Featuring the likes of model Georgia May Jagger, fashion designer Mimi Wade, artist Nadia Lee Cohen, and Instagram sensation, BeautySpock, BITCHES subverts expectations, with a wink. In each mise-en-scène. Sachon brings together remarkable women who have likely, at one point or the other, been labelled “bitches”, and through doing so, he champions the characteristics that this term usually embodies. Here, exclusively for HUNGER, the artist speaks to one of his subjects, SFX makeup artist, BeautySpock, AKA, Frances O’Sullivan, about the collaboration.
Daniel Sachon: I knew from the start that I wanted you to be a part of this project. We had shot together before, and honestly, you were a dream to work with. You have this very unique look, you are like a timeless doll and obviously, you’re incredibly talented and creative in your own right. I think for me, your versatility made it really easy to visualise you in the kind of scenarios I was creating for BITCHES, and when I mentioned the project to you, you were well up for it which was amazing.
BeautySpock: Yeah, I mean like the minute you told me what the premise of the shoot was I was like, I’m there – no matter what, it was so up my street.
DS: I knew you had a fancy for vintage aesthetics, so when I had this Marie Antoinette idea, it was obvious to me that you would be able to step into the role. More so, I thought you would really understand the historical context I wanted to nod towards and you would be able to embody the character. It just seemed so you and that was great!
BS: Oh for sure, I loved it. I guess I wonder what prompted the series for you, I know you had been wanting to work on a personal series for ages, but how did you actually land on the dog thing? I mean, it’s so you obviously, but what was the inception of the idea?
DS: I wanted to make something beautiful, glamorous, and funny, not taking itself too seriously. When it comes to your picture, it was one a few concepts for the series that was a homage to the strong historical ties held within the subject matter. I was going to do a kind of etre homage with a greyhound, but then I got super into the idea of an image inspired by Marie Antoinette because she famously had loads of pugs and I found these really interesting albino ones.
BS: Yeah, I mean when I went to the exhibition and saw all the images together, I really felt like the girls pictured all showed a sense of themselves through the photograph. It never seemed like you got a model, put them in whatever, and took photos, it was more so that their personalities were really present. For mine, it’s so over the top, ridiculous, and camp, it just fits so well.
DS: Exactly, it was the idea that because I had worked with a lot of the girls before, I knew how to play into their strengths and how they could embody a character that was often not too dissimilar from themselves. In most cases, I could already picture the woman in the final image as they just complimented each idea so closely.
DS: Do you remember how stressed I was on set that day? But actually, the minute we started shooting and you were ready it was just great.
BS: Yeah, it was just so easy to work together. The minute we started shooting, it was like it just happened.
DS: I will say, a funny thing I remember from that day is that the dogs we shot with are actually influencers themselves. They have quite a big following online, and I had to have these special cooling mats on set for them and these massive fans. They had to be kept cool under the lights, it was basically on their rider.
BS: I remember the outfit I wore super well. Before the day on set, I knew what the character was going to be, but I didn’t know exactly what I was going to be wearing. When I got in and I saw that it was a Vivienne Westwood wedding couture, I was honestly beside myself. It’s the best thing I’ve ever been able to wear on a shoot. It felt just so expensive and lovely which meant being positioned on top of a cake was the scariest thing ever. I had people being like “don’t ruin the dress, don’t ruin the dress” and then Daniel was just like “get in the camera, get in the camera”. The minute the dogs were doing the right thing, it was like all the stress was on but, as Daniel said, it just spontaneously connects and everything suddenly came together.
DS: I remember, there was one point when there were two fashion assistants under your dress to hold it up and stop it from touching any cake. We couldn’t get any stains on because it was bridal couture, so we ended up with these two people literally under the dress holding it back.
BS: Yeah, Oh god [laughs]. After all that though, I love the final picture so so much. I got a little glimpse of the back of the camera on the day, but seeing the actual final work when you showed it to me was amazing. It was kind of exactly what I knew it would be, because I know your style – like, I know the lighting you want, the feeling you want, and all of that. When we were on set, I had a strong idea of what the final product would look like, but then you totally blew me out of the park. My first reaction when I saw it on the wall was to say to you, that you have to give me a copy to hang huge, above my bed or something [laughs].
DS: I love your photo too. Working with you was great because you aren’t only a model, you’re a creative so you understand the process and all the elements that have to come together to make the image. I think having that sensibility, approach, and understanding in regard to how an image is made really enriched your capacity as a model. By the time I got behind the camera, I knew you had fully enveloped yourself in this world we were creating – and this came through in the way you moved. A lot of people might be intimidated by the idea – you’re going to be wearing this really expensive dress, you’re going to be sitting in cake in the middle of a table in front of a room of 30 strangers, you’ll be surrounded by dogs running around. But you were just completely unfazed, getting the shot and being super excited. This energy really rubbed off on me and I knew I would get something great.
BS: Aw thanks, Daniel. I think it was because we got on so well from the first time we met and went for a coffee. We just bounced off each other, because we both loved character creation so much. It was almost like we had too many ideas that we wanted to make. Also, you had a character in mind for this and I love taking on a persona and letting that lead a shoot. When I got on set, I was like, OK this is who I am, I’m Marie Antoinette’s slutty little sister. Let’s go.
DS: We were very lucky to have Terry Barber doing the makeup as well, he just gets it and you don’t have to show him a reference.
BS: Oh yeah, that was so good.
