RAF SIMONS & DAVID SIMS - ISOLATED HEROES
The series of photographs, collected under the banner ‘Isolated Heroes’, are the result of the collaboration British photographer David Sims and Belgian menswear designer Raf Simons undertook in the summer of 1999. Featured on the pictures are Raf Simons’ models, dressed in his collection for Spring-Summer 2000. Each boy is credited with a serial number and his own first name. ‘Isolated Heroes’ contains both black and white and colour photographs. This collaboration was not a chance meeting. Both Sims and Simons had been outspoken about their mutual admiration, mostly in press interviews. Although the interest in each other’s work developed into a firm friendship, they only decided to work together in the wake of Simons’ Spring-Summer 2000-collection. Originally intended as a work-in-progress, Sims’ photographs of Simons’ models soon became a body of work in it’s own right. The photographs of ‘Isolated Heroes’ were never intended for mere promotional purposes. They even transcend more traditional fashion photography, as they reach for a timeless quality, devoid of signs of the times or traces of trendiness. The pictures encapsulate both Sims’ and Simons’ vision with clarity and precision. The ‘Isolated Heroes’-project deals with beauty, youth, masculinity and the perfect isolation of all these preoccupations. Above all, the series are about individuality, the keyword that sets both Sims’ photography and Simons’ designs apart within their own specific fields. Sims and Simons share the same notions of aesthetics: honest, untouched, pure and real. From the start of his career, in the early nineties, the pictures of David Sims made a huge impact on fashion photography in general. His stark and direct images contrasted with the depictions of exotic glamour and extravagant luxury, the common staple of most fashion magazines. He injected fashion photography with a dose of realism and empathy, never patronising, always sympathising. Most importantly, his use of non-professional models (mostly culled from his circle of friends) made the industry re-evaluate the dictum of beauty. In his own right, Raf Simons also changed men’s fashion. More than just presenting clothing items, he created a world of his own, incorporating fashion, video, music, photography and art. Endearingly honest about his influences (youth culture, behavioural codes) his work, now spanning over seven years, draws on feelings and attitudes. His seasonal presentations feature only one-off teenage models, cast from the streets of Antwerp; in using them, Simons not only pleads for a more democratic notion of humanity and beauty, but he also links his designs with the original inspirators. Not one of the portrayed boys in ‘Isolated Heroes’ is a professional model. They are either too ‘strange’ or too ‘ordinary’ to fit the mould of supermodels. Yet, through the eyes of Sims and Simons, they are made visible, without the aid of gimmicks or theatrical enhancements. ‘Isolated Heroes’ is a sequence of faces and expressions, mindful boys and stern young men, their gaze fixed. They express nothing but their own personality; they give everything away but their own thoughts. The photographs don’t make them more beautiful, as in traditional (fashion) portraiture; each face is a peaceful vindication of modern perception of beauty, a resolute alternative to the clichèd glorification of male strength. In narrowing the close-up on the faces, Sims and Simons have created portraits in an almost classical sense. The images evoke memories of Classical-Greek statues and postures, further enhanced with lighting, clear backdrop and focus.
Peter De Potter