Jules Moskovtchenko may split his time between four countries — France, Switzerland, Hong Kong and England — but his latest series, The Pearly Kings, captures a tradition unique to London. The Pearly Kings and Queens are characterised by their mother-of-pearl-embellished clothes and lifelong dedication to charitable organisations. They formed in the 19th century and have since passed on these practices through the generations. “Novembre’s Georgia Pendlebury proposed I shoot a series about the pearlies. She got in contact with the Pearly Kings and Queens of Harrow, who showed an interest in posing for us. It was then up to me to find the right way to tell the story,” Jules tells It’s Nice That.
Jules’ interest in photography was sparked by a frustration with the fashion world’s predisposition for unvarying and often misleading photography. In response to the industry’s homogeneity, Jules seeks to capture honest shots that depict both individuals and communities, traditions and cultures that may not otherwise appear in upscale fashion publications. “It was never a question of making a fashion story. I wanted to portray an English tradition that is passed on through generations, from parents to their children. I like taking pictures that aren’t necessarily ‘in fashion’. I always look for the same characteristics when I decide to take a portrait of someone; namely, kindness and an ease with standing before the camera,” Jules explains. The Pearly Kings is a sensitive and sincere celebration of an age-old English tradition. Jules’ sitters appear comfortable in front of the camera’s lens as they allow the photographer to snap them in intimate situations inside their family homes.
“I based a lot of my research on family albums, from artistic to amateur photo books. My research led me to old classical paintings of families and to traditional photographic family portraits. This, in turn, got me interested in the formal composition of family members in such photographs. I also went through my parent’s album; I found lots of fun snaps of my father, my brothers and I dressed up or sleeping in weird positions. It was these intimate settings we tried to recreate,” Jules says. From parents sitting at the breakfast table with their children to a young couple exchanging telling looks, The Pearly Kings offers the viewer a truthful insight into the lives of this unique community.
The Pearly Kings took nearly a year to organise and coordinate. Georgia spent many months discussing the shoot with Harrow’s Pearly Kings and Queens in order to ensure the families were represented in a genuine way. Despite initially receiving high levels of interest, when it came to the day of the shoot only a couple of families agreed to pose. Jules explains that he was careful to represent the sitters as they would want to be depicted, adding to it a intimate playfulness you might find in a personal photo book. “It was really about telling a story. I was inspired by my own family photographs, art history and personal experiences to tell the story of a more or less ordinary family.”
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