Benjamin Millepied Fills a Bright Dead Sea Landscape with the Experimental Artist’s Brooding Music
“I first saw Billy Barry perform at Juilliard four years ago,” says the acclaimed French choreographer, filmmaker and photographer Benjamin Millepied. “I thought, ‘Who is this creature?’ Billy’s quality as a dancer is so otherworldly, I immediately knew I wanted to create a portrait of him. The sense of solitude depicted in the film reflects just how different he is as an artist.” The chance to direct today’s music video for British artist Forest Swords’ haunting track “The Weight of Gold” presented an intriguing opportunity for Millepied, who was seduced after being inspired by Israel’s Dead Sea area’s landscape, including the Judean desert and Nebi Musa site that is dedicated to Moses. “We arrived at a beautiful location and I just let the music and the desert move me instead of forcing it,” says Barry, the young flaxen-haired dancer who earned a spot at Tel Aviv’s prestigious Batsheva Ensemble straight out of school. “I listened to the music a lot before the shoot and on the day we just went with what happened naturally.” Below Forest Swords, AKA Matthew Barnes, explores the musical side of this creative collaboration.
I grew up listening to a lot of mainstream pop music, and I was fascinated with the production and structure of it. Then I gradually got into punk, hip-hop and electronic music. All that filters into the type of sounds, melodies and textures I’m attracted to now, though it’s difficult to be objective about that kind of thing when you’re making it.
The track “The Weight of Gold” came together fairly slowly. I pieced it together over a few weeks, adding and subtracting until it felt right and I mixed it outdoors like the rest of the record.
The locations Benjamin picked for this video really resonate with the track. I’ve always associated the songs from my album Engravings with a British landscape—woodland and sandstone, because that’s the environment I live and produced the record in. Taking the music out of that context and placing it in Israel definitely shifts the track in a direction I did not expect.
Photographer Bruce Weber Takes an Intimate and Inspiring Look at the Transgender Community
“These days everybody wants to be exactly like each other. I like people who are characters,” says Bruce Weber of shooting the models, makeup artists, students who each give their own personal testimony in Not Your Usual Bedtime Story. The short sees an assortment of individuals identifying as transgender—from makeup artist Niki M’nray to models Ines Rau and Gisele Xtravaganza—disclose their personal biographies with members of their friends and family, while clad in clothes from designers including Balenciaga and Saint Laurent Paris. Interspersed with clips of a young Dean Stockwell from 1948 film, The Boy With Green Hair, the film was made by the venerated photographer in collaboration with W magazine’s former Creative Director Dennis Freedman. The pair conceived the coinciding campaign Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters for New York department store Barneys, which feature's today's talking heads. Weber, whose work is synonymous with the all-American aesthetic defined in his early collaborations with brands like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch, was enlisted in the hope of bringing the trials faced by the transgender community to the forefront of the now ever-prevalent LGBT debate. “It was very important for me to see how generous of spirit the support systems are,” he says. “It is not just about having a support system when you’re growing up, it is about having one for the rest of your life.”
What was behind the decision to shoot on location in New York?
Bruce Weber: We wanted to be able to show a bit of the city and allow the talent, many of whom have never been to New York City before, to see how beautiful Central Park is.
Can you tell us a little about the footage from The Boy with Green Hair that you included?
BW: This was a movie that really meant a lot to me as a kid. I was always drawing in the art department and reading books in the library instead of playing football so I knew how this kid felt. I feel that the wonderful thing about being different is it gives you character.
Do you think someone’s gender and identity affects the way you approach your subjects as a photographer and filmmaker?
BW: When I meet somebody, I’m not so interested in whether they’re a man or a woman—I’m interested in whether they have soul.
Benjamin Millepied Directs a Kabuki-Inspired Collaboration with the Dark Pop Duo
A lone kabuki dancer performs against an urban tableau wearing full kumadori makeup in choreographer Benjamin Millepied's video for the Io Echo track “Eye Father.” Since meeting at a party and bonding over masochism and The Velvet Underground, Washington D.C.-native Ioanna Gika and her London-born partner in crime Leopold Ross have scored films for Harmony Korine, toured with Florence and the Machine and opened for Nine Inch Nails’ last-ever show. In “Eye Father,” Io Echo’s koto harp, hazy guitars and ethereal vocals are visualized in the vivid palette of classical Japanese theater. “Kabuki sets are so beautiful and rich in color, I wanted to find urban spaces with that quality,” explains director Millepied, who shot the film at a number of scenic Hollywood spots, including Los Angeles Harbor and a SoCal supermarket. “It looked like we were in rural China, but we were in this all-American urban landscape.” The cultural mash-up resonates well with Io Echo’s own penchant for mixing musical influences. “We’re interested in the sound and aesthetic of Asian cultures, but we’re not trying to emulate it literally,” Gika explains. “You can listen to our songs and imagine a Far Eastern forest, but ours is infused with purple smoke and twisted willows.” Currently in the finishing stages of Io Echo’s debut album, Gika shares the dreams that inspire the work, and a custom haiku.
What was on the stereo when you were growing up?
Ioanna Gika: Enya, Vangelis, chant, classical and new age.
Favorite new band?
IG: Haleek Maul, a teenage rapper from Barbados.
Dreams: black and white or Technicolor?
IG: Technicolor. Once the sky was so blue I was terrified.
IG: Kofi Annan or Philip Glass.
Favorite Japanese restaurant in LA?
IG: Sushi Ike––they do a great fresh octopus.
Write us a haiku?
IG: Wrote haikus all day
and apparently I am
still writing haikus.
Click here for Io Echo and Benjamin Millepied's second video collaboration, plus a chat with Leopold Ross.
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