Tomas Loewy talks about cameras the way Romeo talked about Juliet, minus the Shakespearean prose.
The photographer’s romance with his profession has greatly flourished, from working with a camera that had fewer megapixels than an iPhone, to shooting with his beloved Canon EOS 5D Mark III. But Loewy’s romance grew complicated when he first laid eyes on the dazzling painted walls of Miami’s Wynwood Art District. He wanted to share his love with the illustrious walls but, at first, he didn’t know how.
“When I start something like this, I never imagine where it may lead,” Loewy explained. “At first, I thought I’d photograph all of the walls. Then, I thought, even if I start doing that, it’s just going to become a catalogue and who really cares? There would be no life. Even if the walls themselves are beautiful, I’m going to get bored because I would be taking pictures of walls. Then I had to ask, what is going to make this interesting?”
With his photographer’s eye for aesthetics, Loewy finally imagined the perfect ingredients to complement the Wynwood Walls: beautiful people and designer clothing. These elements are far from scarce in Miami and Loewy easily finds them. With this recipe, FashionArtWalls was born.
A year and more than 100 walls later, FashionArtWalls will debut on Monday, Dec. 3, at the Perry Hotel in South Beach. It will be on display that week as part of Art Basel week on Miami Beach.
Aside from being the inspiration for Loewy’s latest work, the Wynwood Walls have quickly become part of Miami’s identity and a must-see for visitors. The walls have changed the original idea of street art as a subversive nuisance. “This is not graffiti,” Loewy said. “When people think of graffiti, they think of people having to run away before they can finish their work. Some street artist’s just paint their names in a very cocky way. That’s boring. The Wynwood Walls are different – they started when people commissioned artists to do beautiful murals.”
Loewy’s latest collection of photographs clearly conveys the soul of Miami: gorgeous models pout seductively in designer Ema Savahl’s couture; the loud personas of DJs Irie, Carl Cox and Tatiana Fontes complement the explosive walls; naked, gold-painted models and randomly passing Miamians also add to the South Florida flavor. Loewy appreciates spontaneity in his recent work, as long as it happens in front of the walls.
“These are absolutely intricate walls,” Loewy said, adding that he doesn’t know what, if anything, the Wynwood wall artists are saying about his new work. He is less interested in developing any partnerships and more interested in using the public walls to complement or enhance the beauty of his own work. Moreover, the liberal, feral nature of Wynwood allows him to shoot there without a permit and with few police interrogations.
With a background in television and film, Loewy enjoys a worldly perspective. He’s done Miami for ten years, but was born in Prague. He’s lived in Buenos Aires, Munich, and New York and speaks Czech, German, Spanish, and English, but affably smiles when he admits he “cannot explain the English past predicate.”
During a recent windy shoot, Loewy adapts to the weather. “Well, we don’t need a fan for effect,” he says. Model Cerise Lorelle Zhvania admires the Ema Savahl dress she’s wearing for the shoot. “Give me anything with multiple textures and I’ll think it’s awesome,” Zhvania says. “I would say it makes me feel springy if that wasn’t so cliché.”
Focused like a laser-beam, Loewy stops to adjust his camera and looks to model Ebonique Stepney, who is adjusting her stocking. “Let’s do the stocking thing again,” he instructs. “That looks good. The color combination with you and the background is perfect.”
“Now, show me joy . . . perfect.”
Photographer Tomas Loewy shoots a model for his FashionArtWalls project. Photo: Kyle Teal