PARIS – It may be significant that Hedi Slimane – whose show of his own photographs Sonic runs until 11 January at the YSL Foundation in Paris – was born in 1968, the year of revolution. Appointed the Creative Director of the Yves Saint Laurent in March 2012, he brought about radical change from the moment of his arrival and the brand was re-launched as Saint Laurent Paris in June of that year.

A passionate photographer from the age of 16, his work featured heavily in the new brand’s advertising campaigns. Educated at the famous L’Ecole du Louvre, Hedi rose quickly through the ranks and his new skinny silhouette in 2000 inspired Karl Lagerfeld to lose 90lbs. More recently, he shot the outrageous front cover of the Damien Hirst butterfly tattoo for the first edition of Garage Magazine

Photography and music are Slimane’s joint loves. He has stated that music is ahead of the curve and his inspiration; if this is so, Sonic is the exhibition in which to explore his ideas. While Hedi was at Dior prior to joining YSL, he commissioned young bands, particularly new British groups, to create original soundtracks for catwalk shows. Razorlight's In The Morning was composed especially for the autumn/winter 2005–06 show and, more recently, the Mystic Braves for the men’s SS15 show. Sonic is a further expression of this musical direction, alongside the creation of the Saint Laurent Music Project with artists including Courtney Love, Marianne Faithful and Daft Punk, among others.


The exhibition covers almost 15 years of work; it is divided into London, where Slimane became fascinated by Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse, and more recently, Los Angeles, where he has lived since 2007. Powerful and sometimes raw, a fragile Lou Reed portrait is taken just weeks before his death. His distinctive aviators and tee shirt are like a rock star super structure protecting his mortal form. In another, Courtney Love smokes a cigarette through a wedding veil. Pete Doherty is everywhere.

The projection room is where we enter the mind of the artist; teenagers sit on the floor side by side watching the 5000 images on the blank walls at either end of the room. One for London, one for Los Angeles. They change like the blink of an eye or the close of a shutter. It is like entering Slimane’s stream of consciousness. The images are stolen, grabbed in a momentary glance.


The gaze of a scrub faced freckly teenager stares out, a grungy girl with chipped nails and hole in her tights gazes through the screen with effortless cool. It changes again, back to centre stage, a sweaty rock star, a mosh pit. The open exchange between the camera and the subject is remarkable. The photographs are very natural, and the subjects, who are as often young fans, are completely themselves. 

The authentic nature of the subjects are about as far from the luxurious world of haute couture as it can get and this is absolutely not what you would expect to see in this context. However when you see the couture collection it makes perfect sense. The clothes are divine, deluxe, a fantastic version of what the young people in the photographs are wearing, or what Hedi would like them to wear. 

Hedi Slimane
On view until 11 January 2015
YSL Foundation, Paris