Janette Beckman photographed the New Pandemics Spring/Summer 2019 show package, revealed exclusively on Document Online.
“Dylan, whenever you’re ready,” shouted Janette Beckman– the photographer who captured The Clash, Debbie Harry, The Beastie Boys, Salt ‘N Pepa, Keith Haring and more, as well as youth culture in the UK and New York – at Pier59 Studios last month . Dylan, dressed in a sequined romper and yellow choker, immediately rose to pose for Beckman, who stood in front of him on his knees, armed with a camera, while footage from the 1980s which included the iconic Jean-Paul Goude island life Grace Jones album cover, voguers posing and Whitney Houston 1987 cover for her album Whitney hanging on the nearby moodboard.
Dylan, who was pictured for the New Pandemics Spring/Summer 2019 show package, is one of the LGBTQ models portrayed by New pandemics, which, according to its website, is “a casting and management agency dedicated to increasing LGBTQ+ visibility.” A pandemic is defined as an outbreak of a pandemic disease, and that’s likely why its founder, casting director Cody Chandler, named it New Pandemics when he launched the agency last spring. Document asked Chandler about his reasons for starting New Pandemics, the challenges of being LGBTQ+ in the modeling world, and the companies that have been quick to support him.
Anne Binlot—You worked as a casting agent for years. Why did you think there was a need for New Pandemics?
Cody Chandler—Several situations formed the basis of New Pandemics. First and foremost, I realized there was a need for a mediator in the casting and management space. This takes many forms, from ensuring that clients list the models’ preferred pronouns on the call sheet, to simply realizing that there has been a whole pool of talent overlooked and underrepresented by the agencies. The whole problem started with the notion of “mass appeal” in marketing models. Within the fashion industry, this has led to many agents removing models and dissuading them from being transparent about their orientation, all to pacify a wide range of clients for a quick price. Who said a non-binary queer model in a Calvin Klein commercial couldn’t be a suburban teen’s dream?
Binlot—How has the company been since you started last spring? How has the industry reacted?
Chandler—In fact, we only launched the agency in May this year – we’ve been around the world for almost five months. It has been an interesting trip, to say the least, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive for the most part. I think for the Queer community itself, there was this sense of…ultimately, at least that was the general tone of the emails we received. Dizzy [& Confused] immediately offered their support, with O and Models.com following shortly thereafter. The influx of projects has been steady and I am truly grateful to the brands and publications that jumped on board from day one.
Binlot—Where did you find your models? Have they been signed with conventional agencies? Or do you focus on street casting?
Chandler—It’s really a mix – some have been spotted on the street, on Instagram, friends have been suggested, etc. Amazingly, queer talent seeking representation found us in overwhelming numbers – and between Instagram and emails, we received just under 2,000 submissions.
Binlot—What types of labels have cast your models?
Chandler—Levi’s, Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Converse, Opening Ceremony, Noah Clothing, and more, there are also a few upcoming projects in the streetwear space.
Binlot—Are your models chosen more in editorials or commercial shoots?
Chandler—Good question. We have had a large influx of editorial requests, but we are extremely selective for this purpose. Commercial customers have been on board from the start and it is important to have a balance between the two. The goal is to support talent signed with New Pandemics and allow them to reinvest in their individual pursuits, while delivering high-quality, creatively fulfilling work.
Binlot—If a model encounters an issue regarding her sexual orientation on set or in the industry, how do you handle the situation?
Chandler—We respond to this primarily by being proactive to prevent a situation from occurring in the first place. With the agency as a mediator, this is where I hope the models feel empowered and supported in the event such a situation arises. It can come down to educating the customer by having tough conversations and opening up that talk, I think it really serves the industry and the community to prevent future similar occurrences. Overall, the agency relieves the model if they feel uncomfortable standing up for themselves.
Binlot—Why did you choose Janette Beckman for this season’s show package?
Chandler—Ian Crane, who became co-creative director this time around, originally suggested Janette. When we were browsing through the many names of photographers we thought were aligned with New Pandemics, the spirit of Janette’s work immediately resonated. Janette has a solid foundation in documentary photography, and we knew her approach would be more stripped down and focused on the subject. From his iconic images of New York artists like Keith Haring to punk and hip-hop icons, his work speaks for itself and looks effortlessly engaging.
Binlot—What are the biggest challenges you have encountered so far?
Chandler—Most of them have been ideological. There is the challenge of preserving queer identity and culture and resisting the urge to fully assimilate. The other challenge is surprisingly reaching out to queer creatives, including photographers and designers who have grown accustomed to their positions and feel the struggle for LGBT+ liberation is over. I don’t want to sound like a Pentecostal preacher on Sunday, but the truth is that about 50 years ago it was illegal for us gays to congregate in bars in New York City. under 30, we were at the height of the AIDS crisis – and now with the current conservative political climate, we have the threat of religious freedom bills and changes to the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid, which would disproportionately affect community members living with HIV and AIDS. It’s not in the spirit of projecting a heavy tone, but it’s a simple reminder that so many Queer people have sacrificed their comfort, stability, and lives to get us to where we are now. To deny this and not do our part as creatives in the digital age to uplift the community seems unfathomable.
Binlot—What’s next after fashion week?
Chandler—The 2018 midterm elections [on November 6], go vote please.