A deserted steel plant in the dead of night was where Chinese photographer Alexvi would find an innovative way to connect technology with humanity.
Alexvi is a leading fashion and portraiture photographer based in Beijing known for shooting covers for magazines such as GQ, Esquire, and Vogue. In 2015 his photobook ‘Lonely Planet’ won the Photobook Awards Martin Parr Edition and his ongoing project ‘Peking Apartment’ was recognized in the Fine Art Photography Awards in London. Most recently Japanese designer Kenya Hara invited Alexvi to work on a cross-over creation for China House Vision in October 2018.
He's also known for having an innovative approach to his art, which is probably a result of his unorthodox beginning in the business. Inspired by greats such as Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, Alexvi is entirely self-taught, turning an interest in photography into a career when close to graduation he was given the chance to take one photograph for a magazine, and he's never looked back.
A futuristic vision
When Profoto asked Alexvi to try the B10, he saw it as an opportunity to experiment. "It's so compact and lightweight, and I wanted to find somewhere unconventional to use it."
The idea Alexvi was playing with was to try somehow to show the future of technology, exploring themes of science-fiction and a future dystopia. And he knew just the location. The Shijingshan steel plant founded in 1919 in what is today; the Shijingshan District. It's a vast area, more than 10 million square meters - which makes it pretty much the size of a small city. But in 2010 the imposing concrete towers, smokestacks and iron-ore furnaces all fell silent as the Shougang Corporation, who had taken over the Shijingshan steel plant shifted production to a new facility far away from the city. Shijingshan had become a ghost town, the perfect dystopian canvas to breathe life into Alexvi's creative idea.
A passion for innovation
Alexvi wanted to create a connection between the dystopian industrial space and the futuristically styled models he was shooting, but he wanted to establish this connection entirely in-camera - eschewing the virtues of photoshop for something completely authentic.
To start, the set needed to be virtually pitch black. So it helped that Shougang was at the west end of Beijing, about 30 kilometers from the central business district - so the city lights are quite distant.
Alexvi would place one B10 behind the model to create a rim-light separating the model from the background and another B10 in front on half the power output of the first B10, with an OCF Softbox 2’ Octa to the right of the camera position to soften the light on her face and upper torso.
Got to move fast
Once the flash fires the model and lighting assistant (handling the B10 behind the model) would quickly clear the frame while the shutter remains open for ten further seconds after the flash. The prolonged exposure means the model and the background begin to overlap in the final image, creating that feeling of connection Alexvi was keen to establish.
Alexvi used the same approach for the other images, experimenting with different backgrounds, models and outfits resulting in other-worldly images that are part dystopic science-fiction and part steampunk.
"For me, being able to create an atmosphere or a feeling with light is much more rewarding than relying too much on post-production techniques" added Alexvi, "the B10 helps me do that - and with its small, lightweight size - I can do it in any location."
In the end, it was a successful evening on the outskirts of Beijing in every way except one; "because we did the shoot in mid-summer, everyone got attacked by wild mosquitos in the abandoned factory - they probably hadn't had such a big feast for a long, long time."