Alexa Chung and Ben Rayner Disturb the Peace for Refinery29
Libraries are traditionally filled with stressed out grad students, curious kids, and newspaper flipping retirees. But just recently the Brooklyn Historical Society Library also welcomed British actress, host, author, model, and general wunderkind Alexa Chung. She was there with Ben Rayner shooting a feature to go along her Refinery29 interview with Chelsea Handler. The result is an all-star affair. Alexa is known for her grace and propensity for fashion, but that’s something that she doesn’t treat too preciously as she reveals in the interview. Ben wanted to plumb that for the shoot. “It was centered around the theme of behaving badly in the library,” says Ben. “It was a little bit cheeky, a little bit fun. And because she’s such a great personality she lent well to this and I think that really helped a lot. It just made everything easy.”
Disruption is impossible to plan for, and a wild day doesn’t follow a schedule. So when Ben met Chung at the library, instead of following a rigid program of events, they kept it loose and allowed it to develop as the day went on. “We started with a theme that was a good starting point and then it was built upon a little bit more on the day,” explains Ben. “The location definitely shifts the mood, makes it feel sort of vintagey which I think fits with her.” Ben didn’t just shoot still images, but also created a short video called “Quiet, Please” that follows Chung’s loud and brash exploits in the library from carving portraits on the desk, to experimenting with a practical orchestra of instruments, to partaking in a Happy Birthday phone call. It’s a lot, and it’s loud, and it’s a lot of fun.
Pulling off a story as expressive this can be a challenge, It takes real vulnerability to explore creatively, and the rapport between photographer and subject is crucial for success. Luckily, Chung and Ben go way back. “We’ve worked together a lot over the years, she’s also a good friend of mine,” explains Ben. “She’s great to work with. She’s really great at stuff like this. She’s really naturally funny which brings a lot to the table. Her humor and personality are like perfectly suited to something like this.”
The images are great fun, but don’t forget to check out the video at the end!