Lisa designs lingerie. Elegant lines, refined lace, thermo-bonded backs. She draws what women don’t say, feelings slipped under clothes that stay hidden most of the time. Lingerie that renders women more desirable and the naked body more provocative. When she started her lingerie brand LIVY, she needed a photographer.
Dimitri is perched on the roof of his van by the side of a road in California, with one working arm and the other broken. He is a photographer and a biker, introduced to Lisa by Antoine.
They’re both here.
We take a room.
This is kind of freestyle.
We hired a postmodern neo-punkette to do the styling.
I’m not looking for one photo, I’m expecting lots; a whole story.
That’s how I like it.
Even with a broken arm, perched on the roof of the van, he loves shooting for Lisa.
It’s early June 2017. This is the first time they have shot together. Inside the van, Lisa sits to avoid the rain coming through a window that is permanently blocked open. Carly and Gina, cast barely two hours before, are sitting in the back.
“The van is great, but it’s pretty basic as far as comfort goes. When I met Lisa in Paris, in a bar in Trocadero, I didn’t think we’d end up here; side-by-side in a Californian road movie. Lisa in my van with no air conditioning, no window, in the rain.”
The story is only just starting
There is already a little nostalgia in Lisa’s voice:
“It’s sad to think that we can never relive the first time. The first trip in the van was legendary.”
“... I was so relieved to see that she was getting used to it, having fun, that we were on the same wavelength and were happy to be working together.”
The first shoot. Again
“When we got to the hotel, I began casting right away.
Meanwhile, I broke my shoulder.”
Literally, it meant shooting without a right hand. Because figuratively, Dimitri had Cristian, his fantastic assistant: an Argentine poet, guardian of the temple (or in this case, the van), babysitter of the girls asleep in the back, and the rest of the time, poet and motocross champion.
“The van means a lot to me. The freedom to go where you want, to stop when you want. It’s also a base for shooting. It’s an open door to the unexpected. And the unexpected always comes knocking.”
“The unexpected is meeting an old friend in the middle of the desert.”
Dimitri works fast and Lisa can do everything: she can style, do make-up and direct the girls when Dimitri doesn’t dare to ask them to go too far.
“Lisa and I are a team. A pair of super hard workers. In a day, we can do what a normal team would do in two or three.”
“It’s his light that I love, it makes the girls look fantastic. He can handle both night and day. I had never done a shoot before.”
Lisa takes the pictures from him right away, because Dimitri has been known to disappear afterwards.
Dimitri lives a bohemian lifestyle. Every shot is an opportunity for a good time.
“I prefer a man’s eye. The contrast of a super-masculine eye and the refinement of the lingerie. The hyper-sexiness. I spend time on the backs, the necklines, I draw lines that are out of the ordinary. Lingerie is so close to you and to your feelings, I don’t like not knowing what you’re wearing. Women have multiple facets, and LIVY is lingerie for every moment of the day or night.”
“I’m not an academic.”
“I love ultra-sexy women as well. But there’s always that limit of vulgarity. The image needs to stay poetic. Obviously, it’s about seduction. I’m still a voyeur, but a very respectful voyeur – one that’s completely harmless.”
“On my way back from dinner, I stop at the lights near a parking lot with a red neon. I tell the girls to undress, climb on the van and off we go. They are lit by the neon, and I ask Cristian to hit the brake for a little more light. There were weird guys coming up to us and since I’m not great in a fight, we ended up leaving. Sometimes things aren’t so simple. No light, not enough time to edit. It happens, but it’s rare.
Sometimes we all sleep in the same place. We get up early - but still late - then take a nap in the middle of the day. And in the evening, we watch. Sometimes we shoot more. Because the girls are even more interesting with tired faces.”
“California is very present in Dimitri’s work. It’s in his style, his photos that range from vintage-looking to the light of today.”
Can the van also time travel?
What about the next shoot?
“It’s going to be a story of motorcycles and girls. A 1990s motocross feel. Lisa?”
“We don’t know. In Mexico. Or in Utah at Amangiri, it would be great.”
“Pictures in the rock. Or with horses, we will undoubtedly decide at the last minute. But we’ll both be there, for sure.”
Because that’s how this team works best. As long as the van allows.
Thanks also to Carly, Gina, Marianne, Alicia, Sera, Zoi, and Victoria.