The idea for London-born photographer Scarlett Casciello's Numero Berlin shoot, based on a Bauhaus-inspired video found online, was a concept she had been sitting on for a while. Featuring characters wearing dramatic costumes and cylinders on their heads, moving in bizarre ways, Casciello was inspired by the set design, the makeup and the theatricality of it all. Mostly though, it was the unnerving sense of not quite knowing what was happening in the video. She wanted to create a story that made the viewer feel the same way.
Established in 1919 by Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus school was a response to the horrors and aftermath of the First World War. It operated until its closure by the Nazis in 1933, working with balanced compositions and abstract shapes, playing with depth and perception to add an innovative dimensionality. Inspired by the freedom of expression and experimentation of the video, Casciello began to work on translating this ethos and these elements into a fashion shoot. She worked closely with stylist Annie Hertikova to start bringing the right team together. Set designer Phoebe Shakespeare, who loved the unpolished feel of the video, suggested creating shapes out of cardboard that had a deliberately handcrafted feel to them.
Always curious about photography from a young age, it was a move from her hometown to Brighton that found Casciello reaching for the camera more frequently as a way to express herself. As a teenager, she began spending more and more time in the darkroom, enjoying the process and discovering a passion for the medium. She eventually pursued Fashion Photography at Falmouth University. Internships soon followed at i-D magazine and Schön, giving her an insight into what it took to put together editorial shoots and how she could get her own work published.
After graduating, she moved to China, a formative period which allowed her the space to experiment and explore the world of commercial photography. Already familiar with Beijing, she had established good relationships with model agency Longteng, shooting their new faces and working with Chinese designers. Casciello moved back to London after two years, where she assisted until taking the leap to shooting full-time. When asked about her creative influences, she references paintings and surrealist works, though admits that anything from a person's face to a personal experience can lead to an idea for a shoot. "There's something very thrilling about having an idea in your head that you don't think anyone else has thought about in this way. There's this rush-y kind of feeling where you try to get it all down on paper and draw imagery from whatever's in your head. I think that process in itself is probably the most exciting part for me."
For this story, she wanted the set to feel like a play, or a circus show. Shooting with continuous lighting allowed her to create an environment that most closely replicated this, without the distraction of flash. She also experimented with handheld torches on the day, fortuitously found in her assistant's bag. Her direction to the models? "Be playful. It's okay to laugh and almost act like you've lost your mind in this bizarre world you can't make sense of." This playfulness comes across in the story and the models' ease in their environment. The final images, though greatly varied in terms of composition and design, are harmonised by the unifying pops of primary colour. The Bauhaus movement had a significant impact on photography as an art form. It represented a shift in style, from documentation to a more creative aesthetic, something vividly clear in Cirque des Couleurs, and an approach which Scarlett Casciello seems to fully embrace as a photographer.