Editor – Justin Howard @Jthnomad
Photographer – Justin Pham @EzraCafe
Beauty – Yulitzin Alverez @Yulitzin
Stylist – Anna Schilling @Anna_Land_
Model / Creative Director – Mariel Noir @Marielnoir
“We live in a dark, romantic and quite tragic world.” – Karl Lagerfeld
Bete Noire is a thing to be avoided. You must not look upon it. Dare not to dive into it’s alluring twisted beauty. Who knows what dark mind gave it birth… As Christina Rossetti said in her classic poem, Goblin Market, “We must not look at goblin men,. We must not buy their fruits: Who knows upon what soil they fed. Their hungry thirsty roots?” and yet the Goblins reply “Come Buy, Come Buy!” With that in mind, Black Chalk presents a fascinating tale of sensual delights with a stygian edge crafted by photographer Ezra Cafe and model Mariel Noir.
Justin Howard : Why fashion? What appeals to you about it?
Ezra Cafe : I love clothes. I love beauty in every sense of the word. What appeals to me most about fashion photography is as cliche as it sounds… The glamour. No matter how raw and gritty the shoot is, to me there is always a glamorous aspect. Even when the model is wrapped in trash bags laying in the dumpster, you know homegirl is working that trash bag.
Justin Howard : What is the message of “Bete Noire?”
Ezra Cafe : Death doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and fashion photography doesn’t have to be “pretty” to be beautiful
Justin Howard : Where do you get your inspiration for this shoot? Were you influenced by any music or art movements?
Ezra Cafe : I had been following this photographer named Ren Hang for a few years now. I’ve always been blown away by the world Res Hang creates with his subjects. He unfortunately passed away around the time we were planning the shoot so I wanted to shoot something that was inspired by the feelings his photos gave me.
His suicide made me think a lot about death. I’m not afraid of it, death is a familiar face and is rather poetic at times. I think society puts such a terrible stigma on suicide but that’s another conversation. I wanted to convey the exiting journey via a series of visual metaphors. From the photo arrangement, you can see the story progression : Distraught, stripped down, hanging, disabled, dying, ghost and finally… Letting go.
Justin Howard : Describe your philosophy about the art of fashion?
Ezra Cafe : To me fashion is about individualism and the freedom to express one self. Society will always try to move things to the equilibrium and people will always try to be safe. That’s why brands rely on fashion forecasting firms like WGSN to tell them what they think people are gonna like 2 seasons from now. But it’s always from the daring minds of the designers that start new trends out of thin air because they have a burning desire to be different.
Justin Howard : Do you consider yourself an artist?
Ezra Cafe : For a long time, yes. Now, not so much. To call myself an artist would imply that I am committed to my own creation and artistic integrity. I once was and it caused me a lot of anxiety and heartache. Life is much more harmonious when you’re emotionally detached from most things. Now I channel my emotions into my work then after that I just sort of let it go. I don’t think you can call yourself a parent if you abandon your child right after it’s born therefore it would be unfair for me to call myself an artist.
Justin Howard : What was the first editorial you ever shoot?
Ezra Cafe : It’s called Desolate. It was shot in Joshua Tree exactly two years ago. It’s still one of my favorite shoots and I still keep it on my portfolio. It was my first shoot having been in LA for a week, I didn’t know anyone. I was lucky enough to have a model. I didn’t have a make-up artist or stylist, so I had to style the shoot myself and had the model do her own make up. I was really nervous because this was my first “real” photoshoot with a real model and clothes, instead of just shooting my friends for fun. Yet as the ball rolling, everything else came very natural. The shoot turned out to be amazing and it opened a lot of doors for me.
Justin Howard : What is the message of “Bete Noire” to you?
Mariel Noir : That fashion editorials don’t always have to be pretty to be beautiful. I started out modeling because I hated everything about myself. I wanted to challenge my insecure and warped body image. The more I modeled the more I realized that beauty isn’t about perfection at all but rather in the imperfections. Everything has beauty.
Justin Howard : How do you intend people to feel when seeing this editorial?
Mariel Noir : Uncomfortable. It’s pretty dark and lifeless, if that makes sense. I think that photography shouldn’t just be pretty and comfortable it should be disturbing at times. With this piece I think we challenged and dared to explore darker issues that we choose not to look at because it makes us uneasy. Art must ask questions, has layers of meaning and depth to it. To me, it’s not just about looking flawless. We all have a darkness, its important to acknowledge and deal with that. In order to fully reach our highest potential, to vibrate love and light towards ourselves and everyone around us.
Justin Howard : Do you consider yourself an artist?
Mariel Noir : Yes I do. I think a lot of people are scared to call themselves that. I’m not sure if I deserve that title, if I earned it or not. People’s ideas and views of the meaning of what an artist should be are quite different as well. I try to create and produce work that stands up for something, for a cause. I’m very focused on conscious media and using art to make a positive impact on the world. I think art and activism should go hand in hand. If my work is good or bad that’s subjective to the person viewing it. I have this need to create, and I can’t stop. I think that’s what makes me an artist, is the necessity to express and create. To make statements about what’s going on in the world.