Vanessa Hollander and Wilson Philippe are Wiissa, a young film-and-photography duo and real-life couple who turned their hobby into a career. Their colorful and dreamy ‘60s- and ‘70s-inspired photography creates a nostalgic feel, and Vanessa says, “A lot of people tell us when they look at our photos that kind of makes them feel like they’re a teenager again.”
Vanessa and Wilson’s story began when they met at the ages of 14 and 15 years old respectively through mutual friends on a small island off Miami, Florida. They gave each other nicknames — Wii and Ssa — and started taking pictures of each other for fun and posting them to Flickr. When Wilson bought Vanessa a film camera for her 16th birthday, they became hooked on photography, and Wiissa was born.
In the beginning, Wilson says, “I didn’t even know what film was. I was like, how do you get that effect? And so that pushed us to research and find things out.” Wiissa started shooting their friends in Miami and planning the look and feel of each shot, from finding the right location to styling to gathering the exact props.
Over time they decided to shoot exclusively on film, even though it was more expensive and meant they were limited on the number of photos they could take. But Wissa believes the extra cost is worth it because “we love how unpredictable it is, the grain, the light leaks, just all the little imperfections that you get from film. I think really makes it more appealing to us than digital.”
Living in Miami and being surrounded by the beach, the ocean, and bright colors, they found themselves incorporating more and more color into their work.
Many of their photos have a vintage flair inspired by fashion and movies of the ‘60s and ‘70s. They’re also influenced by their heritage — Wilson is French and Vanessa is half Brazilian. One of their most memorable shoots, “Band-Aids,” was inspired by the movie “Almost Famous.” Wiissa recreated groupies from the ‘60s and used soft pink tones with a playful feel. They shot it in New York City indoors in winter. And because they were used to shooting outdoors in warm weather near the beach and ocean, Wiissa says it pushed them to do something different, and the end result matched their vision.
Their photography sparked a lot of interest, and soon opportunities started to pour in. They were recently signed to the Los Angeles agency Nouvelle Vague, and they’ve worked with musician Julian Casablancas and have had their photos featured in Nylon, Oyster, and Harper’s Bazaar Spain magazines, and Urban Outfitters. And on October 1, they won for strongest portfolio at the inaugural Flickr 20under20 event, a celebration of the 20 most talented young photographers on Flickr.
Currently splitting their time between New York City and Los Angeles, they have found that working together and dating is pretty easy. Vanessa says, “I think, if anything, it just makes it easier that we’re a couple … I think we’re really lucky, because we can be together 24/7 and we don’t hate each other. It’d be hard for us to do it without each other.”
Together now for almost six years, Wiissa hopes people enjoy their photos for what they are — colorful, bright, and happy.
Visit Wiissa’s photostream to see more of their photography.
Previous episode: Cancer survivor conquers fear through photography