A photographer/artist who we admire a lot is Mert Alas, one half of the iconic duo Mert & Marcus. This March he already felt the need for an uplifting project that would take the minds of people away from all that anxiety, pain, loneliness and misery that the pandemic was (and still is) bringing. Alas asked his Instagram followers to send in their photographs for a unique project, ‘The Quarantine Days‘. The images were then given a high-fashion gloss thanks to Alas’s creative direction and photo editing skills.
The submissions far exceeded his expectations. “At first I doubted myself, I thought that there wouldn’t be many people or that it would mostly be selfies with nothing of substance, but I was shocked,” he says. “I love that there are mothers, nurses, lawyers, all submitting. People were DM-ing me to ask questions: ‘How do I light things better?’ ‘Is it better at this angle?’ It was truly surprising.”
Mert received over 2000 submissions. Once the selection of the best images was made, Alas painstakingly edited each shot the way he would an editorial. “As an artist, you grow to be subconsciously selfish about your work—you’re only as good as your last picture,” he says. “This time, it wasn’t about me or my audience. I wanted to take an amateur photo and do as much to it, put as much love into it as I can. [Adjusting] the tones, the colours, the crop, adding new layers and just seeing what happens.”
The results are gallery-worthy pictures brimming with emotion: masked figures standing before curtains, ballerinas taking to the backyard, and corseted beauties perched on balconies. Even with limited resources and restrictions on movement, Alas’s collaborators managed to deliver artistic flair. Naturally, some familiar faces made their way into the portfolio. Marc Jacobs, Mariacarla Boscono, Amber Valletta, and visual artists Jake and Dinos Chapman all feature, though Alas insists he judged the images based on merit, not star power. “I had a lot of model friends send me pictures, and I said, ‘Look, guys, I’m not going to use all of these because then it’s going to look like I’m doing a fashion story!’ ” he says. “Everyone’s input felt like support more than anything else; they understood what we’re doing.”
Intended to highlight the importance of having an artistic outlet in even the darkest times, the photos reflect the ingenuity and the escapist power of fashion photography. “It’s a little escape and it’s rewarding to create and be a part of a moment,” says Alas. “As artists, photographers, stylists and magazine [editors], we sell dreams and make money from those dreams. Now it’s our industry’s time to give back -and how do we do that? By doing what we do best—creating things and giving people hope.”
With thanks to Vogue- read the original story by Janelle Okwodu here: https://www.vogue.com/article/mert-alas-the-quarantine-days-project-interview