You may not know French fashion photographer Sarah Moon by name, but once you see her photographs — like woozy memories distilled on film — you're bound to be captivated by them. The now 75-year old photographer first started out a model before switching to photography in the '70s. She became known for her campaigns with Cacharel — such as the iconic Anais Anais ad — as well as for being the first woman to shoot the Pirelli calendar in 1972.
For her collaboration with François Nars, Moon eschewed the brand's usual practice of working with archival images — as they had with Guy Bourdin and Steven Klein in past collaborations — and chose to shoot new imagery instead. Not only do these images adorn the outside packaging of the makeup products, they're part of the actual containers as well. Find out more from Moon herself along with why a transparent box played such a big role in determining the look of this collection.
When did you first meet François?
I don't really remember the moment I met him, but Patti [Wilson] always told me so much about him. I probably met him in New York once or twice. Honestly, it was like I've always known him, without knowing him. He was in the world of fashion and so many people knew him — especially Patti [Wilson], who is a great friend of his and friend of mine.
What is your relationship like?
There is great trust, respect, and mutual admiration between us, which made it lovely to work together. Also, he's a photographer so he knows how fragile the process is. From the beginning to the end, it was a true collaboration.
What was your first impression when you learned Nars was interested in collaborating with you on a collection?
I never did any collaboration on a collection before, so I was of course surprised. Yet I knew he liked my work from discussions with mutual friends. But because what I do now is so different from my previous work, I didn't know if what he liked was my work from the '70s or '80s or my work now. The concept of his previous collaborations with artists was to use their existing images. When we met I proposed to do something new, which he was totally open to. That made it exciting for both of us.
Tell us about the collaborative process with François?
He was enthusiastic and curious, which made the process a true collaboration. That was the first "trampoline" for me, it was like a new road to walk on. His openness allowed for a fresh new project, focused on beauty. François had asked me to bring an object that could inspire the packaging design, so I brought a very simple transparent square box. For me, the collection was all about transparency. I wanted it to be very modern and feel almost as if the woman is transparent.
How did you choose the shades for the collection?
We talked about the idea of a kind of mist around the eyes and worked from there. Nothing too obvious, nothing too strident. Just enhancing the woman's natural features. The shades really stemmed from this idea.
What was your inspiration for the collection visuals? How did you and François collaborate on the visuals?
I wanted it very simple and I knew straight away that I wanted the corset for the styling. I wanted to see the skin so we made the corset transparent and it turned in to this idea of Metropolis. We wanted to tell a story of an authentic woman. Any makeup she is wearing is never a mask. We really collaborated to find this woman that was delicate, yet strong and always very modern.
Why did you decide to shoot original imagery for this collection instead of pulling from your archives?
In anything you do, you should be specific. I liked the idea of doing an image for nail, an image for eye, an image for the body — this is what I call applied work. Everything for me was about the light — bring the light, find the light.
What is your creative process like?
It's difficult to say what my creative process is, because it's not always the same. A lot of it is hoping for luck. You have an idea in the head, but it's when you see it that you know if you can work with it or not. I was very lucky to get what I could vaguely imagine for this shoot. I really worked with Patti on the corset, the helmet, all of the details, the transparent jewelry... The props gave a direction and confirmed this notion of light, transparency, and strong shape. Even if some of it had to be eliminated in the picture, the idea remained. Not romantic, but romanesque.
What is your favourite piece in the collection?
That's difficult for me to say — I love the palettes, but I couldn't choose a particular one. I like having that mixture. I love smoke around the eyes and having the ability to make it stronger or lighter. Everything is linked together.
What type of woman is this collection for?
For me, it's for every woman. It's makeup, but it's not made up. It enhances, but it doesn't mask. For me, that is the secret to makeup. It integrates your personality and that's always key.
How did you decide on the packaging and photos for each piece?
We worked very closely with the design team [Baron & Baron]. The vision came together right away from our first meeting — simple, strong, transparent, frosted but not frosted. I must say, it was really lovely. Everything was decided in a common decision. The "trampoline" was really that white transparent box that I brought to that meeting.
What inspires you?
Everything. Music inspires me, literature, visual arts. Inspiration is very strange because I can't really pin it down — it's indefinite. You can find inspiration in the air sometimes. You know what you love, but inspiration is mobile.
How does colour inform your work or process?
Colour is a language. For me, it's like words. It expresses something each time. Everybody knows that red is more dramatic than pink. Each colour has its own story somehow and when you're using it it's revealed to you — whether you want it or not.
How do you feel makeup impacts your overall vision for an image? Does it?
Makeup enhances the personality and gives a direction. When you photograph a woman with very light makeup or very heavy makeup, it gives it a tune. And then you follow the music.
Who has been your favorite person (or people) to shoot?
I have two, and both are still my friends. Susan Moncur — I worked with her extensively in the 1970's and 80's. François loves her too. And Sasha Robertson. I worked with her quite a lot. She reminded me of Virginia Woolf. She was a very unusual beauty which I found very, very beautiful.
How did working as a model influence your work as a photographer?
Enormously for collaboration. Photography is about collaboration with the model. Having been a model I know what she can and can't do. I know it's difficult to express something because you're working with different people and you have to adapt to each situation. My work as a model helped me a lot with the complicity I have with my models.
When did you take your first photograph?
I began photographing when we were waiting during the collections and just sort of began like that. Photographing models around me, whom at the time were my colleagues.
What inspired you to move from modelling to photography?
It was the opportunity and the desire. When I began I liked it, but I never thought I was going to be a photographer. I liked photographing models and fashion and had the good fortune of being one of a few female photographers at the time.
You have a very distinct style of photography that you are known and celebrated for, tell us about it.
I never felt I had a special style. I just saw things this way — so I suppose it became my style, but I never realized it until people started talking about it. The grain, the sharpness, the blur — which is not really blur at all, but double exposure. The style is the label people put on you. And sometimes I thought they didn't get it quite right!
Do you have a muse or muses?
It was really the silent movies that inspired me when I was — before painting, before photography, before everything really. It was the heroines of the silent movies whose names I don't remember but I remember what I saw in them. Also in books — I loved Virginia Woolf, she was very evocative for me. Her characters are very Romanesque which intrigued and inspired me.
Are there any photographers you consider role models or whom inspire you?
Guy Bourdin — I knew him and I worked with him. He used advertising like a trampoline to express himself. He changed fashion photography more than anybody at that time — his images were so narrative. For me, fashion is fiction. He was the one who really inspired me to do fashion.
What do you think has changed most in photography since you started in 1970?
The tool and the approach has changed with digital, as it allows many people to photograph. But a good photo is a good photo, whether it is digital or Polaroid or Analog. The challenge was much bigger before, but finding one's own voice is still very difficult. Especially now in an age where everybody talks.
Who would you like to shoot next?
I love working with the same people, but if I see somebody that's inspiring I am always interested. So I can't put a name on it — I don't know them yet!
What is your next big project?
At the moment, I am doing a book on colour and an exhibition in Kyoto, Japan later this year.
Has your approach to photography changed through the years?
I always say less is more. I'm more interested in evoking than in describing.
The collection is available from 1 November at Nars counters