Miami-based stylist and creative director Nadia Wolff and photographer Diana Eusebio channel fierce Miami storms, climatic heat and bioluminescent magic for Chromat Summer 21.
Read on to learn more about the inspiration behind their radiant and chromatic campaign.
What inspired the creative direction for this project?
Nadia Wolff: I started with a mood board titled "liberation aesthetic,” and was drawn to images of individuals in these powerful postures where their gaze really confronts the viewer.
"In our planning there was a big emphasis on capturing the potency of a vivid beach sky, and really emphasizing the magnificence of this space where the ocean and sky meets the shore. That space is so weighted, but also grounding and visually striking."
I’m Haitian-american and Diana, our photographer, has Dominican heritage so we both have a strong connection to the ocean and beach as artists steeped in Caribbean aesthetics. We wanted it to feel like there was almost a fiery presence behind the models, and also transform the energy of the images through color. And shooting on the beach really made sense for representing Chromat’s swimwear in action!
What inspired the photo direction for this project?
Diana Eusebio: Color was a major inspiration for the photos’ visual direction. There was a key moment, in the Chromat studio, when Nadia and I were planning the photoshoot, that we realized there would be three color groups that the models would wear. Later, those same color groups -Chromat’s reds, blues and neon yellows- became the inspiration for the vibrant lighting and the saturated editing of the photos. I wanted the models to not only wear these colors but to embody the meaning and personality of each color in order to create a world around the garment that represented each color."The yellow series represents the warmth and the playfulness of a hot summer day at the beach with a friend. While the red series is strong, fierce, passionate and warrior-like. And finally the blue and white series is a symbol of the peacefulness of the beach at night and radiates a glowing supernatural aura."
When Becca told Nadia and I the reason the brand was named Chromat because of her love for wearing monochromatic looks, I knew that I wanted to emphasize monochromatic colors and their associations within the images.
How do you want people to feel when viewing the images?
Nadia Wolff: With the staging, we were thinking about how a body of water resembles a mirror and how to stage that image within the shoreline itself. The models stand on this mirror ground that blurs the boundary between this glassy surface, the sand, and the ocean. The set really makes it feel like the models are standing on the water or sky. Honestly I was so geeked when reviewing the photos with Diana, so I hope this series takes y’all to this alternate imagining of the beachscape.
This project is extremely dynamic, from the yellow scene’s royal and electric vibes, the passionate and stormy hues of the pink/red set, to the bioluminescent fairy aura of the night shots. I’m really in awe that we were able to capture such a range of moods and environments. We shot when there were murmurs of a tropical storm heading to Florida. The wind was definitely fighting us that day but I think the intensity of the climate really comes through in these images.
Starr wears the Delta Duotone Suit
Diana Eusebio: I want all people to view these images and feel the emotions that come with each color group, whether that’s the bliss and warmth of the yellow series, or the passion and drama of the red series, or the peacefulness of the ebb and flow of the beach at night in the blue and white series.
"This photoshoot was created by an all black team -including the creative director, photographer, photo assistant, models, and hair and make up artist- so I want other black people viewing these photos to feel fully represented within a major fashion campaign. And for everyone to see how beautiful black creations can be in different colors, lights and emotions."
What is the role of fashion in the struggle for liberation?
Diana Eusebio: As a photographer that has a background in fashion design, I truly believe fashion is symbolic and can be used to tell a story. Within my work I merge fashion and photography to tell stories of the Black and Latinx diaspora. As an Afro-Latina, I feel our stories are underrepresented and are just now being “accepted” and “understood” by society. Fashion photography is a great avenue to express and liberate ourselves from expectations and limitations. Fashion photographs can be anything you want, they can be a fantastical and surreal world where you can be unapologetically Black.
Projects like these where we are in front and behind the lens are crucial for Black liberation and authentic representation. If a Black person can look at a fashion brand or publication and feel reflected, then we are one step closer to liberation.
Starr wears the Delta Duotone Suit
Why did you choose to work with photographer Diana Eusebio on the project? What inspires you about her work?
