Ladies & Gentlemen and Robin Stein Team Up on a Still Life Inspired by Moholy-Nagy, Not Memphis
PHOTOS BY ROBIN STEIN
You know all those contemporary still-life clichés, like pastel backgrounds, cactuses, and Sottsass-approved geometric shapes? When New York photographer Robin Stein recently teamed up with Brooklyn design studio Ladies & Gentlemen for a studio visit (coming soon) and impromptu creative photo shoot (pictured below), the longtime friends decided to toss all those ubiquitous tropes out the window and do something that felt a little different. “I hoped we could find a way to push some of those ubiquitous still life aesthetics a bit, by shifting the color palette, using more organic textural surfaces, and finding new ways to use shadows,” explains Stein. “I’ve always really loved the abstract geometric compositions and photo montages of El Lissitsky and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, where perspective and depth are blended with a total flatness. I felt like Ladies & Gentlemen’s pieces naturally worked as components of this composed ‘collage.'”
To get the shots, co-founders Jean Lee and Dylan Davis took Stein up onto the roof of their studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with their arms full of studio scraps, materials samples, and even excess roofing supplies and used sanding belts from their workshop. Then, “Robin carefully framed, lit, and exposed shots that abstracted all of these to achieve a surrealist vibe — almost as if the shots were taken on another planet or in an indistinguishably warped environment,” says Lee. For his part, Stein was “trying to play with the idea of a multi-planar dimensionality in the space where the objects were placed and break free of the usual spatial expectations of a traditional photo set, with a seamless or a floor meeting a perpendicular wall,” he says. “I wanted to use tonality to suggest depth, and to explore how the pieces interacted with their environment, more than just simply portraying the object itself.”
The photos below represent the first time Ladies & Gentlemen has collaborated with Stein — all three relocated from Seattle to New York in the past year, so the union felt inevitable. “When we met up for the first time in Brooklyn, we bonded over our experiences as Pacific Northwest transplants navigating our new landscape,” recalls Lee. “We’d been a fan of Robin’s work — like his Glasser video for Totokaelo, and his editorial shots for Building Block and Everlane — and felt drawn to its sense of quiet airiness, which feels very natural and thoughtful. Even though his work is typically more fashion-focused, we felt that we had some shared sensibilities to draw on.” Check out the results below.