Through an artistic use of styling, set design, make up, and photography, creative trio Arter has invented a universe of their own. This autumn their series Botanik will be on display at SCHO Collection, and we met with the trio to talk about inspirations, species, and why the beautiful can be boring.
When stylist and writer Helena Ekström, photographer Klara G, and make up artist Emma Nilsson first began working together in 2011, they experienced a special kind of synergy. Together they reached beyond the conventional and commonplace, touching upon expressions hitherto unexplored. They came upon a world beyond ours, a world of suggestive emotions, surreal beauty, and newborn species. A world that would become known as Arter.
– We realised early on that we had similar ideas about what to do and how to do it, Klara says. We complemented each other very well.
– On the contrary, we developed an expression that felt new and unfamiliar, Helena says. It didn’t resemble anything that we had previously done.
We want the images to express something far away from the human sphere
In the following years, the trio continued to collaborate on various projects and ideas, exploring and elaborating their newfound expression without plans or preconceptions – but still having their distinct style in mind. But as time went by they felt a need to define themselves and their work.
– Many times when I was approached with commissions or offers to collaborate with other people, they had seen the works we had done together and wanted something similar, which meant that I had to gather the other two, Klara says. I would never be able to create the same expression with another stylist or make up artist. It became clear that we were a trio, even if we hadn’t defined ourselves as one.
– We realized that everything we had done together could be placed under the same umbrella, and it felt natural to come together under one name, Helena adds. It was just after New Years this year that we decided to use the name Arter.
The works of Arter is most easily described as visual storytelling. Through an artistic use of styling, set design, make up, and photography, the trio creates beautifully surreal scenes, sharing glimpses into their suggestive and unsettling universe. With a sense for narration and an eye for intriguing juxtapositions, they are presenting a new and exciting take on fashion photography.
– We usually find ourselves inspired by creatures rather than humans, Helena says. We seldom take inspiration from conventional fashion photography. For us, beauty is something beyond the surface, beyond poses and seasonal trends. We believe that the beauty can be found in the profundity of the images, or in the feelings and thoughts they bring to the viewer.
– We’re not interested in creating just straight-on fashion, Klara says. We want to please the eye, but not only in a high fashion manner. We want the images to express something more, something far away from the human sphere. There has to be something more to them than just a pretty surface.
– We are of course working on the frontiers of fashion, but we feel very distant to conventional and commercial fashion photography, Emma says.
Since they first began working together in 2011, their artistic expressions have been transformed into editorials, beauty, and commercial works, as well as exhibitions. During the spring and summer, their series Botanik has been on display at Hotell Riddargatan in Stockholm, a dark and mesmerizing exploration into the wilderness of the plant kingdom. This autumn, the same series will be shown at SCHO Collection in Stockholm. Together the trio has also done a number of commercial works, and they claim to be open to all kinds of commissions and collaborations, as long as they are given the artistic freedom they need.
– Of course we can work with commercial commissions, but we prefer to collaborate with clients who understand the concept of Arter, and wish to adapt it into their own brands. If we were to tone down our expression, it wouldn’t be Arter.
– We want this to be a project where we can realise our weirdest and wackiest ideas.
How does an image come about?
– We often begin with a story, a thought, or a mood that we want to describe, and then we gather and share ideas, Emma says. When we feel that we have enough, we sit down and start going through them, creating mood boards, and trying to define what it is that we want to express. Then we just collect materials and set about working.
– But we never really know what will happen until we’ve started working, Klara says. We never have a complete outline of what to do.
– We can also take inspiration from the materials we’re working with, Helena continues. For example, I found this plastic duck at a friend’s house a while ago, which I blew up and used as a model for a mask that we needed for a shoot. It can be anything really, styrofoam, cords, or things we find in the street.
The name Arter comes from the Swedish word for species – arter, even if the allusion to the English word art is everything but accidental.
– We like the idea of creating new species together, to merge humans, animals, and the botanic kingdom into newborn creatures. Arter is our very own species.