Ahead of a new exhibition, Clash meets photographers Ciesay and Soulz.

“I had the idea of making a reflective hoodie so when we’re on stage shooting artists and someone in the crowd takes a picture, the hoodie will reflect and show the brand name.” Places + Faces co-founder Soulz (Boyede), is explaining to Clash how the clothing line – and subsequent status as a lifestyle brand – came about. “I wanted to make a way for people to hear about us.”

Launched alongside co-founder (Imran) Ciesay, two years after they began working together, Places + Faces is the baby that marries photography, commerce and the world wide web; tonight the boys go IRL celebrating their second anniversary with a new London exhibition in collaboration with Bench.

“We were both in a creative group of individual artists that collaborated every now and then,” Soulz offers of the initial link.

“I was in New York for a couple months staying with my uncle and had a camera with me,” says Ciesay of the finer details. “I’d finesse my way into events and just take pictures whilst I was out there. There was stuff happening in London too so I thought it would be cool for Soulz to shoot what was happening out there while I was in the States.”

Under the P+F moniker the two have shot everyone from Kanye West and A$AP Mob to Rejjie Snow and Skepta, many of the moments – found on Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook – completely candid.

Unique in their ability to penetrate VIP circles (a right time right place situation that led to genuine relationships with many of their subjects), the pair’s cultural relevance is further elevated by their loose replicating of rap and pop’s heavyweights: the commercial aspect of their project and subsequent brand building.

“I’d agree that it’s more of a lifestyle brand (now),” asserts Ciesay. “When we first started we didn’t really have an aim, it was just us going to events, taking pictures and putting them on Tumblr, but as we progressed we felt we needed to establish our story and document our travels; make it more about where we are and what we’re doing. It grew from there as we did different things like release our own mixes on Soundcloud and monthly episodic videos of our travels.”

As well as caps, tees, totes and disposable cameras – in a colour palette that currently favours pastels, orange and black – you can buy the guys prints online; a photo of Travis $cott in Paris will set you back £75, while the late A$AP Yams’ image will cost £100.

“As soon as I put the picture of the hoodie on Instagram people went crazy for it and really wanted to buy it, so at first I’d make limited quantities of the hoodie and release them for like three days, but then we had ideas of making more merch,” continues Soulz.

“But merch that made sense of the brand and reflected what we’re about, rather than just making random stuff that had nothing do to with P+F. We made reflective T-shirts that said ‘NO Photos Allowed’ because at the time I hated people taking my picture, and I also released a cap that said ‘Point and Shoot’ because I normally shoot with point and shoot 35mm cameras.”

Aside from their own wares Ciesay and Soulz keep it local, favouring their friend Yoni’s M+RC brand based in Paris; “I respect his hustle and we came up around the same time so we’ve been watching each other grow.”

And you shoot exclusively analogue? “I strictly shoot on film because it gives people the documentary style that I like to capture when shooting,” confirms Ciesay, “all my photos are unedited, raw as the moment when I took the photo. Soulz also only shoots in film, though we did start off shooting with a DLSR at the very beginning.”

“My favourite photo might be the landscape I took of Paris,” he adds, “it shows a beautiful side of the city and really brings out the mood. Or it might be the homeless man wiping his ass at a train station, in Paris again, because to me that represents what P+F is really about.”

As for significant pieces, Soulz notes his shot of Big Sean in a London Hotel, “mainly because I’m a big fan and it was probably one of the first times he’s been shot in 3D, which is rarely art in photography nowadays.”

Words: Zoe Whitfield

Places + Faces is open to the public from tomorrow until 18th October, open 11am-6pm at Kachette, 347 Old Street.

www.placesplusfaces.com

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