Her distinctive analogue shooting style and avant-garde use of composition have brought attitude to luxury brands including Gucci, Burberry and Balenciaga. With a background in Fine Art, Atlanta Rascher's striking book 'Spiders and... girls' combines her photographic auteurship with clean-lined, timeless sartorial looks and automatic illustration. The result is at once stylish and emotive. But, more than that, the book is an honest expression of who Rascher is as a photographer and artist. CKM spoke to Rascher about composition transcending discipline, constraints as creative freedom, and painting with clothes.
Before turning her focus to photography, Atlanta Rascher was a painter. In ‘Spiders and …girls’, her ‘soul bearing’ book, Rascher combines film photography and fine art for the first time; an exercise which made her nervous at first. Aware of the conceit that artists should stick to one discipline and keep their focus there, and seeing drawing as a more intimate practice of putting thoughts and feelings directly onto paper, with no intermediary camera lens, Rascher embarked on her most personal project to date. Of this decision, she recounts, ‘I wanted to stop thinking how others perceive me and just bring together everything I did, and still do, enjoy without having to justify myself’.
Beyond illustration, wherein Rascher believes that ‘ultimately drawings are always projections of oneself’, the book is personal in other ways, too. To make the project as honest as possible, Rascher organised the clothing for the photographs herself, (‘I specifically don’t want to call it styling as it has little to do with fashion, it is more about shapes and colours’), as well as scrapping hair and makeup and stripping the crew down to a minimum. These choices made room for Rascher to express herself without the influence of others. With this freedom, she also set herself constraints; shooting a minimal number of frames (around five to seven per girl), spending only 10-15 minutes with each girl, from dressing to shooting.
Visually, ‘Spiders and… girls’ can be seen to combine structured, minimal fashion looks with freehand illustration. But more than that, it feels like being drawn into a distinctive mood as communicated through Rascher’s evocative use of composition and colour. It is not the girls (drawn or photographed), or their clothes we remember most, but the way the scenes made us feel, and where they took us. This ability to spark the imagination is probably why AnOther magazine asked Rascher to translate the character of Balenciaga Paris’ scent into a photographic series.
For Rascher, her work has little to do with fashion; it is applied photography. Rascher refers instead to ‘clothing’, and rather than styling she talks about ‘dressing for the purpose of a picture’. Like the compositional relationship between illustration and photography in 'Spiders and… girls’, there is a strong relationship between Rascher’s approach to her different artistic practices. Rascher explains, ‘in a sense the photograph is like painting with colours covering larger areas, whereas the drawing is just the outline of those spaces and shapes. Somehow, I feel they should complement and enhance each other in describing an object or situation each with a different approach, comparable perhaps with speaking in a different language saying the same thing.’ Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Rascher describes dressing girls for shoots as ‘placing colours and shapes into the frame’.
Throughout ‘Spiders and… girls’, Rascher’s overlaid illustration appears to mimic, or extrude from, the figures in her photographs. However, Rascher attributes this apparent visual relationship to her enduring artistic sensibilities, form free from medium, rather than one as a response to the other. ‘I think perhaps they naturally fit as I have a certain sense of composition which stretches across all disciplines’, Rascher explains, ‘when I worked as a stylist I would also think of it as putting colours and shapes into place to complete an image’. In this way, ‘Spiders and… girls’ is another example of the transcendent nature of Rascher’s artistic eye; Zowie Broach of Boudicca once said of Rascher that, when styling for fashion shoots, she ‘paints with clothes'.
When speaking about her influences, Rascher’s approach to photography is explained in part. She is inspired by family albums, commenting that ‘there seems to be more mystery around the author or multiple authors who create images of a random mix of styles that add to the excitement.’ She is intrigued by their semi-chronology and the anonymity of the photographer; and how breaks in that chronology, such as an earlier scene recounted from a different angle later in an album, can ‘read like a flashback’. Rascher is drawn to these repetitions, wherein ‘the same set up just a few seconds later can produce a very different mood and image’. This style of observation is constrained by the intentions of fashion photography, which ‘doesn’t usually allow for such play and repetition; a different credit for every page is the objective’. Conversely, Rascher notes that ‘an expression or a moment can be so strong that the repeat outfit hardly bothers me.’
‘Spiders and… girls’ is the culmination of a project defined by creative freedom and spontaneity; working in response to limitations and opportunities, including those of form. Starting with conversations with art director Olu Odukoya, and the simple concept of producing a personal work, Rascher recounts that ‘a lot of the things happened because they didn’t happen’. Also, some unplanned things did happen, such as bringing Ann-Kathrin Obermeyer on board to style the cover story. Throughout the process of making the book, Rascher embraced the arising constraints and changes, saying they ‘made for some spontaneity and an element of surprise’ for her ‘image making as well as the book in general’. The process of making this beautiful book was labour intensive and all-consuming. But the result is such a clear statement as to Atlanta Rascher’s point of view. And, she’d do it all over again: ‘it’s a really great feeling and also a luxury if you can switch everything off and just let yourself get lost in this world you are projecting and creating. Yes, I would love to get stuck into the next one.’
ABOUT ATLANTA RASCHER
See more of Atlanta Rascher's work on her website.
You can also find her on Instagram.
WANT A COPY OF 'Spiders and... girls'?
You can purchase a limited edition copy of the book via the Galerie für Moderne Fotografie, here.
Alternatively, you can purchase a copy directly by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.