“I think I may have been watching too many X-Files episodes on VHS,” Salt Lake City based photographer Steven Stone tells me when introducing his first story for Ben Trovato, Unidentified. The set of images takes you on an epic journey, worthy of any of your favorite episodes of said tv show.
Stone explains that he got into photography more as a way to tell story his existence rather than push product. “I’ve always considered my job, first and foremost, to be about story-telling. If fashion or product can find a home within those stories, great. But it’s not my focus.”
His debut on Ben Trovato is a wonderful proof of his passion for story-telling, starring models Andrea Brown and Elliot Secrist. We asked Stone a few questions about Unidentified.
What is Unidentified in your own words?
I wanted to start with a simple premise: young couple heads out on a fall road trip into the unknown, looking for adventure.
And then shit gets fucked up. Drugs maybe? Abduction? Maybe they wrecked?
I don’t know the answer, but I wanted to explore the idea of things gone weird without wasting time on logical explanations.
You mentioned X-files as a source of inspiration, what other influences did you have creating the story?
I’ve had a life-long obsession with horror flicks, David Lynch, and the X-Files. I wanted to tell a story that utilized and paid homage to those influences without simply re-creating their aesthetics or pulling obvious, direct cues. I also wanted to play a bit on personal experiences where I was able to experience that dazed moment between an event and the inevitable following attempts to rationally explain it. But in that moment, there’s no answer… it’s just fucked, and you’ll never really know why.
Elliot and Andrea seems to fit the concept perfectly, how were they to work with?
Amazing. My shooting style is less about attempting to create a perfect shot and more about creating a scenario, then working within that scenario in collaboration with my team. I’d worked with Drei [Andrea] in the past, and knew that by having her on this shoot I’d get what i needed if all else failed. She has an easy, girl-next-door look and style that works perfectly with how I shoot. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and is quick to adapt to the character I need her to be. Our male, Elliot, has never modelled before, to my knowledge. But I have worked with him while shooting his band, God’s Revolver, for Magnet Magazine. I chose hime based on his personal style. I like to keep my set light and loose, and because of that, I’d rather work with people that can have fun and roll with the punches on set. Elliot is a cool cat and has great style. He killed it for me on this.
You had a pretty cool crew with you, including stylist and makeup artist Jesse Snyder, hair stylist Ashlyn Buchi, producer Mike McCaleb, VHS Specialist Jordan Utley, and of course your assistant Chris Swainston. Have you worked together before?
I worked with a few of the crew this spring in Puerto Rico while shooting another story, Tres Brujas. A lot of what we did with Unidentified was intended to build on some of the ideas explored on that shoot. For Unidentified, I was able to assemble the team from talented people who are also good friends. We spent two dusty days on Highway 6 outside Ely, Nevada, drinking beers, laughing, and sweating together. I love shooting on location, which is generally a lot more work than standing around a studio all day – there are generators to move, trucks to load and unload, weather to compete with, long hours, gas-station lunches, dirty conditions, etc. Working with friends not only helps alleviate the stress of all that, but also usually means that nobody is there simply to collect a check.. they’re friends, and they want to help you realise your vision in a way that y’all can be proud of.
We also asked stylist Jesse Snyder to explain her approach to a project such as Unidentified:
Stone and I wanted to keep the styling super believable, and effortless in a way not to distract you from the story. Fashion that actually exists outside NYC or LA, adding a few looks to elevate things to a fancier, more fucked-up level at certain points. We also chose some pieces with geometric subtlety to help add to the ethereal aspects of the plot.