Not many fashion stories begin in the Welsh valleys. A few months ago photographer Tom Johnson and stylist Charlotte James published Merthyr Rising, a project that grew out of months shooting the locals of a Welsh ex-mining town in an unlikely but beautiful fashion series. Now, a new editorial for Pylot sees them return to Merthyr Tydfil for a shoot about two sisters: eight-year-old Kyra Evans, a face you might recognise from the original series, and her younger sister Evie.
The styling for the Evans girls shoot is loosely inspired by old photographs of women in Welsh national dress, with its florals and many layers. Charlotte dressed the girls in a mix of vintage clothes and pieces from Issey Miyake, Child of the Jago, Nika Tang and JH.Zane, some of which had to be pinned to fit the girls. She says it was important that Kyra and Evie – the daughters of an old school friend – always felt comfortable in what they were wearing. A natural ease running through the series speaks to this.
The photographs show the girls against the dramatic landscape of south Wales, and, drawn to the sisters’ closeness and their almost preternatural likeness, Tom says the shoot is perhaps his favourite to date. He attributes the success of the photographs to his relationship with Charlotte, whose styling and relationships with the locals of Merthyr Tydfil, where she is from, have underpinned the project. In fact, Merthyr Rising was a project Charlotte had in mind for a while as she waited for the right photographer to work with.
By now Tom has shown he has a talent for giving fashion photography a documentary edge, and it’s a quality that continues to set his work apart and win him some enviable commissions. A real-life approach to street casting and the personal relationships he is interested in having with those he shoots mean his portraits and fashion editorials are consistently great. Merthyr Rising definitely cemented this, but seeing the project continue to develop into one-off editorials, as with the Evans girls, takes it one step further.