Micaiah Carter interprets Uniqlo’s linen range with a sultry sun-drenched shoot
One of the unique strengths of young American photographer Micaiah Carter (who we picked as one of our Ones to Watch earlier this year) is his ability to conjure a rich mood, an evocative atmosphere, in a straightforward studio setting. His shoots often feel like a heady distillation of the last days of a long summer – there’s a lot of warm sunlight on skin, deep blue and purple-hued skies, and clothes that flow breezily off radiant bodies.
It was this knack for recreating a particular sense of summer that meant he was the perfect person to take on an open creative brief to interpret UNIQLO’s range of products made from linen, that most summery of fabrics. “I thought the brief was really similar to my work,” Micaiah tells It’s Nice That, “so I was excited about the opportunity to expand on what I normally do and use this series to tell a story. When I think about linen, I think about how it works in different conditions and how it’s versatile – it can warm you up and cool you down.”
To create the easy, summertime atmosphere so characteristic of his work, Micaiah puts a lot of thought into his lighting set-ups first and foremost. For this shoot, he used an orange Skypanel to bring out the warmer tones in the models’ skin and a fill light in front of their faces “to fill the eyes and make the skin pop a bit more”.
Yet some of the sumptuous colours we see in the final images were actually achieved later on, outside the studio. “A lot of my colours actually come from post-production,” he explains. “I use a green or blue or purple background in the studio, but then afterwards, that’s when I get the perfect colour I’m looking for. It’s very like painting for me. It means I can get a completely original colour.”
“I wanted the fabric to be part of the environment, more abstract.”Micaiah Carter
Micaiah’s interpretation of UNIQLO’s linen range was less about placing the fabric front and centre and more about drawing out the unique qualities of the fabric: its breathability and coolness; its natural, organic quality; its softness. You can spot the fabric in some of the shots, but it’s a subtle hint, rather than in the foreground. “I wanted the fabric to be seen but I wanted it so that you can’t really tell that it’s a fabric,” he says. “I wanted it to be part of the environment, more abstract. I used it to build the image, not take away from it.”
This license to go a bit more abstract is rare and was a part of the brief that really excited Micaiah. “I do like to make things more abstract in my photography, but don’t often get the opportunity,” he says. “This brief meant I could push it a bit more. Incorporating the fabric, but also not too explicit – that pushed me to create something more subtle than a straight fashion shoot or campaign.”
One of the key parts of the brief was to reflect and capture the breathability of UNIQLO’s linen range. UNIQLO’s linen products are all about keeping cool in the heat of summer. Micaiah achieved this sense of “breathability” through his composition and staging, as well as the lighting. It’s amazing how, despite the sun-drenched feel of his photos, his subjects always exude coolness. This is partly down to the fact that he “gave the photos some breathing room”, he explains. “I didn’t want to crowd the photos or distract the viewer – even a close-up can be intimate and yet still give the person room to breathe.”
“I always use my gut. I pre-plan it for sure, but then I live in the moment.”Micaiah Carter
It was his composition and staging that also lent the photos a natural, organic quality. This, too, was a central part of the brief, based on the fact that UNIQLO’s linen products are made from European flax, which has been cultivated for thousands of years and takes around 100 days to mature. It also requires only rainwater to grow, meaning it has a minimal environmental footprint. That organic quality finds expression in Micaiah’s shoot in the natural poses of the models. “I always use my gut,” the photographer explains. “I pre-plan it for sure, but then I also live in the moment. So if the model does something I like, then I get them to repeat that gesture or hold a pose.”
All these techniques employed and decisions taken by Micaiah came together in the studio and in post-production to create a series of images that perfectly captures the mood of summertime. But it’s a particular type of summertime we’re getting a glimpse of here – not that stuffy, airless heat we all know so well, but instead a moment in summer that’s breezy and cool despite the bright sunshine. It’s also therefore a highly characteristic interpretation of UNIQLO’s linen range, courtesy of one of the photography world’s rising stars.
As part of our Ones to Watch 2019 campaign, It’s Nice That is working with UNIQLO to explore a variety of its products through a series of original creative commissions. This piece and the accompanying photos by Micaiah Carter are the first in the series, which will continue throughout the year. For this first piece, we asked Micaiah to interpret UNIQLO’s linen range from a new perspective.
UNIQLO’s linen products are some of its most popular, known for their flattering fit and casual imperfection. Made from high-quality European linen, a fabric that has been woven for thousands of years, the garments are the perfect accompaniment to summer.