When the filmmaker Daniel Peddle first met his longtime collaborator Stephen Thompson in 1996, it was as a casting director discovering a new face (a role he continues to play, to great effect, today). “I’ll never forget that ‘aha’ moment, approaching this guy with translucent skin, seemingly lit from within. He was literally glowing,” Peddle recalls. “I remember thinking, Hmm, will the fashion world ‘get’ him?” Looking at Thompson, despite his strong jaw and sharp cheekbones, it’s easy to understand Peddle’s initial uncertainty—fashion has not always been known for its acceptance of difference, and Thompson, who has albinism, is certainly unique.
But Thompson has proved the exception to the rule, working steadily in the years since—with appearances in W, i-D, and Wallpaper—and breaking through as the ghostly central presence of Givenchy’s Spring 2011 campaign. His experience in the industry has, in turn, helped inspire his recent work as a rapper, a form of expression he has pursued since his time as a teenager growing up in ’90s Brooklyn. As ALBiON, Thompson released his début album Stephen Thompson Is ALBiON last summer, a collection of songs he describes as a “thought-out groove of storytelling and lyricism over unbelievably tight beats, always abiding by the union of Style and Content.”
One of the key tracks on the album is “Cards,” a song Peddle says he was drawn to by its metaphorical possibilities. “As a casting director, the song had a special meaning,” he explains. “With twenty years under my belt, I have seen literally hundreds of thousands of faces on model cards. Alas, it is an endless stream. So I thought it would be fun to unleash that ‘flood’ on the viewer.” In an exclusive music video, that’s exactly what Peddle and his editor Karim López did, splicing together over three thousand model digitals into an endless, whirling frenzy of faces. “Your eye can’t keep up, and that is the point,” he explains. “Our goal was to create a piece of art, and perhaps to challenge the notion of what one thinks a model is, and yet to establish that there is a template for beauty. The stream dilutes individual quirks, and yet the overall effect may leave you thinking, Models sure are weird-looking.”
Thompson makes his own well-timed appearances, rapping in stop-motion over a slick down-tempo beat. “I look at myself as delivering my verses like a tenor saxophone player pulling out the important notes of a phrase,” he says of his performance style, “making choices, sticking with them. I aim for my music to have superb articulation and movement which you can either forget about and just enjoy, or pay attention to.” “Cards” is as an apotheosis of sorts for Peddle and Thompson’s partnership, the fulfillment of both of their artistic ambitions and, as Peddle readily admits, a project meant as a show of gratitude to Thompson for scoring his film The Aggressives. And, as any good collaboration should, Thompson notes that Peddle’s vision brought new meaning to the song, adding “some eyebrow-raising layers of interpretation focused on the modeling industry, which is always fun.” But for Peddle, Thompson himself remains the star. Quoting from Sir Thomas Browne’s Religio Medici, he notes that the wonder of the video is “how among so many millions of faces, there should be none alike,” none quite like the “unrivaled, über-unique” one of ALBiON.
For more information, please visit BrooklynALBiON.com.