As any dedicated sneaker fan will know, the things we wear on our feet can become a full-time obsession. LA-based photographer Aldo Chacon has turned his love of fashion into a passion project, Nike's World, where he designs themed sets and shoots classic designs from various decades.
But this goes beyond a simple homage to Nike classics; it's a personal project inspired by each sneaker design, technological advancements, global warming and nature-related subjects, as well as social and political issues and, of course, sports. "It's a project shot as an essay to reflect on current issues, culture trends, as well as moments in human history, told through stylised images of Nike shoes," Aldo tells Creative Boom.
The idea for the still life series was to tell stories through materials and objects. Why Nike? "I've always been a big Nike fan because of the graphic aspect of their clothes and the way they mix fashion, streetwear, and sports. I had an original idea of showcasing different moments in history through sneakers, like the Moon landing or the fall of the Berlin Wall, so I went back to that idea and mixed it with the 'funky' sets vision I had. I started researching the Nike website for different sneakers, and every shoe spoke to me in different ways.
"I started imagining those moments in history and thinking what sneakers would people be involved in those events wear. Some styles seemed more retro, some more modern or futuristic, some spoke to me more in a material or texture way, some in colour palette and some more on an ideology.
"It was hard to choose because there are hundreds of styles. I could have made 100 more sets! I decided to go with Nike shoes because of the iconography. I wanted to use an icon that everyone knows and that has been used in pop culture to bring attention to the different subjects and make it more of an homage to the swoosh. I love how the swoosh looks in different types of shoes and how there are many different styles and colours, but they are all united by that simple icon."
In Greenhouse, for instance, Aldo was inspired by global warming and the idea behind nature and natural disasters being the strongest "species" on the planet. "The idea was to combine some industrial materials to give us a sense of a postapocalyptic greenhouse where the Earth has regenerated, and nature has taken over our man-made landscapes," Aldo says.
With another styled shot titled Space, the photograph takes reference from the stars and universe, the Cold War era, and the advancements that have taken place since the Moon landing. "It's also a glimpse of what future life could look like and the current 'space race' between big corporations," explains Aldo.
There are some lighter pieces, too. The '80s is inspired by Aldo's birth year of 1986 – the very essence of that decade: "We're talking pop culture, the analogue world, mixtapes and vibrant retro colours of the time," he says. "I wanted to create a homage to an iconic era."
Aldo worked with creative partner Salvador Chacon to create the set designs. "I had the original vision and the materials I wanted to use for each set, I wanted to use a lot of found objects or things that could be found in our daily lives for each set, and I also wanted to have each set with a colour palette that was unique to each shoe.
"We ended up renting some props from prop shops in LA and sourcing materials from Home Depot, toy stores and some junkyards. We built, styled and decorated the sets between the two of us in my backyard. We lit, shot and built it all together in one day."
My personal favourite is Art, Art, Art – a photograph created with the Big Apple in mind. "It also combines elements that reflect things that we enjoy in life, like music, art, food, culture and, of course, photography."
Is Aldo a sneakerhead himself? "I wear sneakers 90% of the time, and I usually wear classic retro styles, so I think if I could design my own, they would be a high top black and white sneaker with some iconic symbol on the side. I love the more funky colourful styles but more as a visual element for shoots than to wear myself. I don't think I can pull them off!"
On choosing a favourite pair of sneakers, Aldo admits he loves the Nike Cortez's or the Nike SB Blazer. But he says it's more challenging to pick a favourite decade. "I am such an eclectic person that I love parts of all of them. I love the mix between the retro and the modern world."
Aldo is a Mexico City-born photographer, now based in Los Angeles. His work focuses on portraits, sports and still life, and his clients today include Adidas, Lyft, Red Bull, Spotify, and Gatorade. "I stumbled into photography when living in Barcelona," he says. "I was out of college with a business degree and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I found a photography internship in Spain where I started carrying cables and just being an assistant on set. I started thinking of things I would shoot if I was a photographer and slowly started putting small shoots for myself together. After some months, I called myself a photographer ( I was quite naive), and I haven't stopped shooting since."