Distorted, beautiful and unfolding visions are normal for the set designer Ms Pedan. She is a constant in the magazine world, including Another Magazine and Dazed & Confused, working with the likes of Hayley Weir and Ben Toms. She is equally sort after by various houses such as Simone Rocha and Claire Barrow. She pushes new realms in the photos we see today, of which we see as the inspiration for tomorrow.
In characteristically blunt scenes, you apply your distorted but beautiful visions. How is your imagination?
My imagination? I’m not sure. I know my brain a bit. I know that I notice a lot of details in my surroundings. I also seem to be able to spin out a fine silk thread between things, connect matter that does not belong together, and easily shift things or ideas from one context to another. I guess my imagination is like a spiders sticky web.
“Sensational stories” are how we could describe the motives of your beautiful set designs. Are your works a form of dialogue?
Yes, it is always a dialogue. With the photographer primarily, but also the stylist or art-director or other people involved in the shoot. I always work in a group, and that is something very exciting for me compared to solitary art-practice. It is a jumping electrical loop between brains. One of the skills of my job is to be able to participate in this group-dynamic and to be able to amplify the interesting subtleties people are ex- pressing rather than shutting them down.
How does your work unfold when working creatively with a photographer? How do you compose your set designs? Based on what?
It is so different from one case to another. Sometimes I get a fairly clear instruction, and just execute it with a hint of my style. And sometimes the ideas develop in a dialogue. The standard is that the photographer sends over a moodboard consisting of images. It can be very literal or very abstract. And I have to guess my way around what it is that they are after. Some photographers leave me to it and we work in a very touch-go sort of fashion. Others want things to be more rigid and require drawings and photographs of the developments.
What intrigues you the most?
Nature. Every time I make the effort to understand something in physics, biology etc., I’m blown away by the beauty of this unfolding universe.
How do you like your set designs to unfold? Do you like the idea of enforcing a strange provocation to the viewers’ eye?
I’m sensitive to textures and shapes. Environments hold so much information, too much sometimes. I guess when I make something I want people to be able to feel the texture with their vision without touching it. In the commercial image industry we underestimate the intelligence and playfulness of the human brain. I like to engage that if I get a chance.
How would you describe your vision or narrative? The Claire Barrow AW15 campaign, how did this unfold and what did it convey in your eyes?
That was actually a very last minute job. Claire had a fairly developed idea about what she wanted. I think in that case I just amplified her universe by choosing the right way of realizing it. Claire has a very effortless gut reaction type of creativity and just joined the ride.
“One of the skills of my job is to be able to participate in this group dynamic and to be able to amplify the interesting subtitles people are express- ing rather than shutting them down.”
Are you an avid reader?
Yeah I try to read as much as I can, though it takes a special kind of discipline to do that nowadays. Like shutting off your smart-phone! Reading is an antidote to the things that I find depressing in our current situation. It is an antidote to a form of cultural solitude that one can feel as a young person in a world that feels vulgar and destructive at times.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m just on the last pages of Narcissus and Goldmund by Herman Hesse. But since I work a lot in my workshop and my hands are too busy to hold a book I also go through a lot of audio books (though the experience is different from reading!). I’m also listening to “The Kindness of Women” by JG Ballard, a very touching biographical account that gives a lot of clues to the origins of his other books.
Who or what inspires you the most?
I’m very inspired by other artists, Max Ernst is one that I constantly come back to. I’m inspired by the natural world and how animals relate to it through their instincts. I’m inspired by the unique qualities of materials, trying to figure out what they can do, how they want to behave. I’m inspired by the mental explorations of other people.
Is there one particular photo that you look over and over for its beauty and memory?
Most of the photographs I have existed digitally, so it is quite a different way of relating to them compared to the printed versions. I did use to look through a lot of photographs when I was younger. My dad, Misha Pedan, is a photographer and he used to develop the films in a lab at home. Some of my earliest memories are the smells from his lab and the red light bulb. There is one of his photographs of my brother that I always admire and that holds a special place for me.
The photograph is of my brother on the balcony of our home in Ukraine, just before the Soviet Union fell and we moved to Sweden. His sweet smile and blissful pose stand in strong contrast to the bleakness of the foggy landscape. There is something about it that reminds of the sweet ecstasy of a saint…. A love for life that cuts through the surrounding conditions.