a lot of time as a child.
Based in Moscow, Sasha Mademuaselle has an excellent eye for the unruly and celebratory aspects of youth. She’s documented the fierce style and unbound energy of Moscow raves and punk concerts, capturing the spirit of the emerging generation where it truly belongs. Combined with a sense of humour and spontaneity, it made her the perfect photographer to work for Gosha Rubchinskiy’s skater brand Рассвет. For one of the label’s zines, Goodbye America, her and her partner Sergey Kostromin documented a gang of Russian skateboarders tearing up sidewalks across the Atlantic — and the underlying romanticism of the grand cultural myth of the US.
Based in Tbilisi, Grigor Devejiev is one of the masterminds behind the recent rise of Georgian fashion. With over a decade of experience working in fashion and around five years in photography, he is in charge of most of the visual materials for the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi, and his atmospheric, somewhat gritty, bold editorials have attracted the attention of international fashion magazines, including i-D and Metal. Influenced by both Georgian folk tradition and contemporary Tbilisi, Devejiev is also keen to speak about the broader issues of social inequality. In his recent project Social Realism he subverted the fashion editorial medium by casting people of all ages and social backgrounds to dismantle the ever-present aura of privilege which exists in the industry.
Based in Kiev, Julie Poly is a recognised creative force in the city’s fashion scene. Equally comfortable with glossy polished aesthetics and the edgier realm of emerging youth culture, portraiture is one of her main strengths. Her editorial Kids for Vogue Ukraine is one of the most poignant visual statements of Kiev’s new generation, their day-to-day looks and dwellings. Poly’s vision has a lot of attitude and rigour, combined with daring attitude toward taste and style — much like the explosive combination which had originally put Ukraine on the style map.
Photographer Zuza Krajewska usually works on topics very far from the fashion world. Her project IMAGO is a sincere and touching documentation of boys in a young offenders’ institution in Poland. Last year, however, Krajewska collaborated with Polish brand UEG on a collection of garments and a series of images. UEG’s collection was a protest against the rise of the far-right movement in the country, and an attempt to reflect on the broader question of identity of Poland’s new generation. Images from IMAGO were printed on a range of sweatshirts, T-shirts and jackets, which Krajewska later photographed in snowy estates and gritty stairwells. Full of uncompromising raw energy, it remains one of the most poignant statements both in Polish fashion and photography.
Tbilisi-based Louisa Chalatashvili has an instantly recognisable style across portraiture, fashion and interior photography. Her subtle sense of colour and light is instrumental in building a dreamy cinematic universe, with frequent guest appearances of her friends and collaborators from the Georgian creative scene, and design works by the likes of Tamuna Ingorokva and George Keburia. There is a gentleness and romanticism to Chalatashvili’s work, combined with an underlying visual force which often comes through in her shoots set in dramatic landscapes.
Mishka Bochkarev’s approach to photography was influenced by his childhood surroundings. He grew up in an area with a lot of industrial buildings and railway tracks, during Ukraine’s turbulent 1990s. Today he is still drawn to the harsh reality of the streets, and loves to push the boundaries of fashion imagery in the direction of the strange, alien and ugly — while remaining authentic and effortlessly cool. Based in Kiev, Bochkarev has worked with the best names in its design scene, including Anton Belinskiy and Masha Reva, and captured the rise of Ukraine’s new cultural scene for magazines like Tissue and Dazed & Confused.
Paris-based Christina Abdeeva has been working in fashion editorial for a few years, but her output transcends the usual tropes of the genre. Her photographs almost look like film stills, fragments of a larger story. The interiors and landscapes are serene yet carry an underlying sense of suspense, and human figures are full of eerie fluidity. Since the start of her career, Abdeeva has been exploring the visual representation of female body and sexuality, which brought her work to independent titles such as Dyke On and Possession immédiate.
Text: Anastasiia Fedorova
Top image: Julie Poly, from Kids for Vogue Ukraine October 2016