I served espresso in tiny teacups to two men and made a quirky Alice in Wonderland reference. When they laughed, I knew we would have something to talk about. Photographer Paul Hernandez and I met to plan an interview with him and makeup artist Tom Pollock after a recent collaboration with Baby & Company. With wide eyes, I took in his glow and suggestion of a conversation that didn’t involve screens or a distant electronic exchange.
I presented a set of possible questions to Paul and Tom before we sat down in the Baby & Company conference room, which might easily be mistaken for a Parisian drawing room; stocked with giant art books and flea market finds. Jill Donnelly, Owner/Buyer of Baby & Company, is the hand behind this room and the company that has brought us all together to talk about their recent collaboration.
The result is a saturated black and white editorial of Fall offerings from Baby & Company styled by Kimberly Douglass at the site of Richard Serra’s installation “Wake” at Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park. The natural oxidation of the sculpture set the tone for their images, their collaboration and their point of view on what is beautiful.
My questions were centered on their influences and favorite locations - both men began by emphatically telling me they didn’t have favorites. Paul expanded on this, “Inspiration is a living and breathing concept. It can be the way the wind blows gracefully through the trees or an attempt at seeing the blacks of the earth.” The fragments and pieces of their experience serve as their muse; the push and pull of it all, the shot that comes from the devoted heart.
Paul offhandedly referenced his start in photography; shooting rock bands with the grunge movement drawing him back to Seattle as he knew there was a movement and a message that would alter music forever. He and Tom met at his studio in Belltown and never parted. They evolved individually and through their collaborative work, held a twenty year conversation on the making of beauty that continues today. Tom delicately explained that the genesis for an editorial can start with one image that becomes the catalyst for an endless effort at their shared language. The weight of trust that has been established between them was evident as they respectfully listened to each other and at perfect moments finished each other’s sentiments.
We moved on to talk about striking a balance between the vulnerable space of being an artist and the strength it takes to last in the competitive world of fashion. They are firm in their belief that consistency is the foundation for great work and there isn’t room for anything but the authentic. Paul recounted a time when he shot for thirty-one straight days in Milan; at the end in a desire to rest his fashion lens, he went to Ireland to observe the hazy landscape and capture the beauty of the weathered Celtic faces. For him, this was a source of renewal.
We wound through their theories on the secret to creating enigmatic beauty on film. Both Paul and Tom expressed conviction that balance on a set is critical. A synchronicity where each member on the set feels they have a voice and a presence from stylist to model. This democracy allows their devotion to the spontaneity and authenticity to flourish. With absolution Paul stated, “I want to be in awe.” Silence floats after these words as it should. As there is a beauty in language with an absence of explanation.
A worthy conversation can leave you feeling bewildered with a lack of fitting words to describe what’s taken place in reality and what’s been constructed in print. We ended with the mutual respect and admiration we hold for Jill as she was the force that brought this conversation to fruition. They have been connected to her for twenty years as well. There is a lovely breath as we realized she too creates a balance with each contributor having a voice that draws out a collective dialogue on beauty.