DS: You just sort of talk through the character you’re creating rather than show him a reference image, and he just gets it and takes it to the next level. He created something that felt like it was of an era, but with this deliberate fresh, and sexy twist just like we wanted. Perfect equal parts of sleek and slaggy.
DS: At the time when we shot together, I was doing the London shoots in blocks, shooting between five and six different pictures a day. I had the same team throughout, so the set, hair, makeup, and styling came together quite easily. But for your shoot, the dogs were quite challenging. Sourcing them was really hard as I didn’t want them to be normal pugs, it took a lot of scouring to find an albino pug. I wanted black pugs originally, but when I found the albino pugs it felt right. I could just see it. Oddly enough, I think that if it was any other coloured pug, it would not have had the same gravitas.
BS: Yeah, I agree. They look like little cakes.
DS: Yeah, they did. I got so many as, it just so happened that, this one albino pug I found had three or four siblings that were all able to come.
BS: They were so cute, Oh my God, they were literally so cute.
DS: They really were.
BS: The highlight of the day really was getting my face licked by the pugs for the polaroids.
DS: Oh yeah, the polaroids, that’s right. And you can see that the beauty marks were smudged and rubbing off as your face was being licked.
BS: I kind of love that though.
DS: Me too.
BS: When it comes to the series as a whole, I hadn’t really seen any of the other images until I came to your exhibition. I went in and saw them all together, and I was like Oh My God, this was a good idea. I’m pissed off that I didn’t have the idea first. It was just so cohesive and cool, all the girls looked amazing and I absolutely love the way you shoot women. It’s the way I feel like Helmut Newton used to shoot women. They always look so powerful, sensual, and amazing. It was great to see all the pictures in person. I think my favourite one – I mean on the night I kept saying that’s my favourite one, that’s my favourite one, about all the pictures – but I think my favourite one is the girl on the casino table with her tits out… Fabulous.
DS: Oh yeah, Ivana’s photograph.
BS: Oh, it’s just so good! That picture is so good!
DS: One of my biggest regrets about the show was not having your picture exhibited in one of the larger sizes. It’s the only thing I really have a massive regret about. I had to organise all the printing and framing from LA as I was there leading up to the show, so it was pretty tough. But yeah, looking back that’s my biggest regret from the show, not having yours bigger and on its own wall in the 1/1-sized edition.
BS: I mean I wanna say mine was my favourite picture, but I feel that I can’t say that.
DS: You absolutely can.
BS: Alright it was mine.
BS: Daniel, as we both do similar things, I guess I’m wondering what you feel like now. I can imagine if I had just done an exhibition, I would have been so busy during the lead-up, with all of the stress and then the explosion of relief with it finally being finished. I don’t know if afterwards, I’d feel a massive kick up the arse to do the next thing immediately, or whether I would just need a break. Does it sort of just burn you out?
DS: Do I get burnt out, yes. But I don’t have time to be burnt out annoyingly because it’s sort of go, go, go, go, go at the moment. I think I do feel a little burnt out but I’m running on the burn, running on the fumes in a good way.
DS: I have one more thing I want to ask you, Frances. If you were to be in one of the other pictures, which one would you want to be in?
BS: I think I would have wanted to be in the Zizi Donahoe one. I love doing really stripped-back images and really big ridiculous stuff. But I’d also like to do the timeless naked amazing pic, you know.
DS: Yeah, I mean that was such an old picture (business casual), taken before I was properly working on this show. At the time I was thinking I would shoot dogs and women together consistently and eventually do a book called BITCHES. Then I decided to do it as its own thing instead. The gallery, Imitate Modern, wanted that one on the wall, I didn’t really care because I was like it’s so old and it’s been seen but it actually sold really well on the opening night.
BS: Not me picking that one after all that.
DS: Yeah, but I do like that one. It’s funny as a lot of people said that that one was their favourite, and it was one of the high-selling editions on the opening night which was quite strange to me.
BS: Oh really, it’s just so classic.
DS: I still prefer yours!
BS: No, I know, mine is better. But I’m just saying, if I had to pick one it might be that. Also, if I had humongous tits then it would be the one on the casino table [laughs].
DS: Yeah, I do like that one too.
BS: So good!
DS: I just want to say, I really appreciate you for being in BITCHES full-stop — being involved, and believing in it and in me. It’s really interesting that looking back your shoot is the only one I have proper BTS of. It’s one of my favourite pictures from the show, and we actually have documentation of it being made. I’m really proud of the picture, I think it’s a real testament to you as an individual; who you are, and what you stand for. Also, I think it’s a result of the amazing talent we worked with on the day – including the incredible Westwood design, Terry Barber on make-up, and Oscar Pera doing hair. Your image is a real product of fine British talent, even though it’s a French-inspired character.
BS: For me, I’ve been modelling since I was a teenager and, I mean, I like it, it pays the bills, and sometimes I get to meet amazing people. Also, the looks that I get to wear are so cool. But, it’s not the number one thing that I want to do forever. Having said this, when I shoot with Daniel, it makes me feel like I’m just 100% into it. I’m not just modelling; I’m enjoying it so much. I’m a part of the creativity with him, and this shoot really was unbelievable.
DS: Yeah, and then you can actually get excited.
BS: I mean, I think I’ve said this to you so many times, but before I knew you, I used to find your photos on Pinterest and save them. I honestly thought you were an old great, and likely already dead. Then, I found you on Instagram one day and was like oh my god he’s like literally alive, and he’s near my age. I was like, I want to be up with him so badly, let’s go out
DS: I know, and that’s one of my favourite compliments ever. The fact that you thought I was dead, somehow feels appropriate [laughs].