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Sample-cm, the Backstage

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A View from Sample-cm backstage by Darwin Stapel

Ha, Berlin. In the most recent years, it has been the place for innovation and research – and it still is. What’s new? Exclusively on C 41 Magazine, we’re hosting a new Berlin-based independent and trans-disciplinary design brand. Established in 2010 by her talented designer Margot Charbonnier, Sample-cm presents its minimal collection, which is inspired by the meaningful relationship between street and sportswear in the fashion field.

We talked to Darwin Stapel, backstage photographer at Berlin Fashion Week AW16 (and dancer), to get his whole idea regarding behind the scenes runways.

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M. Hi Darwin, what do research in photography?

D. Out of a coincidence my current research mostly includes making the right use of different analogue cameras I haven’t been to familiar working with so far. When I went back to Germany for Christmas last December, my aunt coincidentally mentioned that she has a box of analogue cameras and equipment in her basement. My eyes suddenly started to glow. She offered me to meet another day to show them to me in order to cede the eight analogue cameras to me for use. The box included among others a Japanese Konica with a 35 mm F 1.8 lens, a German Exakta Varex II b with a 50 mm F 2.8 lens and a medium Format Yashica Mat-124 G Rolleiflex camera with a 80 mm F 3.5 lens. You can probably imagine this was a very lucky day for me.

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M. What’d you prefer?

D. Working with analogue photography, I’m considering more what and how to photograph. I set the camera settings according to the light situation well considered right away based on my experience without using a light meter. Using different camera settings for different light situations is also important in digital photography I’m aware. Certainly, digitally you can take endless shots until you find the right one if you will. In times of the incredible amount and masses of photographs taken, it slows down the world for me a little bit and I start to value my work even more.

As the procedure of getting photographs developed and scanned takes a bit of time, it wasn’t too suitable for the occasion of shooting eight shows that way. I decided to continue shooting digitally at Fashion Week. Especially for those Backstage photographs I wanted to be quick and sharp on time, so that the content is literally still in fashion.

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M. We know you’re also a dancer. How much of your dancing approach is in your shots?

D. Movement and dancing are the most natural things to me, as I have been doing it for twelve years now. My movement also naturally takes a big part in my photography and in which bodily position I take photographs. I guess, I’m able to use my own body in movement and am furthermore able to understand and receive body language thoughtfully in general. I can assume a lot of things about other people’s current state of mind. You most naturally have a different bodily pose and facial expression if you’re either nervous, all settled and relaxed, focussed or have any other emotions going on.

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M. And what if somebody doesn’t feel like getting photographed?

D. If I feel a person I’m about to shoot is not comfortable, I won’t do it  – or on the other hand find a way to make him or her feel good about the situation. Chatting helps a lot to get comfortable on the models and also on my side of the camera.

An example where verbal communication isn’t an option but body language works perfectly might be following: models walk back in to the backstage area after having their stroll on the runway. I need to consider their state of mind in that very moment. Some still have their serious facial expression on, some are happily releived that all went well, some already worry about if they can slip in their next outfit in time. With my body, hand signs and a smile I can show them where I will go walking aside of them and eventually where I will take the photo.

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M. How was being at Berlin Fashion Week AW16 with Sample-cm?

D. Sample-CM was great fun, further a rather unique way to present a collection I feel and also a challenging way of working for me. There were only three models and the dressing took place live on stage. There was no dressing before the show, no big hair and make up preparation, which normally takes about an hour, depends on the number of models and the complexity of the look. On the other hand I could talk to the models at Sample-cm a lot and get to know them a bit more, which I really enjoyed.

M. I have the feeling you might have more insights to report. What can happen in a backstage fashion show?

D. Indeed, I have a funny anecdote from a show I attended in the tent show-space at Brandenburger Tor (Berlin). The situation occurred in the last five minutes before the show started to count down.

Try to picture it: models stand in line in their first outfits, the last refreshments of make up is getting done, the situation and people involved get a little – let’s not say tense – but serious and concentrated. Obviously the backstage coordinators have the most intense seconds to work in that moments, so everything happens sharp on time. Let’s not forget about those people doing an amazing job backstage, which you would never think of and appreciate only watching the fashion show as an observer in the audience.

One of the coordinators backstage was Emre. He looked Turkish to me so I asked him “Türk müsün?” That means “Are you Turkish?” He replied “Evet” (“Yes”) in a surprised manner. Our chat in Turkish started. Remember the surrounding again – Models in line, concentrated atmosphere. A few models looked at us confused that we spoke Turkish all of the sudden. Emre pointed at another lady coordinating with her headset “O de Türk!” (“She’s also Turkish.”) I waved and saluted her in Turkish. She was quite happy about it and, also, quite surprised.

One of the models in line, Bouya also took part in the conversation in Turkish. Eventually, a fifth woman got involved. We all laughed a lot about this coincidence and had a collective chat in Turkish, it was hilarious. Models smiled and laughed as well and the show went off. Great timing. I had the feeling that was a little bit of an ice breaker.