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Femme Utopia

The shots are soft, hazy, and comfortable, as if we’ve stumbled onto something private. Models Alexandra Marzella and Margherita Mine sport an almost indifferent gaze, like they’re going to lick each other, play with the shower head, and lounge in lingerie all day whether or not Mastrandreas is there with the camera. We’ve entered their world.


See what Mastrandreas says about the project here. 


There’s something powerful about the feminine gaze that you’ve captured here. Where do you pull aesthetic inspiration from?


Mastrandreas - I like to spend time on Instagram to discover new artists. For example, I discovered Alexandra Marzella on Instagram, and I was very happy to shoot her because she really has a persona that I can capture in my photographs. There’s a lot of imagery on Instagram, and for me it’s very important to be aware of all these people who are creating content. I’m developing a documentary and making a series of photographs about Instagram and how people use it, which will be released soon.


But I’m super inspired by a vintage aesthetic, mostly 70s, and by Michelangelo Antonioni’s first American movie Zabriskie Point. I think about the raw love scene in the desert. I also think about Carlo Mollino’s polaroids which are so spontaneous and intimate. And David Lynch’s series, Nudes, where he explores sensual femininity. I’m inspired by contemporary photographers like Harley Weir or Petra Collins, who are working colors, textures, raw imagery or very staged images. I also like to explore the low-fi Internet aesthetic. It’s always in between something you can do yourself and something made in a professional way.

What role does Manifeste011’s vegan and sustainable mission play in the project?


First I met Maud [Scandale Pouzin], one of the creators of Manifeste011, from a music network, and I’ve been following the shop since its creation a year ago. I really like the commitment of this concept store that Maud and Judith Pouzin created. For me it’s very important to support people who have created a place where we can buy responsibly and ecologically, and where we can find beautiful and committed brands.


It was a real artistic collaboration because we decide to shoot people more than just models. We decided together to not retouch the photographs, and to show only women to defend our values of freedom and inclusivity.


Your previous work also processes feminine sensuality. Why work with all women for this project?


It’s very technical but for shooting lingerie it’s more comfortable to only have women on set. Generally I don’t try to choose only women to work with but it feels easier to capture a female gaze if everyone on the team is female. So to get this female feeling, I decided to have, from the makeup artist to the music playing, only women.


I try to choose women to work with me and I think of sorority as a form of commitment.

You have two mediums here, video and photo, and they’re manipulated very distinctly. Which do you prefer for this project or for your work in general?


I really like both. With the video I wanted to explore a low-fi aesthetic somewhere in between a DIY video and Internet aesthetic. We’re always using our phones, Instagram, and I wanted to speak on the mediums we use everyday. This low-fi aesthetic is also a way to avoid the clean and commercial aesthetic and to go outside of the vision of a perfect and unreal beauty. With photos, I like using an analog camera to get the subtlety of the colors, lights, and textures.


How does the project fit into the modern cultural narrative of feminine empowerment?


Because from the set to the result I have only worked with women. But also because I show women who are sexual beings and who are empowering their sensuality and desire. The modern vision is to show that we, women, decide for ourselves. We help each other. We are aware of our desire and free to live it.

I show women who are sexual beings and who are empowering their sensuality and desire.

The male gaze has long been a cultural institution. How do your photos interact with that idea?


I have seen the same films and photographs as a man, so my gaze has been educated within the same cultural institutions. I can’t be totally neutral.


I like the way you choose the word ‘interact’ because the idea is more to play with this cultural institution than to erase it, which is impossible. I play with that by choosing the framing we’ve seen but I also add yucky stuffs in my pictures and in the video. We also are that, a body. And a body is constantly evolving, made of flesh and different liquids.


There’s a sense in your photos that we’ve stumbled in on something private, with bodies that are not just erotic but physical and active. Can you speak on the intention behind the posing and staging?


I like to play with the imagery of Instagram which breaks the boundaries between the private and the public. And to play with something a little voyeuristic. But also showing Alexandra and Margherita as actives bodies is a way to show women not as passive objects of male desire, but as active and powerful people. Also I like to show the tension of the muscles, because it feels more alive when we can see that the flesh is inhabited, that the body is embodied.

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