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...what happens to those left behind?
“Sometimes you have to do something out of your comfort zone to reach a higher level,” the Vienna-based artist and photographer, Andreas Waldschuetz, states confidently. “That moment came about mid-2009, when I realised that the photography I was doing at the time had become professional but simultaneously predictable.“ Andreas had always kept in mind that his goal was to stretch, reach further, expand his field of work and eventually, attract a larger and alluring international crowd through his work.
Coming from a background that did not leave much room for creativity and the fulfilment of dreams, he often found himself fighting hard to get what he wanted. “When I was young, I was always told: ‘Stay where you are, stick to your roots’. To me that always sounded more like: ‘Don’t dare too much, limit yourself, be safe, and yes, be boring.’” To Andreas, keeping within safe limits was never an option.
Last year, Andreas started working closely with American born stylist Adia Trischler. Together they started working on how to intertwine their dream images and translate it into realistic editorial ideas. They shared a passion for fairytales and the strange and otherworldly; with such a place in mind the pair started their search for the perfect location. A South African friend eventually told them about the magical surroundings of Kolmanskop, a deserted former diamond mine in Namibia.
The town had been deserted since the 1960s, and left behind were only houses preserved by the dry desert heat, and tons and tons of sand that had long been reclaiming it’s righteous space and filling every corner of the abandoned town. The inspiration the place gave them fell on rich think-tank soil, and so Sand People was born.
They soon realised the fashion they were to use would have to be of the same bizarre and outlandish quality as the setting in which it would be staged. After a long period of deep and thorough research, Andreas and Adia found NOT JUST A LABEL. “We felt we had hit the right spot,” Adia explains. “Through NJAL we could browse and access a plethora of great talent that is out there, brand new and very, very exciting.” Andreas had met NJAL founder Stefan Siegel before, and after explaining the concepts of the Sand People project, Siegel put him in touch with the designers Una Burke and Ara Jo.
It did not take Andreas and Adia long to fly to London and meet with the designers, and soon the project seemed ready to begin. Andreas says he knew from the very beginning that he would have to finance the shoot himself, as he did not want to tie the story to a specific magazine or confine it to a certain country or area for use. “Austria is a beautiful country and I love it as my home and base, but the more I saw of what was possible on an international level, the more I knew that I would never want to limit myself to borders and this country,“ Andreas explains.
He saw Sand People as his ticket to reaching the next level and only by being the one in charge, by having total creative freedom, would he be able to completely fulfil his visions. “When it all started to roll, I was freakishly happy and also scared shitless,” Andreas says. “Suddenly I realised how much money and work would go into it all – the preparation, the trip, the production and setting up an exhibition.”
Andreas and his team pulled through, however. “It is amazing what happens once you truly believe in something,” Andreas says. “A certain power is set free, it’s like everyone you talk to can feel that energy and gets infected by it.” In his case, a fabulous team of creative people were keen on joining Sand People. The flights to Cape Town and the astonishing model Carmen Solomons were booked, the latter with the great support of her agency Boss models. The male role of the story, Jeremy, was flown in from New York and with the design pieces shipped off, Andreas and his team left for Africa.
The team were welcomed by 1st Productions, a film and photo production company who would act as guide through the unknown territory of the African desert. The team spent a week on location, working hard to get good images in the harsh desert sun, driven to deliver work as outstanding as the location and the fashion, and with the thought of the possibilities of an amazing result fuelling the passion and energy of the entire team throughout.
“The shoot was amazing, it was like we were in a trance,” Andreas says, reminiscing about the time on set. “We were totally affected by the place – the emptiness in Kolmanskop gave us so much space to play around with and the light was amazing.” Since Andreas has a strong background in film making, acquired while working for a San Francisco based film production company in the early years of the 2000s, the photography did not seem to be a sufficient medium. With his Canon 5D, Andreas also filmed the still images, creating ostensible illusions of movement in the otherwise static reality of the Sand People. The result ultimately became a story of love and longing, of unfulfilled desires, of memories and of course, beauty.
Early this year, Andreas talked to Unit F Buero Fuer Mode in Vienna, who organise a big fashion and art event every year. They fell in love with Sand People and included it as a stand-alone show in the Festival for Fashion, to be showed in June 2010. “Now we’re all really excited about how Sand People will be received,” Andreas says. “We’ve set up a massive network because I want Sand People to move on from Vienna and show in a few other places.” So far, Andreas has set up connections in New York, London and Berlin, and the network continues to expand. The journey of the Sand People seems to only just have begun.