He may have a reputation for being inscrutable, but Hedi Slimane is an open book indeed. Hedi Slimane Diary is a record of his interests and obsessions, an online photographic journal that the photographer and designer has been running on his website for a decade: from modernist architecture to mosh pits; surfers to street fashion; amplifiers to armpits. With equal elegance, affection and clarity, glorious beaches and scuzzy nightclubs are captured, the diamond-sharp eye of Slimane capturing subjects from ephemera, such as the pin badges on a speaker, to historical objects, such as the platform boots of David Bowie. The Diary is largely monochrome, wide-ranging in nature, taking in portraiture and still life, but its main idea is reportage, a splendid record of the activities of Slimane across youth subcultures, from concerts to clubs to rodeos. None of them are modeled, and there is no post-production, including the portraits. It is kinetic, intensely intimate, and, Slimane says, "very raw."
The Diary moves across the decade from London to Los Angeles, but the passion in the pictures doesn’t change. “We had the English period and then California. In a way they have different sensibilities, a different culture, a different time, but for me it’s still the same youth regardless.”
“I used to spend so much time there in the late 80s and early 90s, which was such a great period in New York. I haven’t been spending enough time to really document it for decades, so maybe I’ll do more things in New York.”
Since childhood, Slimane has been taking photographs; seeing him out and about without a camera in his hand is still very rare. Naturally, Hedi Slimane Diary grew out of his books on Berlin youth and the indie scene of the early 2000s, and then Rock Diary, a project he did that recorded the rise of young bands in London over the course of three years. While attending gigs, if not actually on the field, then he is right in the pit, and when he emerges, he's buzzing, he really gets in the thick of the action. Nothing but a work of love is the Hedi Slimane Diary.
“The idea of finding a subject, a character in a crowd, I’ve been doing for so long that it’s really immediate,” he says. “The sense of grace—you see it in a crowd and I notice them right away.”
Hedi Slimane Diary is an incredible, changing record of the life and sensitivity of one, but what it essentially shows is how constant the objects of his affection are - the joy generated by coming together to dance, listen to music, and form your own scene with a bunch of likeminded people. The moments are brief, but their archetypal essence, the eternal, youthful search for a sense of belonging, identity and fun, shows the accuracy of the pictures.
A diary is an open-ended project, but will Slimane’s come to an end? “Sometimes I’ve thought that I wanted to stop it,” he admits. “When Instagram started, I thought, ‘this is really close to what social media is becoming.’ There was even a moment where I wanted to shut down the entire website—to produce the same amount of work but keep it archived without any public view. The obsession with social media almost provoked the inverse reaction for me, where I think the idea of keeping creative material preserved is maybe an answer. But I still haven’t done that. I’m debating it. I guess now it’s more of a tradition, the Diary. There’s a little community that’s in the Diary that can come there and look at their own pictures. It’s almost a way to keep everyone in contact.”