With the patience of a saint and sniper shooting precision, photographer Niko Mrtj (@niko_mrtj) hung around at the end of Burberry's September London Fashion Week show to capture these vivid moments; of high profile models off duty after slipping into something more comfortable. The outdoor fashion show was hosted in London's Highbury Fields and showcased Burberry's Spring 2024 ready-to-wear collection under the British brand's very own tartan covered tent.
Presented uniformly in monochrome, Niko's photographs provide behind the scenes glimpses of a handful of the diverse high profile models such as Adwoa Aboah, Sang Woo and Adut Akech, to name but a few, who paraded the Men's and Women's wear designs down Burberry's canopied runway. In some of Niko's digital stills, the models are caught mingling with one-another, but in others, the photographer manages to secure direct eye contact between a few of the models and her camera lens which makes for more intimate, intriguing and undeniably commanding photographs.
Within her photography Niko says her focus "lies in capturing the essence of women through a lens that veers away from conventional notions of sexiness. I am drawn to the subtleties of sensuality and the diverse energies that women embody" and this photoset is a testament to her perspective, as she presents an unparalleled selection of women models that each exude their own energy. Even though the greyscale colour palette of bold, dark, grunge-like tones works in tandem with the ingrained businesslike, poker faced energy that many of the models still possess in front of the camera even while 'off duty', many of Niko's behind the scenes shots contrast against their duties as London Fashion Week models. Meaning to be mannequin-like and void of their own personalities. She "seeks to capture genuine moments" and her camera unveils a more human-like aura to many of the models, emphasised as they dress with style and comfort at the core of their post-runway looks. Also because of Niko's swift ability to catch a variety of facial expressions, emotions and activities on camera; from smiles to mobile phone use and even a cheeky wave.
"Exploring the unique nature of individuals, I aim to unveil the authenticity and depth of each subject, allowing them to express a spectrum of characters."
Niko "kept kit light" and opted for a DSLR camera, specifically the Nikon D850, paired with a 50mm lens. This is a great focal length for capturing photos where people are the main subject because its perspective is most true to what the human eye sees. Environments and faces can be photographed with minimal distortion, allowing the subject to translate accurately across from the real world to a photo. The 50mm, paired with a seemingly wide aperture allowed Niko to compose stand out images and she worked with her equipment to isolate her subjects, oftentimes framing them in the centre to emphasise them as the focal point.
Noticeably the lighting is also extremely soft and flattering, almost always evenly spread with equally soft shadows casted, creating subtle under chin shadows for many of the models as the clouds, surrounding trees and buildings disperse the daylight. Niko relied on available light (daylight) as her light source and didn't use any internal or external flash. With daylight dwindling by the minute and sunset approaching, she took the environment in her stride even though this could have proven tricky. Camera shake and motion blur become issues when shooting in anything less than optimal lighting conditions, and this environment can result in blurry photos, especially when shooting moving subjects like cars, animals and people. With dwindling light also occurs a need to increase the camera's ISO, leading to grain and pixelation which can be unflattering and ruin an image.
In Niko's case, it's evident in some of her photos that the environment was technically working against her - yes, there is visible motion blur, for example, as model Yoon Young Bae walks through the frame, however within the genre of street photography, motion blur can be more forgiving as it portrays a bustling atmosphere or allows room for imagination on what the subject is doing and how they're moving around their environment. As for grain, the graininess of Niko's images when paired with the overall black and white effect adds a beautiful texture and depth to each shot and makes for more candid images, tying into Models Off Duty. Niko faces these technicalities and stylises them, capturing striking moments with minimal equipment whilst making her London Fashion Week photos dynamic, freeing and excitingly unpredictable.
LFW models pictured:
Adut Akech Bior, Adwoa Aboah, Choi So-Ra, Yoon Young Bae, Park Soo-Joo, Yoonmi Sun, Kai Isaiah Jamal, Mayowa Nicholas, Mona Tougaard, Sang Woo