Marie Antionette but make it existential.
Teaming up on a decadent endeavour, director Loona Kasemets, photographer Harry, stylist Katie and set designer Amelia Tavenner created an homage to the fear of death that birthdays bring. Full of satire and opulence, the creative dream team threw it back to retro birthday parties, in true Seventies Dinner Party fashion: think jellies and shrimp cocktail galore. We met the team to talk existential crises and how to successfully collaborate…
What was the inspiration behind the shoot?
Katie: I stumbled across many vintage photos of people and children at birthday parties from the 50s-80’s. I enjoyed the obscenity of their clothes and environments. For me, the photos captured something that was either awkward, forced or just a bizarre frozen moment in time. For that reason, I thought it would be fun to somehow recreate a range of different scenarios, in which these people experienced a birthday. Each look has a narrative and story behind why they’re there, and the set, fashions and film reflect that.
Loona: The idea of ageing terrifies me, so I don’t really look forward to birthdays at all. It kind of just marks you being another year closer to your expiry date in this age when we’re so unhealthily obsessed with youth.
How did you collate all your creative ideas?
Katie: It usually starts with an idea or inspiration, followed by a Pinterest wormhole. I then sketch, correlate appropriate photos into a digital moodboard and keep adding and changing it till I’m happy. I enjoy the process, and everything usually evolves and changes during it. But, the real collation comes from the creative team and our collaboration together. We vibe well and are on the same wavelength with our creative instincts – which is great for onset and when bouncing ideas around. It’s always a fun (slightly manic) shoot!
Loona: This shoot revolves around the characters and styling. Katie came to me with her sketches and mood board for each look and we bounced off each other to create the film element. We have a very similar vision of this strange dream world that we set our shoots in and the more we discuss it the weirder and darker it gets. We’d be sat in a north London cafe nibbling on a slice of cake and discussing how well barbie doll body parts would set in jelly or what’s the most comfortable way for a model to slam their face in a cake. We often have to pull ourselves back a bit not to go too far.
Harry: Once Katie has created the first vision we have beautiful reference points to work from throughout the shoot days. As we start building sets, working out the lighting, make up and hair happen etc., the collation of creative ideas start flowing. We throw ideas back and forth until we reach an agreement that we think will serve the editorial best.
Amelia: After seeing Kate’s ideas, strong sense of style and narrative it was easy to create a world in which her ‘characters’ felt natural. Throughout shooting, we all experimented with ideas. Playing around with lighting and direction to enhance each character, bringing them to life through both film and stills.
If you could describe the theme of the shoot in 3 words what would they be?
Katie: Playful, layered, a narrative.
Loona: Colourful, dark, bittersweet.
Harry: Dysfunctional Doll House.
Amelia: It’s 4 but, “LET THEM EAT CAKE!”.
If your shoot belonged in a fictional world, which would it be?
Katie: Difficult, maybe a slightly drunk Alice in Wonderland.
Loona: Some dystopian future, big brother vibes, everyone looks super happy but is dying inside.
20 December 2019