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The couple behind Cesar Love Alexandre has created a concept out of their love and connection. We talk with Nelson Tiberghien and Isabelle Chaput about fashion photography as a medium for expressing so much more than just aesthetics in an age where images have become banal.
How would you introduce each other?
Nelson: Hi! My name is Isabelle, I’m from grey Paris. I like melancholy and I’m a night creature.
Isabelle: Hi, I’m Nelson, I’m from sunny Nice. I like daytime and I am hyperactive.
How was this project born? And what about its name?
This project came to life when we fell in love three years ago. We met in school and became friends, we started to work together and it felt incredibly right. So when we fell in love later, we decided to create a duo, a concept, something out of this love and connection.
We wanted a name that would be an idea, a concept, and that could become a family, a brand, rather than representing us as individuals. The name comes from the emperors. We thought: what if Cesar and Alexander the Great had fallen in love and united their forces? They would have conquered the world. We liked this idea of conquering the world by union and love. We also like that those are two male names and it creates a gender blur.

You are partners in and out the professional world and seem to be very synchronized with each other. How are your everyday life and your creative process like?
You need to understand that we spend a hundred percent of our time next to each other since we started being together three years ago. We now have a kind of psychic connection. From there, every step of the creative process is already perfectly synchronized from the very beginning. We wake up together and we work every day in our studio in New York City and we just constantly bounce ideas off of each other. It’s very natural and organic!
You play with 3-D, motion, pictures, drawing, GIFs, and sounds in order to create a new type of narration. Can you tell me a little bit more about this kind of narration? What do you want to tell?
We want photography to step out of the boundaries that have been set down since the beginning. We want it to be seen differently, especially fashion photography; we want it to become universally recognized as a proper art form, as a medium that can express so much more than just beauty or aesthetics. That’s why we talk about narration, because even though our pictures or videos ultimately belong to the fashion industry, they always express something very specific that has many layers.
Just like a painter does exhibitions and series, we approach our projects the same way – we have a full analysis or explanation of the story’s depth. And we feel that it is very important – especially today, where image has become very banal and so easily accessible – to create images with a purpose, to create images that are not just an empty shell. That’s why we always think first: what do we want to tell in this story, what is it about? And then we decide what medium will make sense for that particular concept.
The thing is, we don’t have a particular kind of narration; we like to narrate everything! We get inspired by so many things, all the time, and our projects are directly linked to our daily life and to what inspires us: from an old lady in the street to a supermarket product, to different cultures and our study of human behaviour, it can go anywhere. And that’s what we love about what we do; we don’t surround ourselves with any barriers. For example, we are currently working on a series of paintings inspired by pictures we took with our iPhone. Why not?
How powerful can this new language be?
At first, we just kind of did it, it was very natural for us to work that way. But then we realized that the industry actually had very established rules and modus operandi, especially surrounding fashion photography. As we evolved and grew, we thought that, maybe, our freedom and our way of thinking/doing are different, and maybe they would be appreciated.
We hope that it can lead to a better appreciation of fashion photography and to a stronger respect for it as an art form inside the industry – so it’s considered not just as technical work. Especially in our day and age, we were confronted with the fact that there are many fashion photographers. It has become such an accessible and democratized job – which is amazing, by the way – that the function in general has been a little bit devaluated by the industry.

In your website, you say that you often collaborate with other artists. What shooting or project do you remember the most and why?
We actually just started a new project with a good friend of ours that we met here in New York and we are super excited to be creating something new with a contemporary artist such as him. So we would say that this is right now what we are thinking about the most.
You are also video makers. How do you think photography and videos interact with each other?
For us, they go hand in hand, as our process is very similar to a filmmaker. We create a story first and then build the form and aesthetic around it. We can use any media to express this story and we usually like to use both photography and video, as they compliment each other and are help express different sides of the narration.
Nowadays, as well, video has gained a huge influence in fashion and goes hand in hand with photography. Especially since technology has evolved so much, the need for moving images has grown as well. It’s very exciting.
Which fashion designer would you like to collaborate with?
We would definitely love to work with Simon Porte Jacquemus. His creations are so inspiring and his campaigns are always beautiful, poetic, yet very daring and artistic.

Who is your main influence?
Each other (we are kissing right now).
How do you celebrate love?
We celebrate it every day. We laugh, eat, go out, go to the movies, talk. Also, Nelson buys me (Isabelle) flowers all the time since the first time he did when we got together as a symbol of love, which is pretty nice. Ultimately, we think giving attention towards each other is important.
What are your current projects?
We are currently lucky enough to be working with a lot of magazines; in the last month we shot four prints. We have also been working a lot for brands that we love, so it really feels good to be validated by the industry for our creative ideas.
We have been selected for the Copenhagen Fashion Film Festival, we are working on participating in a new art festival in New York, on a series of paintings that we will exhibit, on a Youtube fashion project, on creating a series of videos on a more television format inspired by our life in New York, and on creating books as well.
We also got really interested in the social media aspect of the Internet and how this can offer the opportunity to connect us with people anywhere in the world – and we are both big fans of the Internet entertainment and pop culture. That’s why we started to do Mukbangs – live performances basically sharing online a little bit of our life together. It goes hand in hand with a new Instagram account we’ve created about our matching outfits: @young_emperors. The thing is that we enjoy working on many different projects. We like to be multidimensional and our minds are always bursting with ideas, so we are always working on something. Keeping up with Cesar Love Alexandre coming soon on your TV (laughs). 

Cris Címbora

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