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@zxwo ❤️

A post shared by kat irlin (@kat_in_nyc) on

Ladies and gentlemen of WordPress, readers, book lovers, fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History: I give you Henry Winter in the flesh.

No, his name is neither Henry nor Winter, and he is far from fictional. He is a model, real name Ivan Kozak (@zxwo), featured in @kat_in_nyc‘s mini music video from which it is unlikely I will ever recover. Donning a pair of trendy specs, the sort that looks particularly good on handsome, photogenic faces, jawline-for-days Kozac channels James Dean’s smoking hot bad boy vibe and infuses it with a vulnerable sensitivity, an endearing, coy shyness, if you will, culminating in an intoxicating concoction best described as ‘opioid for the indie soul’. With Ed Sheeran’s acoustic “Photograph” in the background and wintry, blurred twilit streets as backdrop, it is no wonder this dreamboat of a clip sent me sailing to aesthetic paradise at full speed.

I have long been a fan of New York based photographer Kat Irlin’s style: moody, brooding, dimly lit, heavy on black and brown undertones as opposed to the brilliant whites favoured by so many on Instagram. Talent never goes unnoticed—she is a verified account holder and currently boasts a million followers, a number bound to grow as more become enamoured with her decadently saturnine shoots. Her posts—intimate portraits of striking individuals of various ages, genders, and ethnicities—frequently appear on my feed because I so often ‘like’ them, and today I am especially grateful for her gift.

This brings us back to the topic of Kozak’s resemblance to Henry Winter, the dark haired, bespoke-and-bespectacled, pedantic, eccentric, vaguely menacing classics scholar I am hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with from Tartt’s aesthetically sublime The Secret History. I ought to drop the first name or the last since I already mentioned his full name, but much like his SPOILER ALERT friends-cum-murder accomplices Richard Papen and Francis Abernathy, I can only think of Henry Winter as Henry Winter. As is the case with certain characters and actors, the name is to be declared in full or not at all. In truth I am the same way with Donna Tartt (friendly reminder: this book usurped The Great Gatsby‘s long-held position as Lifetime Favourite), but I shan’t tire you this way.

I have wanted to see Henry Winter in the flesh since finishing the book two autumns ago, but can understand why directors would be reluctant to adapt it into a movie: it is a cult favourite, but no Harry Potter. Familiar with the microblogging site’s worship of beauty and aesthetics, knowing full well a novel like The Secret History, with its enigmatic, ‘special snowflake’ troop of flawed heroes is bound to inspire countless mood boards and fan casts, I turned to Tumblr to satisfy my desire to see the characters brought to life. Sure enough, I was rewarded with the likes of the following, including the likeness of Henry Winter in the form of little known actor Zane Holtz:

The itch was scratched, the hunger curbed. Or so I thought, until Irlin’s video had me in a Henry Winter-induced frenzy all over again, had me Insta-stalking Kozak’s gallery for proof that he is just the man to play my fictional beau. Turns out it was the specs and cigarette and Irlin’s editing skills that did the job; without them he is still impossibly dashing, but no Henry Winter. I followed him anyway—who am I if not a slave to beauty?