Nadia Wolff: I knew from jump that I wanted to work with Diana! She’s someone that I’ve known for so long and admired her vision as a fellow Afrolatiné artist. It’s been inspiring watching her grow in fashion from making multiple apparel collections to now storytelling through editorial photography. Our roots in the Caribbean and Latin America grounds both our work, and so I knew that working with her we could make a really strong visual story. We’ve always wanted to collaborate in a more serious way and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. I find that she has a remarkable talent for creating these surreal environments in her photographs that elevates the narrative around the garments, musicians, and models that she photographs. There’s always a really potent energy, emotion, and heat to the way she sets up her shoots, particularly with how she uses color and digital manipulation.
How did you and Nadia meet, and what inspires you about their vision?
Diana Eusebio: Nadia and I go way back, we are both from Miami and we actually met in high school. When we were seniors we were awarded a scholarship for our artwork by Barack Obama’s administration, and it was my first time in DC at 17 years old. It was an experience we shared that I’ll never forget.
Since then we have been supporting and keeping up with each other’s artwork so it was nice to collaborate on something again after all these years. I really respect Nadia’s hard work, enthusiasm and integrity to their practice. When they reached out to me about this project, I felt comfortable collaborating with Nadia because I knew that we would both bring the same amount of energy and dedication to seeing all of our ideas through and bringing this photoshoot to life.
What drew you to Starr and Angel as artists to embody your vision?
Nadia Wolff: Both Starr and Angel are incredibly talented and sweet, and people that I was peripherally connected through the artist/activist community in South Florida. I knew that I wanted to prioritize working with Black folks for this project, so everyone from the makeup/hair artist Christina, the models, Diana the photographer, and myself are Black.
"It was really special to work with two Black non-binary models as well. As a trans person, swimwear can feel really precarious?"
Like our bodies are hyper-visible but we aren’t necessarily in control of how our environment reacts to our presence. The way that Black people embody trans-ness and genderqueerness is really specific and beautiful and complicated. It exists outside of a Western mainstream– often white– understanding of trans-ness as a consequence of colonial violence and the erasure of indigenous embodiments of gender.
We’re thinking through contemporary, historical, and interpersonal interpretations when we celebrate our bodies and so it was a dream to curate a creative environment where the team could empathize with that dynamic. We didn’t have to explicitly explain or outline how to engage with these identities because there was an implicit understanding.
"There wasn’t necessarily a distinction between something being femme or masc, which is also something I respect about a lot of Chromat pieces. They allow for a certain fluidity."
How does your Miami background influence your art and design practice?
Diana Eusebio: Miami is more than a city to me, it is a physical representation of my upbringing. As an Afro Latina that comes from a family that immigrated from Latin America, living in Miami is the best of both worlds. It’s a mix of cultures, languages and traditions that range from America to Latin America. And it is a source of inspiration behind the colors that I love to incorporate in my work and the intersectional stories that I want to represent in my images.
Starr wears the Strata Suit
What was the inspiration for hair and makeup, and what about Christina Lee’s work inspires you?
Nadia Wolff: Each scene was styled so there would be a monochrome pairing of garments between the models, and so I was intentional about choosing very bold makeup that could work across the spectrum of colors we were shooting. Chromat also gravitates towards these exciting graphic makeup looks and I wanted to honor that. We wanted the blush and highlight to really pop with the lighting, and I love how Angel’s silver lids reflect the mirror floor and colors. Starr is a bald baddie, and so I settled on giving Angel those super long cornrows to maintain a sleek look but also have an extra element to play with in posing and composition.
I learned about Christina’s work because they have worked with other Miami artists that I admire and am in community with, so I felt like it would align with this queer family vibe on set. Christina’s work has such a range across editorial looks and is part of the current vanguard of Miami creative styling, so I was excited to work with them!
Starr wears the Strata Suit
What does it mean to be a #ChromatBABE?
Diana Eusebio: I think a #ChromatBABE is the equivalent of inclusivity, it represents all shapes, sizes, colors and genders. A #ChromatBABE is as diverse as the world we live in and knows no boundaries as to who is “high fashion” and who is not.
Photo Assistant: Nathan Turnage (he/him)