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16 Dec

Stolenbesos: the photographer defining the ‘dissociative pout’ aesthetic

Dreamy, sterile and lifeless, the 23-year-old’s work is defining the look of a recent lobotomy-chic generation

Chloe Cherry is all dolled up in a dank, disgusting bedroom. She stands within the centre of the frame, staring dead-eyed into the camera, her expression blank and detached. She cradles a pet rabbit and the cool, harsh flash turns its eyes vivid red. Addison Rae, mouth open in a white Holy Trinity bikini, stands against a white wall. Face washed out by the flash, the image is light and sterile. The post-ironic message of the bikini twists her feminine beauty into blasphemy.

The elusive, confusing, seductive world of post-ironic femininity has washed over Instagram feeds. With its trademarks of a pastel color palette, a tough flash, a dead gaze and a cutesy atmosphere, the dreamy aesthetic forgoes perfect airbrushing and embraces girls dressing as much as look pretty – and a bit gross.

Leading this aesthetic and defining the look of a recent generation is Maya, AKA Stolenbesos. Within the seven months since she entered the sector of photography, Maya’s lifeless yet soft visuals have been on the centre of the emerging lobotomy-chic/dissociative pout trend – her shoot with Cherry is mostly considered the initial embodiment of the despondent, dissociative pout – and have turned her right into a rising web star.

Often featuring deadpan it-girls – Devon and Sydney Lee Carlson, Bella Hadid, Quenlin Blackwell, Rae and Cherry amongst them – dawned in ribbons and lace, Maya’s work is shot with cool-toned flash and framed in a pastel-and-black color palette. It’s dreamy and soft, nevertheless it’s delivered with an edge. “I’ve all the time liked fidgeting with the contrast, like models wearing ribbons and blonde curly wigs while crawling within the dirt – where she looks really clean and cute, but is doing something type of gross,” Maya says.

Before she began creating her own images, Maya modelled for male photographers, an experience that has deeply informed her work. “I didn’t like the way in which they made me feel. I didn’t like the way in which they shot me, and I didn’t recognise myself within the photos they took of me. I never felt beautiful or empowered or soft or anything that felt like me,” she says. Dissatisfied with the male gaze and its skewed, sexualised lens, she picked up a camera herself and now shoots girls she will see herself in, whether or not it’s their despondent, void expression or their delicate, cold depiction.

It’s these expressions which have led the media to coin the trend ‘lobotomy-chic,’ a term Maya is proof against due to its pessimistic connotations. “I actually hate the concept lobotomy-chic is nihilistic, because I feel my work is optimistic and hopeful!” For her, the recognition of her style signifies a shift in how girls are allowed to exist inside the photography world. As a substitute of being bland and sexy, female models will be autonomous, portraying themselves as they want to be seen. Dazed spoke to Maya about her work, influences and defining a recent wave of feminine aesthetics on social media.

How would you describe your creative process?

Maya: I don’t really think an excessive amount of about it. I don’t even really prepare for shoots. I’m not the style of one who makes a moldboard, it’s just probably not my style. Normally, once I’m shooting someone, it’ll just occur naturally. But my favourite shoots are once I’m with the model at their house, and we’re picking clothes from their closet, and we’re just playing. Because that’s type of what shooting is – you’re just fidgeting with one another.

How does the feminine gaze and female sexuality fit into your photography?

Maya: After I’m shooting a woman, I’m not considering of her body. Even when she’s not wearing a whole lot of clothes, I’m not ever trying to focus on that. I don’t even wish to shoot models’ faces a whole lot of the time. It could possibly be her neck or the ribbons in her hair or the way in which the dress falls on her back or the back of her head – stuff like that. The goal isn’t to look sexy and even beautiful. The goal is to have the entire photo feel like something greater than that. And if it happens to be sexy, that’s only a symptom of the girl. She just looks good, and she or he just happens to look sexy, but that’s not what I’m aiming to do. I feel that’s what separates my work from a man’s.

Quite a lot of your photography has been retrospectively described as lobotomy-chic. Is that this type of your work led by a creative alternative, or is it only a category you’ve fallen into?

Maya: It’s definitely a alternative. At first, I felt snubbed by that title. I used to be like, ‘What the fuck? That’s it? That’s what my work has been reduced to? Lobotomy-chic?’ But then I read the Wikipedia page about it, I used to be like, ‘this is definitely quite accurate’. These are only my selections, though, and so they just occur to be those where the models look deadpan. 

Why select photos where the models look deadpan and almost lifeless?

Maya: I just see something in those faces that just feel like my very own, and I like that. If a model looks deadpan, then you definitely can project whatever you wish onto her. I’m really drawn to that. And I feel the deadpan look is just more interesting, because they’re probably not trying in any respect. I hate shooting models who try to be something or turn into another person. I just want them to be as they’re. And I identical to the way in which they give the impression of being once they aren’t doing anything.

Lobotomy-chic is usually characterised as a mirrored image of our generation’s nihilistic perspective of the world. Do you agree?

Maya: I actually hate the concept lobotomy-chic is nihilistic because I feel my work is optimistic and hopeful! I began shooting because I used to be uninterested in these photos being shot of me through the male gaze. And I feel like there’s definitely been a trend of women shooting themselves and their friends in a really similar style to how I shoot. And it’s cool to see girls shooting themselves as an alternative of getting these gross men shoot them. They appear pure and female and like they’re shooting for the fitting reasons, and never just so some guy can see a woman get half-naked. It’s very nice to see that. It’s optimistic.

Do you discover that you simply bring a whole lot of yourself to your photography?

Maya: Yeah, definitely. Especially in my earlier works, the women do look type of lifeless, depressed and sullen. And that’s definitely how I felt on the time. I used to be so lost and confused, and I felt really alone. I all the time used to have models alone in a setting. I’d never even have them interact with other people. I also only really shoot girls, because I can see myself in those models.

How would you describe the Stolenbesos gaze? 

Maya: I feel my photography is hyperfeminine. When I feel of my photos, I feel of softness, ribbons, girls’ hair, the color blue, night-time, low contrast, hard flash and girls just laying on the ground. I’ve all the time wanted my photos to feel dreamy, almost like a memory. My goal is to create an entire recent world. And I do attempt to make all my photos feel otherworldly, where they give the impression of being like they could possibly be taken from a storybook or a screenshot from a movie.

What made you desire to shoot through this gaze?

Maya: Before I began shooting photos, I had modelled for male photographers. But I didn’t like the way in which they made me feel. I didn’t like the way in which they shot me, and I didn’t recognise myself within the photos they took of me. I never felt beautiful or empowered or soft or anything that felt like me. I used to be dating this male photographer on the time, and I hated the way in which he was shooting girls my age. I felt like all he was doing was objectifying them. He’s making these girls look sexy, but they don’t even look good. What are they presupposed to do with these photos? Who’re these photos even for? And I felt that way about so many photographers I used to be seeing on my page. It just felt really bleak. So once I began shooting photos, I desired to shoot girls within the type of way that I desired to be shot. I felt like no one could capture me the way in which that I wanted.

What about your work do you discover beautiful?

Maya: I feel beauty is admittedly felt between me and the topic after we’re shooting. I can feel that they feel really good, and I show them the photo, and so they’re smiling, and I can tell that they adore it. It’s a cool moment between us. So it’s really just something you’re feeling. 

How can we bring more beauty into our world?

Maya: I feel that requires a whole lot of openness from everybody. To experience more beauty, you have got to let yourself experience it. Whether it’s through watching recent movies, listening to recent music, sharing moments with people, or simply letting go of envy and competitiveness. Especially within the photography community, I feel it takes a willingness to share.

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