On being perfectly undone, moments backstage captured
by Merav Ben Loulou.
Photos by Merav Ben Loulou
Words by Meryl Fontek
There is a uniformity to the army that advances down the runway. The models, though part of a manicured cast, maintain a touch of individuality. A glimmer in their eye, a subtle smirk, and most importantly the ability to maintain just the right amount of themselves as they morph into an orchestrated scene. That scene being dependent on their place among many. Backstage, where models ready themselves to embody a designer’s concept, photographer Merav Ben Loulou captures the eclipses of the self. Ben Loulou sees the place behind the stage as a sort of alternate universe, a limbo between the runway and the outside world. A place neither here nor there, where people become models and models are looks of a collection.
Jerusalemite Merav Ben Loulou spent seven years, beginning in 2002, working in Canada for an import and export company. She traveled often for work, bringing between 10 and 15 disposable cameras with her. When her photos began to gain a bit of a following, the fledgling photographer bought a camera and enrolled in Sheridan College to study photography.
Returning to Israel in 2010, Ben Loulou had connections in the fashion industry, but had her eyes set on embarking on a long term project. As a child she was always drawn to fashion photography. However, she didn’t want to be involved conventionally. “Instead of joining the fashion industry, I thought to go behind it. It worked perfectly,” she declares.
Ben Loulou has been shooting moments backstage for nearly 10 years. Inspired by the likes of Richard Avedon and Paolo Roversi, Ben Loulou’s aesthetic is cinematic, charged with an unnerving rawness. The candor Ben Loulou evokes in her photos is flooded with unpretentious depth and flecked by the playfulness of lifelong friendship. The photographer says that she was once described as Casper. “Backstage, you need to be invisible and noticeable at the same time. To be a part of the movement, the energy. But, not interrupt it. You have to be able to ride the wave of the glamorous moments when Will Smith is standing behind you and get through the not so pleasant moments.”
Backstage, Ben Loulou focuses on what the models leave behind. The shards of themselves that might’ve piqued an interest during casting, but, for the runway are muted. The photographer, who usually shoots men’s fashion week prefers shooting male models. “There’s less stress when there isn’t as much hair and makeup. And the male bonding backstage, it’s unreal.”