Turning another chapter, Saint Laurent unveils its latest offering of its SELF art series – aimed at showcasing the best of the best in creativity across photographers, artists and film-makers. Overseen by the house's creative director, Anthony Vacarello, the SELF 07 series captures 6 different cities through the lens of six different photographers – Alex Webb of New York, Harry Gruyaert of Paris, Takashi Homma of Tokyo, Daesung Lee of Seoul, Olivia Arthur of London and and Birdhead of Shanghai. Their works will be displayed through six simultaneous exhibitions, showcased in their individual cities from 9 to the 12th of June.
Here are their artworks, in their own words.
ALEX WEBB – NEW YORK
"City streets are alive with vibrant color, bold geometry, layers of light and movement, and rich diversity. They are the dynamic meeting places where the many worlds of the city cross paths, often in surprising and surreal ways. As a street photographer, I’ve long been drawn to the brilliant color, searing light, and intensity of life that I first encountered in the streets of Latin America and the Caribbean. So when I was asked by Anthony Vaccarello to photograph Los Angeles in the spirit of Saint Laurent for SELF 07, I immediately thought of three culturally-rich downtown neighborhoods—the Pinata District, the Flower District, and the Fashion District—whose deep shadows, brightly painted walls, and vibrant streets are reminiscent of Mexico, where I’ve often wandered. This exhibition brings together my new work from the streets of Los Angeles in conversation with my past work from Latin America and the Caribbean."
Alex Webb has published more than fifteen photography books, including The Suffering of Light, a survey book of thirty years of his color photographs. He’s exhibited at museums worldwide including the Whitney Museum of American Art, N.Y., the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A Magnum Photos member since 1979, his work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and other publications. He has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. His most recent books include La Calle: Photographs from Mexico and the collaboration Brooklyn: The City Within, with Rebecca Norris Webb, published by Aperture in fall 2019, and exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York.
OLIVIA ARTHUR – LONDON
“So not so” is a series that explores the human relationship with our bodies, our own physicality and the importance of touch and connection. Working with Anthony Vaccarello’s creations for Saint Laurent SELF 07, with movements, interactions, and play, I looked to show the way we touch, connect, and relate to each other. An exploration of the physical world in natural and unnatural forms is also key for me in showing the limits of our physicality. Our virtual worlds have grown to become a genuine reality and as technology creeps we need to remind ourselves of the hard feeling of a hand on a wall or the clatter of pebbles falling over each other. Incorporating elements of make-believe and play, the real sometimes becomes surreal. And as bodies and heads blend in and out of the spaces around them, it is also intended to serve as a reminder of both our strength and fragility."
Olivia is a London-based photographer known for her in-depth work examining people and their personal and cultural identities. Her first book, Jeddah Diary, follows the lives of young women in Saudi Arabia. Her second book, Stranger is a journey into Dubai seen through the eyes of the survivor of a shipwreck. More recently her practice has moved into an examination of the human relationship to the body, our physicality, and its intersection with technology. Her work has been exhibited internationally and is included in institutional collections in the UK, USA, Germany and Switzerland. She is co-founder of Fishbar, a publisher and space for photography in London. She became a member of Magnum Photos in 2013 and in 2020 was elected as its President.
HARRY GRUYAERT – PARIS
"I have always been fascinated by airports. They are places that concentrate everything that usually catches my eye as a photographer: the interplay of light, transparency and reflections, the effects of superimpositions that create a loss of reference points and give this very strong impression of being between two worlds. And then, there are the signs – arrows, numbers, letters – that mark out the frame. I have always liked the vocabulary of signage. When I was invited by Anthony Vaccarello to participate in SELF 07 for Saint Laurent, I immediately thought it would be interesting to shoot in this setting and to associate these images with some of the ones I had done before and which are gathered in the book Last Call."
Harry Gruyaert, born in Antwerp in 1941 and member of Magnum Photos since 1982, is known for his photographic work on color. He has worked extensively in Morocco, the U.S, Europe, India, as well as in his native Belgium. Harry Gruyaert’s numerous publications – Made in Belgium, Roots, Morocco, Rivages, East/West, Last Call or India – testify to his ability to work in the most diverse environments. “For me, photography is not only a matter of composition or color, it must also speak of the places and the time”. Several exhibitions have been devoted to his work, including at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in 2015 and at FoMU, Antwerp in 2018. Harry Gruyaert lives in Paris. He is represented by Magnum Photos and Gallery Fiftly One in Antwerp.
