Photographer Prod Antzoulis In Conversation With Creative Peer Katrine Hanna

Returning to the Middle East and the ‘self’.

Photographer Prod Antzoulis makes work that we deeply admire — we were so stoked to feature his images in Oyster #115 (and see him work with Gucci!) and very proud to chat with him about the dynamics of creativity and self-expression while working in the Middle East. Recently, he collaborated with his creative peer, and designer, Katrine Hanna — who Oyster also happens to be a major fan of thank to her incorporating moon magic and Australian botanicals into very cool footwear.

“It’s the first time I am photographed in this way,” Katrine tells us of the following images her and Prod created together, in which they both finessed vintage items sourced between Beirut, Dubai, Cyprus and Australia. “Our aesthetics join together to create something special.” Heck yeah they do.

Along with the images, which truly burn with admiration, Katrine and Prod appear below in conversation about returning to the Middle East and the ‘self’, creative careers and the power of support, and, well, hummus.

Katrine Hanna: That’s not hummus its foul…
Prod Antzoulis: Its hummus mixed with foul no? It’s so good

Yeah…anyway it’s funny you’re wearing that shirt, especially with the drawing of the camel with the Bedouin: ‘We came to move on’
That’s funny you pointed it out, do you feel this relates to us being here?

I feel like it relates to us when we came back here — from where we were, to come back and move on from where we left. Does that make sense? We both grew up here pretty much. I moved here when I was 4 from Australia. We’ve seen Dubai literally grow from the desert, to the multicultural hub that it has become in the Middle East. I use to live on the highway where it was all desert.
It almost feels like a real life Jetson’s dystopia. Now, does that make sense? It’s changed so much though as we’ve grown up and even more when we came back from London.

I guess that’s what’s exciting. Dubai definitely gave us a huge drive to grow into our careers since the city was growing so progressively around us. It was super encouraging, and it’s nice that we are growing together with it. I got excited to start learning and living in Dubai in a way that was different to when I grew up here. I had to adjust and rediscover it.
I was so keen at the time on getting back in touch with my roots. Through the beauty of discovering who I was, I realised how much inspiration I had given myself by taking that decision.

I feel like it’s this bigger element where we’re not just trying to help ourselves get further in our careers it’s a lot about helping the culture that grew up here progress simultaneously with the city. I get asked a lot if I feel pressure on changing the stereotypical image that the west may have of the region, but no, it’s the opposite for me, it inspires me to just create true genuine work that is beautiful and truly represents what currently exists in our generation. As I do my practice I feel like you do the same with your footwear brand in the sense of combining all of the elements from your upbringing into beautiful collections that represent your identity.

Yeah for sure. Currently I have been spending a lot of time between here and Beirut and I see both environments join together through my brand. Dubai, is constantly striving for luxury, development and growth. I see this in my choice of shoe factory, constantly developing my designs and samples and achieving quality in my product. I’ve always been inspired by the making process and the transition a product or material goes through before it becomes the final piece. It’s that ever evolving and development that was happening around us growing up in Dubai that I see reflected through my work and process of working. As for Lebanon it ties in my love for nature and the outdoors. I create that balance with the luxury quality, bringing more of my organic personality through my collections and aesthetic.
It’s so interesting to hear your perspective on how Dubai has affected you, it definitely feels relatable. It took me so long to really come to terms with the fact that we are people that will always struggle with our identities. Which is okay! I’ve learnt to use it to my advantage now. You mentioned earlier how diverse Dubai is and I totally agree with that. From that and throughout the process of growing up here I feel like it really taught us how to be okay with all social surroundings. It really is a skill, to be socially aware, and to be able to adapt to different environments.

What are important experiences in Dubai that you feel shaped your career?

Hmmm one of them is definitely my brand being in Level Shoes – the biggest shoe department store in the world that’s in the biggest mall in the world: Dubai Mall. That sounds so crazy. I never really step back to think of that. It’s great because it’s such a multicultural destination; it exposes me globally. And that’s another thing about Dubai that has shaped me: how multicultural it is. It’s made me such an adaptable person and interested in many different aspects of culture. The mix of cultures has really influenced my ideas and opened up many new doors for discovery.
Working with Gucci, was a childhood dream. Growing up I always wanted to work with the brand – my mum is a huge fashion collector so I’ve grown up with vintage pieces around me. The most recent project I did with them is definitely top 3 for me. For the first time I was given the chance to creative direct/produce/style and shoot my first solo campaign in print. They gave me full trust, which was a feeling I had never experienced before. Trust is a super important element to my work, especially when working on commissioned projects. The client really has to put their trust in what I photograph – they don’t have the ability to preview any of the images. It makes my job a lot more enjoyable and in the process also ignites beautiful relationships with many of my subjects.

Yes, having that support is great. The creative community is very present and it’s really great to share your ideas and support each other. It makes such a difference to grow within a community where you are surrounded by creative innovation. It results in more fruitful and exciting growth as a designer. You mould and understand yourself within the environment. It feels really great to be part of that growth in this city, especially in particular the fashion industry.
GQ Middle east has also been an incredible experience – the team in Dubai has such a powerful dynamic. They really give me the creative freedom to incorporate a lot of the elements of my upbringing into their platform – whether it’s fashion editorials or highlighting unique individuals who are based in the region. We definitely share the same vision – which is what makes it so beautiful. It’s so important to be surrounded and supported by people who really believe in your work.

Including people like you, who I met when I came back here and we got to collaborate. Doing the shoot we did was my classic idea of a beautiful collaboration. We’ve literally been heating it up for many years. And we know each other’s aesthetic so strongly it made sense. We did it at the right time – it felt so beautifully organic.

Yeah, I love collaborating when you know the other person’s aesthetic and you know yours and you respect both and create something special. The whole thing was so easy, we chose the outfits super fast together because the sun was setting!!! The sun setting is one of those things I feel I need to be part of everyday. I always freak when there’s a chance I may miss it. But yeah, it was so effortless and chill. It was the best way to work together and so much fun.

Images: Prod Antzoulis
Fashion: Katrine Hanna and Prod Antzoulis