Hugo Comte and Sam Visser Get Cinematic On Beauty Perceptions


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios

Shot in the golden light of Los Angeles, photographer Hugo Comte and makeup artist Sam Visser invite us into a world where the lines between reality and fantasy blur mesmerizingly in their original project series, The City Never Sleeps. Inspired by the dramatic tension found in cinema, hyper-realism meets surrealism in their personal series that aims to mirror the transformative properties of makeup. Comte and Visser aimed to redefine beauty standards by crafting each character’s identity in a spur of the moment and employing an innovative mix of post-production techniques, including AI. Models.com sat down with the two to further examine their beauty connection and the impact of AI-fication on beauty perceptions.

Photography Hugo Comte
Makeup Sam Visser
Hair Evanie Frausto
Styling Marissa Baklayan
Casting Blair Broll
Production 360PM and Mara Weinstein
Models Tia Jonsson, Leif Johnson, Sirena Warren, Keni Titus, Ella Snyder, Ciarda Hall, Mallory Veith, Isabelle Adams, Kenzie Stimack, Sam Albano, Freya Dalgaard, and Mia MacConnell


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios

Reality and fantasy seem to collide throughout this series. What first inspired you when you were thinking of collaborating on this project?
Cinema. We loved the tension between hyperrealism and surrealism that cinema holds. It makes people relate to fiction when fashion and beauty are rarely relatable as they often portray a perfect and glamorous world. We were both seduced by the idea of normality transposed in an extraordinary world, which is also the metaphorical journey of someone applying makeup.


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios

Talk us through how you used beauty to craft the identity of the characters?
We want to push the idea that beauty is the language of attitude and personality first, which shapes styles and makeup. Most of the representation of beauty in fashion is very rigid, conceptual, and based on just makeup and skin, but rarely on people’s energy. We didn’t have a pre-defined makeup look but really imagined each face in the moment, based on our feel of the energy of the person. The intensive use of post-production with different software and AI then became a true extension of this statement; we brought each character to our imaginary version of them, bringing the discussion towards the digitalization of beauty standards.


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios

How does Los Angeles play into this mise en scene?
The best way to communicate new disruptive ideas is to wrap them with a non-disruptive envelope, some codes of representation that people are used to, and LA has always been the laboratory of an ever-morphing surface aesthetic, pioneering surgery and different plastic practices, both real and digital, with the music, cinema, and fame industry being its vehicle for a worldwide hyper-exportation. We just used those Hollywood’s codes of presentation but swapped the content for a more “normal” and more substantial feel.


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios

With the AI-fication of modern media and pop culture at large, how do you find it plays into the ideas held around beauty today?
Transhumanism is slowly being integrated into beauty through the idea that virtual appearance influences real-life appearance. Retouching/filters influence how surgery should be done and vice versa. Our relationship to beauty will definitely shape the future of DNA, as well as the future of technology; somehow, we wanted our story to be a testament to this future.


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios

How did you consider casting when depicting this visual narrative?
We wanted everyone involved to embody and understand the statement we wanted to make, so we photographed people we know and love, as intimacy felt necessary to achieve such a feeling.

What do you think the role of a beauty editorial is in today’s current climate of mass product overload?
It should only be a platform to make authentic statements and question the present and future of what beauty means for people. Define style and vision, but at the same time communicate tolerance, sincerity, and let the commercial aspect be on the side, as much as possible.


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios


Images courtesy of MA + Group and Hugo Comte Studios

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