“I’ve always loved having an obstacle course,” says stylist Katie Burnett over the phone from her Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, apartment, where she’s been self-isolating for the past month. It’s here that Burnett, known for lending her exacting magpie aesthetic to the likes of Vogue Italia, Holiday, and More or Less, has been creating striking self-portraits, using just an iPhone and an assortment of everyday objects she happens to have on hand.
“It’s funny to take things I normally would never really use, just things I’ve had lying around the house or had in my styling kit,” says Burnett, who’s transformed underarm sweat pads into a face mask, pierced bra inserts with a handful of sculptural earrings, and clipped barrettes leftover from a photoshoot onto her fingertips. But if the props seem ordinary to begin with, one would never suspect it from the final black-and-white product, which she manipulates through a process of printing, scanning, and re-printing to give the personality and irregular subtleties of film. “I really like something that has a timeless sensibility,” she muses. “I like to feel a bend in the paper or something a little off.”
Naturally, her images, which she shares with her 15,000 followers on Instagram, have begun to catch the eye of brands eager to find a way to create content in the midst of the pandemic. Last month, she shot a campaign for the jewelry label Agmes. For Burnett, the thrill, or perhaps even magic, has come from transforming the confines of quarantine into a space for creative experimentation. “I can try a bunch of different things, or quickly work on something, and then drop it,” explains Burnett, who’s also started painting shapewear and is collaborating on a book with a friend in London. For once, “There’s no pressure. It’s been really fun to just play.”