5 Things to Know About Willy Vanderperre Before Seeing His Show
Belgian photographer Willy Vanderperre has managed to take a phrase as hackneyed as “youth culture,” and spin it into a singular compendium of fashion photography. Based in Antwerp, Belgium, he’s among the impressive, youth-inclined cohort of fashion stylists, designers, and photographers to graduate from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts—and whose impact on the industry has been indelible. Over the last two decades, he’s been responsible for some of fashion’s most intriguing short films and editorial campaigns, and, in doing so, has reached cult status.
Vanderperre’s work is at once eerie and foreboding. And while his solo work is certainly phenomenal on its own, it’s his collaborative endeavors with fellow Antwerp-based creatives like Raf Simons, Olivier Rizzo, and Peter Philips that has elevated his work to an iconic level. Like Vanderperre, Simons and Rizzo tend to focus on a distinct aspect of youth culture that’s at once renegade, adventurous, a little rough around the edges, yet wholly refined. The resulting collaborative works never fail to stir the senses—and are now, along with Vanderperre’s solo works, on display at Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn.
Spanning Vanderperre’s entire career, the exhibit, Willy Vanderperre: Prints Film, Posters and More, which will run until September 25th, is showcasing Vanderperre’s films, photographs, posters, and more (as the title suggests)—a total of 60 pieces that even include Vanderperre’s lesser-known projects like his series about the world of contemporary dance and theater. So to celebrate the show—and to get you amped before your visit—here are five things you should definitely know about the enigmatic world of Willy Vanderperre.
1. He Originally Went to School for Fashion Design
As mentioned above, Vanderperre is among the illustrious alumni of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, the school that was made famous by the “Antwerp Six,” a group of radical designers that includes Dries Van Noten, Walter van Beirendonck, and Ann Demeulemeester. And while he eventually switched his focus to photography, he initially started out at the school studying fashion design—something that’s surely come in handy in the years since.
2. He’s Been Friends with Raf Simons and Olivier Rizzo Since Back in The Day
Vanderperre, Simons, and stylist Olivier Rizzo first met at the Royal Academy, and since then have gone on to collaborate on countless major campaigns. “We all were very naive back then. We just shot!” Vanderperre apparently told Interview magazine. “We always worked around the same boy and girl in a shoot because they were a source of inspiration. Raf was a close friend of ours and he was just starting his collection. He was translating perfectly what happened around that time with his clothes; we used a lot of them mixed in with lots of vintage.”
3. He’s Shot Some Pretty Dope Campaigns
From Jil Sander and Prada to, of course, Raf Simons, Vanderperre has shot some of fashion’s most powerful imagery. He was even the one to shoot Simons’ first campaign in 2009, and has pretty much shot every one of his campaigns since. All of which is to say, it came as little surprise when Rihanna tapped Vanderperre to shoot her latest campaign for Fenty x Puma.
4. …And Editorials
Vanderperre’s images have graced some of the industry’s most influential cult magazines, like AnOther, i-D, Self Service, and LOVE, in addition to some more commercial ones like W and Vogue. In 2001, Vanderperre, Rizzo, and Simons collaborated on a particularly iconic shoot for the February “Inspiration issue” of i-D Magazine that will always remain close to our hearts.
5. He Released a Book Inspired by His Instagram
Titled 635, the limited-edition book, which was made in collaboration with IDEA Books in 2015, comprises a cohesive rendition of his triptych-heavy, highly contrasting Instagram feed. Not exactly a move you’d expect from such a prolific photographer—but then again, it does speak to his preoccupation with youth culture. Talking about the book, he put it best when he told AnOther, “I found the whole experience very liberating and fun, because there was absolutely no time to scrutinize over the placement of images, or adjust things, and go back and forth to the printers. It was all highly spontaneous. I hope everyone likes it as much as I do.” We have a feeling they did.
Image via Models.com, Thought Catalog, i-D, and Dazed. Featured image by Bonnie Wang.
Willy Vanderperre: Prints, Films, Posters and More will be on display at Red Hook Labs, in Brooklyn, New York, until September 25th.
Stay tuned to Milk for more of our favorite photographers.