Montrealer Yuli Sato spends her time creating photographs of unseen other worlds with an assortment of thrifted vintage cameras. Yuli studies at Concordia University. Her photos are haunting but beautiful, often taking place in deserted snowy forests, upon grassy hilltops, or in empty indoor swimming pools. Yuli talks to WORN about butterfly clips, school uniforms and chai lattes.
What’s the last fashion publication you read?
Lula, but I haven’t actually looked through it thoroughly yet even though I got it a few months ago. I love the overall aesthetic; they’re not as concerned with showing the clothes in a commercial way and its general mood lures me in. I also dig the interviews.
How has your style changed since elementary school?
Quite a bit. I grew up in the ’90s, so I was obsessed with wearing those woven plastic necklaces. Platform sneakers and butterfly clips were also big for me. I think I was a little too young to really get the full effect of the ’90s, but my sister is three years older and was such a ’90s teen – it was so fantastic. She rocked bell-bottom jeans, cropped tanks and flannel.
I’ve been trying to move toward a more classic look lately, so I only buy things I know I will like in five or ten years, as opposed to something super trendy. If I ever feel like dressing a little crazy, I’ll shop at a thrift store so I don’t feel guilty if I don’t end up liking things in the long run. I just bought an amazing Navajo print blazer, a floral maxi dress, black maxi skirt, and a few giant men’s sweaters at Goodwill for less than $20.
How did attending a boarding school with uniforms affect your personal style?
There wasn’t much room for having fun and experimenting. It was so easy getting up and throwing on knee-high socks, a skirt, polo and blazer, but it definitely got boring after a while. It certainly made me appreciate fashion more – in my first year of university I wore a lot of crazy outfits to make up for lost time.
Heels or flats?
Heels if I could wear them every day. Alas, my feet cannot handle wearing heels so I suppose I’ll have to say flats, though I’m trying to train myself to wear heels at night so I don’t come home and collapse from foot pain.
If you had to dress like a lunchbox item, what would it be and what would you wear?
An extra large chai latte: all neutrals and maybe a light colored beret!
What is your favorite photo series? Why is it special?
“Ghost” from 2009. I wanted something creepy but still nostalgic and beautiful. It was a cold, November weekend and my good friend Amanda (the model in the series) and I went to my house on the Ottawa River and worked for two days straight, waking up at 7 a.m. to take photos by the river, then going over to our family friend’s place to shoot in their huge old house.
Where do you find inspiration for your photography?
At the moment I love photographers Annette Pehrsson and Hannah Davis. I’m also becoming interested in installation and environmental art – Andy Goldsworthy is an environmental artist from Britain whose film Rivers and Tides is just beautiful. I love the idea of art being transitory and I’m beginning to think of ways I can experiment with these ideas in my own work.
What role does fashion play in your work?
I want to get just the right amount of dreaminess, and clothes can either make it or break it. I want the viewer to immerse themselves in my photographs, and sometimes when the clothes are too over the top I find it distracting. As I deal with subjects surrounding childhood, nostalgia and girlhood, clothing is an important and considered contribution to the atmosphere I’m creating.
Interview by Alyssa Garrison
Photos by Yuli Sato