Photographer Erik Madigan Heck, whose stunning work for the Cut can be seen here, is not what you would call a minimalist. He’s known for creating elaborate sets to house his fashion shoots. This spring, he set up at Jack Studios in Chelsea to photograph menswear designs by CFDA members, including Thom Browne and Tommy Hilfiger. (Amazon Fashion and the CFDA commissioned him for promotional images for men’s fashion week, which will be exhibited at the event’s official opening tonight in Brooklyn.)
With props like wigs and balloons (complete with customized bows on the tail to match Browne’s designs), and a mirrored set, Heck transformed their creations into high art. “It’s like Santa’s workshop,” he told the Cut during a break, as a team of assistants roller-painted a backdrop bright red. “It’s funny because a lot of people, when they see my work, think it’s just done in post-production, but any time somebody comes to the set they’re like, ‘Oh my God, it’s crazy that it’s actually real. You actually make it.’”
Over the course of the four-day shoot, there was plenty of improvisation. “Most of the time, the original idea doesn’t work,” he said. “So what you have in your head — 90 percent of the time you have to strip it down and maybe change things. You have to really be malleable.” The resulting images have a Surrealist vibe; the photographer (a former painter) looked to ‘60s Italian Arte Povera artists like Michelangelo Pistoleto, who was known for his mirror portraits. “They were always really intriguing to me. I always had them in the back of my head,” he noted. Watch the time-lapse video above to see how it all came together.