Posturing: Photographing the Body in Fashion
Ground Floor Project, 10 Thurloe Place
UNTIL 12th NOVEMBER
BFF’s photographic editor Holly Hay and fashion curator Shonagh Marshall recently noticed a new approach being taken to the kind of popular photographic images that were being commissioned, and together they set out to deconstruct the way in which a new generation of photographers since 2010 have liberated the human form, disrupting fashion imagery for good. They expose changing tastes in aesthetic representation of the body via unique approaches to posture and pose, including a distinct and conscious distancing from sexualisation of the body.
This started with Holly pulling out 150 photographs from contemporary fashion photographers that embodied an aesthetic shift in fashion photography- from there, they edited it down to 43 images, plus 6 magazine layout spreads. They were then grouped into five sections that expose the process of fashion photography: styling, casting, hair and makeup, set design, location and layout- aka, all of the departments listed on a call sheet. The structural placement of the body inevitably exists in tandem with each of these elements, and they all have their part to play.
What results is something more playful, wittier, surreal, more abstract in approach and certainly less obvious. The image is taken beyond the garment. A great fashion image is very narrative lead, with different aspects to the story- it’s not just about a pretty dress.
Photographers include Coco Capitan, Tyrone Lebon, Charlie Engman, Johnny Dufort, Marton Perlaki, Zoe Ghertner, Hanna Moon, Brianna Capozzi, Joyce NG, Reto Schmid and Charlotte Wales. Archives hail from the likes of British Vogue, AnOther, i-D, Interview and The Gentlewoman- these girls naturally know their stuff about those defiantly creating a new movement in the medium.
When one considers the intention of the fashion photography image, it is first and foremost to sell the garments. So what is the role of the body in the construction of such an image? The model has to be more than just an anonymous clothes hanger, but a collaborator- even a performer. But amid this shift in contemporary image making, they must forget the poses they think they should be doing and repress the muscle memory that tells them the cut and dry poses and work every time. No more sidetilt, girls. Forget everything you’ve learned as a fashion model, even if you are one, and what you think a fashion image is about. You could even go one further and go to mime school, like Pascal Gambarte’s model for Marfa journal.
The resulting images are full of humour and humanity. And whilst Holly and Shonagh don’t have the ultimate answer to the questions they pose , they demonstrate that the body is the most important tool in expressing ideas, feelings, and a sense of the self that embodies a reaction to the time they are made and political landscape.
Above is one of Holly’s (and my) favourites- a shampoo advert shot by Johnny Dufort for AnOther Magazine. Holly reveals that the model(s) in this advert are the same woman. Johnny shot this as an advert for shampoo, then David White the set designer, prints it, billboards it, and they shoot it again. This image therefore embodies the very full process involved in an image….but would you have noticed it? Probably not. The reality is when we flick through a magazine, we don’t spend very long with each image. In this way, our curators play a bit of a game with the viewer – if they study the image as an isolated photograph, will it reveal the little things that they would have missed, had it been situated in their favourite magazine.
The exhibition culminates in a section dedicated to layout. From the very beginning of the shoot, photographers must consider how the image will appear in the final product. Image order, size, how the images might be spliced together, layered or coloured- all are critical concerns. In the Double Story, Tyrone Lebon photographs the body in a way that each image is bound together and the order is integral to the final product. Reto Schmid shoots for Lurve magazine so that separate images are spliced together using the natural fold in a double page spread, creating new images entirely. Such are a few methods of subverting both the garment and the body wearing it.
We must remember why the images are made. But most of all, to see and celebrate inspiring new fashion photography.
Posturing: The Body in Fashion Photography is open to the public at 10 Thurloe Place, from 2-12 November, 2017 and is part one of a three part creative project which will involve a commissioned moving image piece entitled Posturing: Filming the Body in Fashion, and a book entitled Posturing: Writing the Body in Fashion.
Thank you to Marguerite London for organising such an eye opening curator led tour