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Interview: Sophie Elgort’s “Away We Go” photo exhibit at Lafayette 148

Dressing the walls of NYC-based luxury fashion brand Lafayette 148‘s SoHo flagship, images by photographer, artist and director Sophie Elgort act as portals into sun-soaked destinations abroad. Not only does this series, which comprises the exhibition Away We Go (open to the public now through 9 June), portray postcard-like coastal scenes but it also conveys the wonder of travel and the way we as travelers layer recollection. Photographed between 2019 and 2022, the idyllic scenes reference Cinque Terre and Hawaii but leave room for the imagination of the viewer.

Elgort, who is represented by Staley-Wise Gallery, had worked with Lafayette 148 before as the photographer of their Unordinary Women campaign. They approached her with the idea of an in-store exhibit. “They said I could show anything I want,” Elgort tells COOL HUNTING. “I had this series that I’d been working on and I told them I’d love to show it. I sent them over some images to look at—and they said it made a lot of sense to exhibit them with what they were showing in May, a ‘Postcards’ print for Pre-Fall 2023.”

Elgort toured the space with the Lafayette 148 and Staley-Wise teams, with the latter acting as curator. “Together, we decided what we were going to show and how we were going to show it,” she says. Though only large-scale prints were installed, Staley-Wise is offering each piece in an edition—and in a range of sizes.

It’s Elgort’s process that supports the balance of fantasy and reality. “These are double exposure images,” she explains. “They’re not manipulated in post-production. They are created in camera, on film. Because of that, there’s an element of chance as to how the different elements will layer. Even though I can be conscious of what I am attempting to do, I can’t physically put it there. This creates an element of surprise and whimsy. Each frame can really only happen that way one time.” In many ways, this itself mirrors the sensations of travel.

All of the images were originally captured for personal documentation and experimentation—in contrast to Elgort’s work in portraiture and fashion. “For me, my fine art is always drawn from my personal work,” she says. Her artistic exploration is also tangential to some of her commissioned shoots, where she captures outtakes with a small analog camera.

“I like people in my images. I like capturing motion. The way that I shoot on set is very snapshot-like,” she says. “I have ideas and I put people in different situations but then it’s letting them move within that and I will capture what I think is cool. ”

Away We Go features a section of imagery printed on fabric, a first for Elgort. The photographer did this with Laumont Photographics in Long Island City. “I went in and told them I wanted to do something on fabric and asked what the options were,” she says. “I touched a lot of different fabrics and then we started proofing.” Ultimately, Elgort printed on a thin fabric called samba, which sometimes sways gently in the store as if animated by a seaside breeze.

“My art is always evolving,” Elgort says. “This series started out as a happy accident but now it’s one of those things that I’m so excited to continue. It’s a departure from where I was and from the commissions I receive. I was always exploring but I didn’t have a series that I was excited to dive into like this.” Elgort turns to the words exploring and exploration often—fitting choices as Away We Go is infused with the spirit of travel and a sense of Elgort’s own penchant for adventure.

Elgort remembers taking photographs when she was eight years old and even younger. “My dad always had cameras all over the house, as he still does today,” she says. “We were allowed to use them as long as we put the strap on correctly and we were careful. I would bring them to camp and bring them to school. I would have friends come over and dress them up in my mom’s clothes and photograph them. My dad would have the film developed in doubles and triples, so that I could give them out.” There’s a youthful joy to be found throughout Away We Go, and Elgort has painted the emotion in a way that all can appreciate.

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