AMSTERDAM – To kick-off the newest issue of St-W magazine, we’ll be posting five days of exclusive online content throughout the month.
With the release of the July/August issue, the series of four cover photos that Studio Qiu Yang created especially for St-W comes to an end. High time to speak to the man behind the camera about his inspiration and creative process.
How did you interpret the brief of St-W?
QIU YANG: For me the brief sounded like a great opportunity to create images that have a very experimental character. The main aspect that needed to be covered, I felt, was to incorporate a diverse range of materials that can be found in architecture, interiors, and spatial design. With this being set we started to brainstorm.
Could you elaborate a bit more on the concept behind the cover series?
I am a big fan of painting, in particular surrealist paintings. A lot of my work is inspired by this genre. I like them, because they are so dense in the stories they tell. They offer so much freedom on how to tell a story by eliminating any rule that applies to reality. I was curious on how the paintings would turn out and what kind of new story they would tell if we reinterpreted them.
So for the St-W covers, the team and I decided to translate our favourite paintings into actual interiors. On the basis of famous paintings that incorporate architecture, space and interior, we created settings using materials that are typically found in modern interior design and architecture. I decided to focus on a diversity of painters who I feel are particularly interesting in how they deal with space and architecture.
Kicking off their cover series for St-W, Studio Qiu Yang reinterpreted De Stijl for the Jan/Feb issue of this year.
How were the settings made?
We made everything ourselves; we hand-selected the materials and spent a large amount of time deciding which part of each image would be assigned to which material. Due to the strong focus on materiality and its diversity, the final images turned out to have the character of collages. I like that, because it alludes to the idea that our images are not yet final, that there are endless more possibilities.
René Magritte’s surrealist paintings inspired the composition for the cover image of St-W issue #116. Materials found in architecture, design and interiors play off against each other, enhancing their natural characters.
How is your personal style reflected through the series?
This is a tough question. I don’t believe that you should narrow yourself down to a style or focus on creating a style for yourself. Style is something that happens as you create. Like I mentioned before, the images we created have a very experimental character and I believe that this makes them quite different from a lot of images I did before. However, the underlying structure of the pictures in terms of interest in shapes, architectural elements, and balance can be found in previous projects as well.
Do you have a personal favourite in the series? If so, which one and why?
It is hard to pick a favourite, but I do like the one we shot for issue #115 where we reinterpreted a sunny David Hockney pool scene into a dark and mysterious image, which is quite the opposite of how Hockney’s paintings as well as my own images usually feel.
‘We chose one of our favourite Hockney paintings and turned it into a gloomy, futuristic mise en scène with tech and architectural elements,’ says Qiu Yang about his cover photo for St-W’s March/April issue.
Do you take a very different approach to editorial assignments – like the one for St-W – compared to commercial jobs?
Yes, for sure. It lies in the nature of the two assignments. Commercial jobs are characterized by a process where many creatives navigate a huge project that essentially needs to fulfil certain requirements. Editorials, on the other hand, offer much more room for me to steer things in a direction that feels closer to home. I see those assignments as platforms or opportunities where I can try out new ideas that I have been thinking about for a long time.
For the last image of their cover series for St-W, Studio Qiu Yang drew inspiration from a painting by Edgar Ende. ‘We fell in love with the wild, dark atmosphere of an open window framing a stormy ocean.’
The July/August issue of St-W magazine, featuring Qiu Yang’s fourth and last cover image, is .
Cover Series Credits:
Creative direction Alvin Chan
Concept and photography Studio Qiu Yang
Set design Sarah-Jane Hoffmann
Assistants Rob Bowler, Klemen Ilovar, Noortje Knulst and Eden Hawkins