The Sultans of Style
Taking Fashion to the Streets
Interview by Lauri Lyons
Once again, the intrepid fashion photographer John-Paul Pietrus has been making rounds on the international style circuit. He recently made a pit stop in the Ottoman Empire to shoot a Young Turk fashion story in Istanbul.
Did you ever have a desire or fantasy about going to Istanbul?
John-Paul Pietrus: I always had a desire to visit Istanbul as it is this fantastic place historically, the merging between East and West, so it has this allure related to Orientalist fantasies and folklore, which I wanted to experience even in modern day terms.
Was this your first time visiting Istanbul?
This shoot was my fifth visit. I really love Istanbul.
What was the inspiration for your story?
The concept was about an opulent Orientalist fantasy and the meeting of East and West.
Who was on your team?
The styling was done by Lucia Liu and Fatos Hanlim. The model was Tian Yi. The hair was done by Bon Chou and the makeup was done by Adam de Cruz. The stylists and model flew in from Beijing and the makeup artist and I flew in from London.
I hired a Turkish production team and a local photographer, Pinar Lauridsen, to shoot the behind the scenes video. Pinar was already a good friend of mine from my previous visits to Istanbul, so it was wonderful to work and hang out with her.
Where is the model from and why did you choose her for the story?
I hired Tian Yi because she has a very delicate beauty with a strong presence. I feel like she inspires me and is perfect for my photos.
How long were you on location?
We spent four days in Istanbul and later went to Cappadocia for an additional shoot.
Where did you stay?
We stayed in Sultanahmet, the old part of the city which has very few modern buildings. This area is where the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar are all located.
Did everyone on the team play ‘nice’?
We all got along fabulously. However, near the end of the first day of shooting, the model had a bit of a fit because the Alexander McQueen boots took forever to lace up. Each thigh high boot had 200 eyelets to link. We finally soothed her and got her in the boots and ready for the shot, just before we started to lose the sunlight. Ironically, in the end, we cropped the shot with no boots at all!
How did you scout your locations?
Some of the locations I had encountered on my previous trips, and I found other areas via Google and researching reportage photography books.
What was your daily shoot routine?
Hair and makeup started at 6am. We would leave the hotel by 8am and start shooting at 8:30am. We would shoot throughout the day but sometimes take a break because of the heat and eat lunch. We usually stopped shooting about 7pm, go back to the hotel, eat, and drop dead into bed.
What was it like shooting on the streets with locals?
It was great! One funny thing I remember is when we shot Tian Yi lying down on the rocks by the sea. Some of the teenage boys in the shot were intent on looking up her skirt, naughty boys!
What did you shoot the story with?
I used a Hasselblad camera.
Who are some of the featured designers in the story?
We had some big labels like Chanel, Roberto Cavalli, Gucci, Givenchy, Miu Miu, Armani, Alexis Bittar, Louis Vuitton, Scherrer, Galliano, McQueen, Dior, Julien Macdonald, and Giambattista Valli. The stylist Lucia, also mixed in lesser-known designers such as Masha Ma, Lara Bohinc, Sister by Sibling, Ohne Titel, Marios Schwab, Delfina Delettrez, and Antonio Berardi.
What did you do after the shoots for fun?
After the Istanbul shoot was done, we had a nice dinner at a street cafe near the hotel and drank ice cold Turkish beers, in the summer heat. The next day we had to fly to Cappadocia for more shoots, so we didn’t get trashed. After all the photo shoots were done, we all went on a hot air balloon ride.
What were your favorite things about Istanbul?
The buzz of the city is amazing. You feel the energy when you walk down the street. I also loved the geography of the city. There is a European and Asian side of the city, separated by the Bosphorus. This provides all modes of transportation including cabs, trams, and boats, which are a part of the buzz. The only things that kill the buzz are the traffic jams and the government corruption.
The food, oh the food! From street food to fine dining – Yummmmm! There are so many restaurants with incredible views. Never before have I seen a chic woman clad in 5 inch Louboutin heels, step effortlessly off of a water taxi and into a five-star restaurant.
I also just loved walking around the city just wandering and exploring. Smelling the city, hearing the call to prayer, looking at the architecture, and watching all of the street activity was a veritable feast for the eyes.