This story is part of an editorial series created in collaboration with ASOS Supports Talent.
“I was looking to do something very weird…but watchable,” says French photographer, director, and musician Diane Sagnier of a recent trip to Roswell, New Mexico. Featured as part of the ASOS Supports Talent initiative, developed by online fashion destination ASOS, Sagnier was there to direct a music video for her band Camp Claude, a Paris-based group that moves between electro, pop, new wave, and alt-rock. Given Roswell is the home to arguably the largest UFO conspiracy theory in the world, weird came naturally when Sagnier arrived for the first time.
Inspired by a hoax video released in 1995 that claimed to be footage of an autopsy of an extraterrestrial being recovered from a 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, Sagnier intended to expand on this idea. However, the reconnaissance images she had been studying were out of date and she arrived at an altered and somewhat decaying Roswell. “Lots of the stuff I thought I was going to film was actually destroyed or abandoned,” she says, recalling her arrival to something of a ghost town. “They had like 50 years of tourism based around the myth of the UFO and that kind of went down in the late ’90s. I knew there would be some crunchy parts of the city but I had no idea how most of it would be totally abandoned and run down.” Still, the suitably eerie presence would soon prove to be an ideal playground for Sagnier’s imagination: “It was perfect. I love that feeling of emptiness—it's such a thrill to have nobody in the streets and everything broken down,” she says.
The resources, support, and backing of the ASOS project allowed Sagnier’s vision to become a reality. “I couldn’t have done it without them," she says. "I honestly don’t know if I could have persuaded anyone else to back such a project and strange idea and actually get me to Roswell.” Sagnier is just one of many talents that online fashion destination ASOS is supporting. Others include British musician Loyle Carner and Chicago-based photographer Elizabeth De La Piedra.
Sagnier is no stranger to music videos, having met her band while directing on another project. Her forays into music have allowed her visions to crystallize and become more potent. “It's amazing to develop the music side of things because I can use my directing and photography skills for it and I can play with scenarios and create a visual universe. It gave me the key to do things I wasn't able to do for other people.”
It also meant, based on her experience, that she could deal with the change in shoot easily, thinking swiftly on her feet, and sourcing new locations on the spot as they traveled around the dust-swept land of novelty shops and abandoned missile launch sites. “I like to be spontaneous,” Sagnier says. “We found one abandoned space, a bunker, and in the video I down the stairs and it turns out all the young people from the area throw parties in there.”
Sagnier was warned against visiting some locations in the area, like one of the four missile launch sites that surround Roswell. After failing to gain access to one, she looked for another. “There’s one where a woman lives in a trailer park. Apparently she kept it open for herself and we tried to go there. But a lot of people recommended we not contact her as she was supposed to be a bit of a weird person, just living by herself in a disused missile base.” They even worked with the local medical department of a university there to recreate an autopsy scene in their surgery rooms, after another shift in the landscape of the city. “We were supposed to film that in like an abandoned rehab hospital that was really grungy and dirty looking but that has since been destroyed.”
Her close encounter enabled Sagnier to play with her skills as a director, photographer, and musician—in one fell swoop. “I didn't quite know what I was doing when I first started directing," she says. "I was testing stuff and experimenting with things and I found I like to do things all on my own. It’s putting out a certain persona and I really wanted to get it right and it felt like other people didn't have the vision that I was starting to think of for it.”
Having complete control of all aspects of the project also allowed her personality to illuminate the world of UFO detritus featured in the finished video. “We gave it a fun twist, too," she says. "I’m a crazy, funny person so I figured I wanted that energy in there too and to have something light about it as well. The whole thing is so uncertain that we can't take it seriously.” So, then, she doesn't think we've been visited by aliens? “I’m still hopeful," she says with a laugh. "I still believe.”
ASOS Supports Talent is a global initiate from online fashion destination ASOS, providing up-and-coming creative talent with funding, mentoring, and support to realize personal passion projects. Find out more here.