Joy Island is an emerging young fashion photographer based in Beijing, and she can’t stop dreaming about Yayoi Kusama. When the opportunity came for her to materialize her “dream project,” she pulled the scenes from her dreams (like Kusama) and recreated them in virtual reality. Over the course of nine months, this became her latest photo series Fashion Laboratory, in collaboration with China’s leading lifestyle magazine iLOOK.
In Fashion Laboratory, Island blends her highly saturated and colorful photography style with 3D modeling, creating virtual rooms where models appear to be floating pensively in the air against giant, primary-color-painted objects looming in the background. Just as Kusama felt that she was gradually disappearing into a sea of poka dots, Joy Island’s photos evoke the same feeling of things “melting away” in her imaginary room.
We chatted with the photographer to learn more about how the series came together…
The Creators Project: Where did you get the inspiration to create the Fashion Laboratory series?
Joy Island: When we decided to create this series, my inspiration came from a room in my dreams. I didn’t want to just finish this project, but I wanted to make a breakthrough collection that shapes some sort of dream environment. The theme of the iLook issue was “De Stijl," [Dutch for "The Style]) then the words “Fashion Laboratory” popped into my mind during a discussion, so then we combined the theme and my dream together into Fashion Laboratory. The elements of the 3D room and model were designed and inspired from Piet Mondrian’s masterpieces. From the collection’s explanation:
The orderly black and white stripes and pure primary colors were the essence of De Stijl art moment pioneered by Piet Mondrian, they evoke perfect and rational spiritual energy. From YSL’s famous Mondrian dress to the now fashionable color-blocked jumper dress and squarely platform shoes, De Stijl style continues to influence world fashion. Besides experimenting with 3D modeling for the background, I hope to capture the emotion and serenity of the models facial expressions, as well as the spiritual aura that floated in Mondrian’s mind at that time.
How did you approach the fashion shoot?
I always like to incorporate elements of surrealism, futurism, dreams, or emotions into my shoots. We initially wanted to build a physical set, but that proved to be too difficult, so we decided to use 3D modeling for the background, and then Photoshop the models in. With the help of a friend, a professional 3D modeler, we recreated the environment and objects in my imagination, then repeatedly deconstructed and transformed the scenes.
Besides a room of red, yellow, and blue colors and black and white stripes, we also created 3D models of objects like an ice cream cone, polar bear, windmill, baby, rainbow, rabbit, the planet Mars, and a comet—all of these objects have one thing in common, they are melting. We worked on it for one month, destroying ideas then rebuilding them. We filled tens of gigabytes of 3D modeling material, then we began numerous experiments with arranging the positions of the people and objects.
During the shoot, I tried to capture the models’ dreamy, yet frozen, facial expressions. The girls look like futuristic people who are deep in thought while floating in space or in the ocean, or even on top of a melting ice cream cone.
Photographs courtesy of Joy Island.