It was during their photography class at school that London-based duo Reece Owen and Dean Hoy first officially formed their creative partnership: R+D. Having previously competed with each other, they were encouraged by their teacher to cultivate that competitive nature which eventually led them to discover that, “two heads are better than one”. Dean explains how “she was an absolute angel, I think she was the first R+D muse.”
Although still students at Central Saint Martins, the pair have already developed an impressive portfolio that includes collaborations with FKA Twigs, Charles Jeffrey, Nico Panda and Matty Bovan. Their work is playful and tongue-in-cheek, incorporating hyperreal elements and a host of accomplished skills to create projects that are often darkly witty – a result of “not being afraid to tell each other when something is shit!”
The pair both grew up in the suburban town of Tonbridge and met in school at the age of 11. They subconsciously became friends because they were “in the closet, hated P.E and loved the creative subjects – the typical small town scenario,” Reece tells It’s Nice That. This shared experience largely forms the work they make today: “We like to construct something, whether that’s characters, narrative or location. Currently I think we’re playing a lot with taking the everyday visual language we’ve grown up with and repurposing it, whether it be dodgy tattooes in Magaluf or teleshopping,” says Dean.
Coming from working class backgrounds, when Reece and Dean were confronted with the huge amounts of money in the fashion industry, they made a conscious decision to satirically make themselves a commodity. “With our captions and several projects using the ‘see now, buy now’ attitude, you can see we love taking the piss out of the ridiculousness of the current state of fashion,” explains Reece. One of the first official R+D projects was Loverboy Olympics for Charles Jeffrey’s club night at Vogue Fabrics. It featured a chaotic amalgamation of watermelon-smashing races, milk drenching and fist fights, completely at odds with the glossy and sleek images we’re so often presented with.
This humour translates across their body of work, for example in a recent personal project, Final Girl, a series of audition tapes parodying horror movies. The series includes 20 “damsels in distress,” reading lines from a script inspired by the awkward early celeb audition tapes that now circulate the internet. The combination of the cliché horror movie dialogue, faux-leather casting coach and slightly shaky close-ups perfectly emulates the stupidity and hilarity of horror movie stereotypes.
For all their jokes, there’s no doubt that the pair can create extremely polished work. In October of this year, they shot the entire first issue of FKA Twigs’ “digizine” Avant Garden. The issue entitled Roots. Shock. Beauty focused on the theme of braided hairstyles with Reece and Dean being approached by Suzannah Pettigrew, its editor, who felt their work would suit the project. “Working with Twigs and her team was such an amazing experience. The core of Avant Garden is that it’s an organic personal project, hence, we were able to discuss ideas freely,” says Dean.
Reece and Dean have already managed to carve out a distinctive aesthetic and tone to their work, especially for photographers so early in their careers. Their appropriation of the branding and lifestyle of the digital age reveals itself through hilarious but carefully considered projects and with recent teasers on their Instagram of an upcoming project with MIA, R+D is definitely a duo to keep an eye on.
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