DAESUNG LEE – SEOUL (Guest photographer)
"Spring 2020 was surreal but real. The whole world stopped. No one could easily describe such a feeling in words. Ironically, nature revived and came back to us once we stopped being indoors. Nature gave us back all the forgotten senses. The sky was so blue, more than ever, birds were singing so loudly out of my apartment window and the leaves of the trees in the streets were greener than ever. It was such a surreal experience. Since then, I no longer see the world in the same way. In the meantime, I often had to escape to an imaginary nature in my mind to stand the uncertain future. It was a strange spring. I attempted to visualize that strange experience during lockdown. An imaginary nature, that you can only see in your inner self, that you can only feel in your own senses. We all lived in our own universe during that time. The SELF project was a unique, exciting, and challenging opportunity to explore and express my inner self in visuality. I hope you can also find yourself in these images. I especially thank Saint Laurent and Anthony Vaccarello, artistic director, and curator of the SELF 07 project for his constant support to artistic freedom of expression and creativity."
Daesung Lee studied photography in Chung-Ang university, South Korea. Growing up in a rural village, nature has always been his interest which led him to work on environmental issues. His work is known for his own conceptual approach in documentary photography playing between fiction and reality through an enigmatic visualization. He won the Sony World Photography Award in 2013 and 2015. He lives in Paris, France.
TAKASHI HOMMA – TOKYO (Guest photographer)
"The City and Fashion. We live in a huge city called Tokyo. We, dressed in clothes, live and act in the environment of Tokyo. Our actions are in fact constrained and guided by the pressure of the city of Tokyo. I used the camera obscura technique to capture and exhibit the Tokyo environment that surrounds us. The city and fashion are always in a one-to-one relationship. I was pleased to have the opportunity to participate in Saint Laurent’s SELF 07 curated by Anthony Vaccarello."
Takashi Homma, photographer. In 1999, he won the 24th Ihei Kimura Photography Award for his photo book “Tokyo Suburbia” (published by Korinsha). From 2011 to 2012, his solo exhibition “New Documentary” was held at three museums in Japan. “Symphony: Children mushrooms from the forest” and “Looking Through – Le Corbusier Windows” will be published in 2019. He is currently a visiting professor at Tokyo Zokei University Graduate School.
BIRDHEAD – SHANGHAI (Guest photographer)
"This collaboration is based on the format of photographic matrix— the signature style in “Birdhead World”. Inspired by the harmonic and symbiosis relationship between species that exists in nature, the work exhibits the tangible connection between photographs. The overall contour lines up the cityscape, clothing, and body with natural elements like clouds, trees, and stones. This outline combined with the structure of different light and shade blocks, creates a smooth and free sense of integration, just like the gesture of the cursive script in Chinese calligraphy. Each photograph consists of the work that is the original photograph taken in analog, without any cropping or reframing. Additionally, through the SELF 07 project curated by Anthony Vaccarello, Birdhead adopted inverted negative photographic prints in their work for the first time. The characteristics of Saint Laurent’s SELF project provide a high degree of freedom, allowing artists to transcend boundaries and explore the possible new resonance of art and fashion in each special era from different perspectives."
Birdhead consisting of Song Tao (b. 1979) and Ji Weiyu (b. 1980), has been working in the medium of analog photography since it was established in 2004. They live and work in Shanghai, China. The name “Birdhead” came from a random keystroke for film naming. The artistic practice of Birdhead is based on photographs but also beyond the philosophy of photography. Capturing all the beings around them, the two members of Birdhead digest and apply the thinking mode of conceptual art into the context of their image interpretation. By combining the photographic matrix, collage, installation, particular mounting technique and so on, Birdhead delivers a “Birdhead World” in various spaces and humanistic environment.
PhotosHarry Gruyaert, Olivia Arthur, Alex Webb, Takashi Homma, Daesung Lee and Birdhead for Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello