Fashion is rarely seen as a direct path to philanthropy but Idris & Tony are set to change that misconception, one picture at a time. With the conception of volume 1 of the B.A.S.T.A.R.D. fanzine, the casting-turned-photography duo chose 7 altruistic individuals in modeling, entertainment, and the creative business to highlight projects that aim to better the planet. Catherine McNeil, Rob Evans, Kone Sindou, Rose Bertram, Luke James, and the late Ian Jones all grace the cover of the “Struggle and Emerge” themed issue and look to tell their stories about involvement with special causes that affect us all. The duo’s reasoning behind starting the project was simple, “we see the turn-over rate for models and each year it gets higher and higher. We wanted to give models and creatives a voice and create a platform to allow them to give birth to their passion.” We exclusively spoke with the photographers and editors-in-chief about their new, big-hearted venture, shooting together, and just where that fanzine title came from.
So, why the name B.A.S.T.A.R.D.? It’s quite a strong word to title a magazine and merchandise with…
The traditional definition of the word bastard is someone who is illegitimate; someone who is born out of lust or passion. It’s the whole illegitimate aspect that really struck us. No one should ever be considered illegitimate. We thought, “let’s challenge this and redefine it”. If this is our passion, we’re giving birth to it – to a platform that allows people to give birth to their passions and to highlight those aspects of one’s self.
We decided to create an acronym out of it: Being Accomplished at Selfless Tasks And Righteous Deeds. We know the shock-value of the name – the older generation has a harder time understanding it, but the youth love it! It’s the youth that’s going to change the world that will come tomorrow. We really want to appeal to them and pour into those people who did have a chip on their shoulder, who had struggle, who made negative choices in their life, or who needed inspiration in their life to be better, especially with everything the world throws at them. And so, we felt strongly that the name would appeal to them. You can still be a cool kid and do good.
What comes first: Do you shoot the model and then find out they have great back stories and their connection to altruism or do they come with an idea with an charity that they want to support?
Originally under another name, the fanzine was model-heavy. We pigeon-holed ourselves – there wasn’t enough content for what we wanted to do. The subjects we choose, we typically know them either via a go-see or personal connection, so we worked with them to flush out the story and the image follows that storyline. Charity-wise, we also help them select an organization that strongly suits them. Some of them came to us already prepared and some just had an idea and passion that they wanted to contribute to. We did the research for those folks and connected them with organizations that focus on research or awareness for those specific causes.
It seems like your objective is beyond being boxed; I was surprised to see the music artist Luke James, on one of the covers. How long does it take to curate these individuals and in the process did you keep these individuals on a wall to say eventually this is who we want?
No, we didn’t actually. There was a wall in our office, a mood board, and we had stories in the working issue that were a struggle to pick who would emerge. That’s why Volume 1 is the theme that it is because it was a struggle. There were days that we thought that this is too big of an endeavor; as artists you are constantly second-guessing yourself. We were keen on him because he is outside the realm of fashion and we wanted to tap into other people who aren’t just models. Models are easily accessible to us, but we’ve worked with actors and we have a celebrity portfolio; we have slots we want to fill and that challenge us.
What do you think is particularly missing in the industry that you wanted to bring back or focus on?
There is so much negativity on social media and the bombardment of information 24/7. We often talked amongst ourselves to find out what we could do outside of photography as contributors to society and furthering social commentary. We had a lot of frustrations in shooting for editorial because you are confined by advertisers — creative concepts can be compromised. It was a combination of frustrations that led us to do our own thing. Our goal is to highlight the talent and make fashion secondary — a flipping of the script on traditional fashion magazine. There’s no advertising in it. The magazine is not set-up to make money.
Who was your first subject for B.A.S.T.A.R.D.? How was the experience?
We sit down with the talent and really hash out what it is, the story, they want to tell. Rob Evans was our first to shoot and talk to. We meet a lot of models, but few stand out and he was one of them. This was when he first came to New York. We didn’t know much about him, but we knew he was special. A boxer, that English accent…
As far as timing we also met with Ian Jones, when he first came to IMG. We were friends, we hung out a lot. We watched him go through his troubles and it was really inspiring to see him turn his life around for the better. You just knew that something was different about him. He was more grounded and more mature, so we were very supportive of him and what he was doing. He was also the epitome of the traditional sense of the word bastard as well as what we are redefining it to be. He supported us just as much as we supported him; it’s very rare to find that sort of partnership. After Ian’s memorial service, we decided to dedicate our first volume to him. We contacted his mother to do a retrospective on Ian’s work. It was the last theme of Volume I, which led into Volume 2, which plans to introduce new photographers. His mother graciously accepted, we travelled to Pennsylvania to her home and spent two hours with her talking and crying–we got his story in her words.
When are you fully launching? How big is the team and contributors?
We’re struggling artists with the desire to give back, this was the will and the magazine is a way to do that. It’s fully launched on the website. Everyone that has worked on it has graciously dedicated their time to it. We brought in our editor-at-large, Emily McDermott, to review the interviews we’ve conducted. Fashion editor, Kareem James, helped us with that element. There’s a lot for us to do, but we’re also not the kind of people who like to ask for help–it’s terrible. We need help, but we don’t like to ask. We’re a two-man team.
How is it shooting on a two-man team?
Tony: We never say, “I shot this picture”. Our aesthetics initially were quite different and over time we would edit and the photos that Idris would edit would look totally different than mine. Now Idris is more in line with mine [laughs]. We’ve grown in that sense. But it depends, if we’re out on location shooting, especially if it’s landscape, we both have a camera in-hand. If it’s in studio, I’m doing most of the art direction and Idris is doing the technical work – that’s always been our balance. Sometimes I’m shooting and I get so caught-up in something, and Idris will tell me to check my exposure and he’s shooting and I’ll tell him “don’t you see that?” [laughs]. We work together really well in that sense. It also depends on the subject. Sometimes I have a better rapport with them and vice versa. We feed off of each other.
How far do you want to take the Fanzine? Do you want to expand it?
It’s a lot to produce, shoot, and edit and entire publication all yourself. The challenge would be to finding the right photographers who will have the same dedication and passion behind the story they are telling with their subjects.
How are you guys approaching the magazine now that there is a set formula?
There is still going to be that organic feel to it and whoever is going to be the connection is still going to be organic for us. You also have to remember that this is for charity, so you have to think about who is going to sell to their fans. The whole idea is that it is up to us to produce it, but the real responsibility lies on the talent to promote it through their social media so they can raise money for their charity. We’ll do our part, but they have to do their part. We hope that collectively together that we can raise money to make a big enough contribution to their charities.