Earlier this month, Actress dropped his fifth album. Titled AZD (which is pronounced “acid”, apparently), the album’s release was accompanied by a mysterious image of a human hand — presumably belonging to the enigmatic artist, real name Darren Cunningham — touching palms with a disembodied chrome hand.
Photographer Mehdi Lacoste is the man behind the image. Having worked with artists such as Schoolboy Q, Joey Badass, Darq E Freaker and High Lucia before, Mehdi was top of Ninja Tune’s list when it came to finding a collaborator to work with Actress. “I had been a big fan of Actress’ music for years,” the photographer tells us. “Some of his albums and tracks have been with me through many different parts of my life in London, in my opinion his music mirrors the way the city feels and sounds to me perfectly. I loved R.I.P. — Jardin is one of those tracks which means a lot to me and I still play over and over. Ghettoville and Hazyville have never really left my iPod to this day and are still very much on rotation often. Needless to say this was a project I was very excited to be working on.”
After a flurry of emails between the two stretching over weeks, Mehdi went to meet Darren at his London studio. “I was really impressed by his work ethic and his way of thinking. He had a very clear idea of the direction he wanted the artwork to go, such as chrome theme, and it was incredibly refreshing to hear about his influences and his creative process so openly and genuinely. I could tell he had put a lot of thought and time into it, and that, just like his music, he wanted the artwork to be an extension of himself, or this part of him at least. He described the album as ‘sounding’ like chrome so we tried to reflect both within the artwork.
“To be honest with you, I usually don’t really enjoy dealing with record labels that much in general, so, most of the music project I’ve worked on have been with artists I love and respect,” Mehdi admits. “I try to be honest and to establish a strong connection with my subjects, whether they’re musicians, models or strangers.”
Recently, the globe-trotting photographer, born in France, now based between London, Paris, New York and LA, shot Christine & The Queens for ES magazine. “She was such a lovely, fun and down to earth person, we really got on, both being French and that! And she invited me to the Burberry show after our shoot, where an orchestra was playing one of her song during the catwalk.”
Mehdi also sites a shoot with Joey Badass for US Vogue in LA last summer as among his favourite recent projects. “Joey is one of my favourite rappers and I was super impressed meeting him, he is such a cool and honest guy, and incredibly level headed for such a big successful rapper of his age (he was 20 or 21 at the time). He’s very much into fashion and was totally up for anything during the shoot – even jumping in the Line’s hotel swimming pool fully clothed although he told me he couldn’t swim, but still did for the shot!”
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