Austen Ambraska

I Saw You On The Boulevard, 2019

I Saw You On The Boulevard is a narrative-driven fashion campaign for WIL. Studios fall/winter collection. The project is shot on location within Toronto and highlights the timeless quality of each environment. I have worked with a professional stylist, hair and makeup artist, and thoughtfully selected models to produce a series of carefully crafted cinematic images. The staged and styled quality of these images evokes a film-still. Each model, location and outfit are depicted with an extended narrative in mind. The theme of travel in this campaign is used to suggest each subject is going to or coming from an unseen location. This, in combination with the aesthetic of cinema, conceptually extends each location as it infers the moments before and after the one presented. The use of distant environmental shots in combination with more traditional street portraits presents a myriad of perspectives for the audience ranging from intimate to voyeuristic. The models’ distance from the camera, either physically or emotionally, suggests they are strangers to our gaze. The audience looks at the model whereas the model only occasionally looks back towards us.

Q&A with Austen Ambraska

Q. Could you tell us about any current projects that you are working on?

A. I am currently working on my final thesis project. For this series, I have chosen a more personal approach as I revisit some of the first people I have photographed to examine the relationships facilitated by photography.

Q. Describe your project in its current state and what you’d like it’s final outcome to be.

A. The project was presented as a fashion book and wheat-pasted posters on a wall. Finding a medium that made sense to see fashion imagery in was very important to me for this project. Images like this, especially once branded, would not normally be seen in a frame hung on a wall. The magazine and billboard format are much more fitting for this series.

Q. How did you reach the conceptualization of your current project?

A. The concept of this series was heavily inspired by cinema and the moment. Glen Luchford’s cinematic approach to fashion image-making was the main aesthetic inspiration for my approach where Jeff Wall’s approach to constructing a moment subtle enough to pass as natural motivated the scenes I wanted to depict. I wanted to present the subjects of this campaign, wearing their designer clothes, as a fashionable passerby. I feel this is how we truly see fashion and style in the real world so I wanted to evoke that same sensation you get on the sidewalk or the subway when you notice someone’s outfit.

Q. Are there any artists that have inspired this work? If so, why?

A. Glen Luchford, Jeff Wall, and Cindy Sherman were the main inspirations to this work both conceptually and aesthetically. I was inspired by the constructed nature of their scenes and the underlining subtly of it. All of their work is able to pass for something it is not, be it a real film still or a candid moment on the street.

Q. Describe any challenges you have faced and any solutions that you have found to be helpful in the creative process.

A. I spent quite a bit of time researching printing houses in Toronto in hopes of printing tabloid-sized newsprint. I felt mixing a pedestrian medium such as newsprint with the design and image quality of fashion photography would be very engaging and help the work straddle the line between art and fashion. However, small run newsprint services basically don’t exist so I opted for a self-made book using similar materials. I wanted the viewer to be able to comfortably engage with the book without the pressure of holding a fine art object. The medium of wheatpaste poster fashion campaigns has always inspired my work because of their repetition and impact on the urban environment. It felt very fulfilling to see my own images in this style.

Q. Have you had any success in getting your work out into the world? Do you have suggestions for other artists?

A. As it stands, 4 images from the series have been featured on my Vogue Italia portfolio. Due to the release schedule of this collection, magazine submissions will have to wait, but fingers crossed!

Work In Progress:

I Saw You On The Boulevard, 2019