What Is Places + Faces?
What Is Places + Faces?
- Words Grailed Team
- Date July 22, 2019
What exactly constitutes a brand? Is it clothing? Perhaps a following? Or, in fact, is it something more ephemeral? With Places + Faces, the answer is all of the above. What originated as a hip-hop photography blog has become a worldwide phenomenon, a collection of images, events, merchandise and social media accounts that is ingrained in the culture as a whole. From Boiler Room DJ sets to pop-ups in some of the most celebrated men’s fashion boutiques in the world, the brand is seemingly everywhere, hanging out with the most notable figures in the industry where ever it goes. No longer focused solely around London and New York, from Lagos to Tokyo Places + Faces is building a community of followers obsessed with every aspect of the brand. With only a DSLR, a few point-and-shoot cameras—and a good bit of hustle—the brand has managed to create a movement that eagerly anticipates the (pun not intended) Places and Faces that will show up next. Yet, before the massive instagram following and Guess Jeans collab, the brand began the way most viral creative endeavors do: on Tumblr.
What is Places + Faces?
Founded in 2013 by college friends Imran Ciesay and Solomon Boyede (aka Ciesay and Soulz), the project began when Ciesay spent a summer in New York living with a family relative. While initially interested in videography, Ciesay felt that medium too boring and time consuming, and instead chose to focus on photography. Constantly attending hip-hop shows, he parlayed an old blog he founded two years prior into an excuse to enter the press booth. Before long, the 20-something began masquerading as a photographer from London shooting for so-and-so outlet, finessing AAA (All Access Area) passes at notable shows across New York. With only a DSLR, he worked to score non-traditional images that set him apart from other show photographers.
As a kid vehemently passionate about the scene and artists he was shooting, his approach was experience first, focusing on what he felt his peers wanted to see rather than the sort of shots that end up in glossy magazines. The results were well received and when he realized that with enough confidence he could talk his way into basically anywhere, he contacted Soulz back in their native London and convinced him to do the same. Over the next three month period, the two began shooting shows in their respective cities, uploading everything to their nascent Tumblr account: Places + Faces.
Named after the pattern which they caption every photo—Place: [Location] + Face: [Person]—the account began to attract a cult following as Ciesay and Soulz documented the local scene of each city in their preferred 35mm film format. Yet, everything changed when Ciesay coincidentally ran into A$AP Ferg in an elevator. On the way to shoot a local Brooklyn rapper on a rooftop, instead of simply snapping a pick of the Trap Lord and being on his way, Ciesay managed to score an invite to the studio where he formed an early relationship with the A$AP Mob, who were just beginning to blow up. Around the same time, Soulz—who already had relationships with local artists—was making inroads with the Grime scene, and within a year everyone from Rocky to Skepta and Stormzy were popping up on this rapidly growing Tumblr page. People began to notice that the two were on to something when their patented flash heavy, saturated and noise filled film portraits regularly went viral. Then, during a Paris Fashion Week after party, Ciesay happened to make eye contact with Kanye West. “I guess we kind of had this weird eye contact, and he called me over...I didn’t want to stay there for too long so I asked if I could take a couple pictures before I left,” Ciesay said to The Fader. That picture changed everything. Suddenly, there wasn’t an artist who hadn’t heard of Places + Faces. The Tumblr account was global.
In order to both spread awareness and put a face to, well, Places + Faces, Ciesay and Soulz produced a small run of branded tees and hoodies which they wore out shooting. While they never intended to sell them, Wiz Khalifa incidentally fell in love with the logo hoodie when he randomly bumped into Ciesay, who just so happened to have a spare in his backpack. Once the rapper wore the pink 3M pullover, demand skyrocketed and the requests came flooding in. The two realized that merch was a prime way to fund their constant traveling and foray into print—the two began publishing zines and, eventually, magazines—so they began selling a full run of hoodies, T-shirts and branded fanny packs. Within a few years, the two began experimenting with the idea of cut-and-sewn pieces, and last year launched the first full ready-to-wear Places + Faces collection.
Eschewing traditional wholesale, the clothing—denim jackets, track pants, gillets and, eventually, a collaboration with Guess Jeans—was available exclusively through the online webstore and a series of pop-ups. With production ranging from Asia to Portugal, and utilizing treatments to give T-shirts the duo’s preferred vintage look, the full blown collection was far beyond what most fans anticipated. While prior drops where more akin to budget streetwear competitors M+Rc Noir and Anti Social Social Club, this new collection felt similar to the aesthetic contemporaries like Heron Preston and C2H4 were exploring. Clearly utilitarian in nature, the limited color palette was a far cry from the reflective 3M hoodies and dad caps the duo started slinging four years prior.
Alongside each pop-up was a party, where musicians and DJs in the Places + Faces network often made guest appearances. Building off this energy, the duo began to DJ and host events themselves (which, of course, they photographed) eventually developing + Sounds, a platform to showcase new talent and music documented on a Soundcloud page. By the end of last year, with ready-to-wear, limited merch and events under its wing, the industry recognized Places + Faces as a tenet of the culture—far removed from a humble Tumblr account.
Earlier this year, the two took "+ Sounds" on the road, appearing as the opening act during Amine’s European tour. While after years of partying with industry heads the two can most assuredly curate a vibe, stepping out center stage—rather than shooting an artist behind it—is a bold move. Yet, at this point it is only a natural progression. The two (Ciesay in particular) have become celebrities themselves. Seeing them at a concert or event is as sure a sign as any that you are in the right place. Today, the Places + Faces duo's presence is an indication that something noteworthy will take place. + Sounds, whether it's at the Amine show or a small free rave, is now the sort of event that Ciesay used to lie to sneak into, and showcases the ever-evolving nature of the brand. It’s this ephemeral quality that makes Places + Faces so successful. In 2019, every brand is attempting to reposition itself. Everyone wants to be a lifestyle brand. Yet, Ciesay and Soulz have ensured that Places + Faces is in and of itself a lifestyle—exactly why they are two steps ahead.
With each drop, tour, event and image, Places + Faces continues to expand and exert its influence. Almost as difficult to obtain as it is to define, the clothing is not only part of a new generation of homegrown streetwear, but as clear a sign as any that you are in the know. Now just as prevalent as the artists they once struggled to photograph, the two creatives have carved out their own space within the industry and, in all likelihood, as their brand develops—no matter how you define it—it will do the same.