Fashion Photography on View

By Laura McLaws Helms

Brian Duffy’s “Aladdin Sane,” 1973

Exhibiting fashion photographs in museum and gallery settings has become increasingly common in recent years. Combining two fields that have had difficulty being accepted as ‘fine arts’, fashion photography only moved off the page and onto the wall within the last 15 years — the 2004 Museum of Modern Art show “Fashioning Fiction in Photography since 1990” was their first exhibition of fashion photography. As iconic fashion photographs have become part of the museum cannon, auction prices for such works have soared with Irving Penn’s Woman in Moroccan Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech (1951) selling for a record-breaking $409,740 at Christie’s last December. It can be of little surprise that museums all over the world are exhuming the archives of a variety of fashion photographers for retrospective shows.

Jean-Paul Goude’s “Animatronic Grace”

The multi-talented Jean-Paul Goude, whose accomplishments in photography, film and video, art direction, illustration and brand development over his 40 year career have made him an icon of consummate creativity, is the focus of a retrospective exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The first such show of his work, “Goudemalion,” covers many aspects of his multi-faceted career. Opening with elements from his most ostentatious creation, the Bicentennial parade in Paris commemorating the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution on July 14, 1989, the visitor is first greeted by a life-size spinning doll and then, in the main hall, a giant locomotive that journeyed down the Champs-Elysées. While the side galleries start with his early fashion illustrations in the 1960s, it is with his increasing interest in photography in the 1970s, when he was working as the art director at Esquire, that his inimitable style becomes solidified. Known primarily for his work with muse and former girlfriend, the Jamaican-American singer Grace Jones, his pre-Photoshop cut-and-paste images of her, which distort her body into impossible, intimidating forms, are shown in both the original (spliced and refigured) and the final (airbrushed into unknown perfection). His fashion photographs are crammed onto the black walls of four smaller rooms — simply mounted and unframed, they range from the overtly sexy images of the ‘70s to the more obviously stylized and surreal photographs of later decades. One wall is given over to the fun series he has been taking since the 1980s of fashion designers — including Azzedine Alaïa, Valentino and Jean Paul Gaultier. Bright and colorful, the images pop against the black walls and low lighting. As this retrospective includes sculpture, performance art, animatronics and television adverts for clients such as Chanel, it goes far beyond just fashion photography – but by incorporating all of these different media, this retrospective helps to show how one singular vision can be adapted and translated across many fields, and also marks his influence in defining the brash, surrealistic photographic style of post-modernism in the 1980s.
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Posted in Exhibitions, Museums, Photography, Uncategorized

I Hurt I Am in Fashion

Screen Short from “I Hurt I Am in Fashion

A five-month old website “I Hurt I Am in Fashion” manages, through a witty juxtaposition of text and image, to parody the fashion industry (with a particular focus on the modelling industry)—one which is often so over the top to be notoriously difficult to parody. Yet through its dry wit and paucity of words “I Hurt I Am in Fashion” succeeds where many (including Robert Altman) have failed!

Posted in Fashion & Technology, Photography, Publications

Entangled Global Patterns of Cultural Identity

by Patty Chang

Yinka Shonibare, Three Graces
Yinka Shonibare, Three Graces.

Textile patterns and dress provide a rich visual vocabulary of encoded information and aesthetic expression. They have the ability to exploit or subvert the commercial allure of the “exotic”, and how it is called upon to reference cultural or national identities or even recast the vernacular. The exhibition Pattern ID, which is currently on view at the Akron Art Museum, queries just how straight forward patterns and dress inform our understanding of cultural identities. The multimedia exhibition entitled, Pattern ID, features the works of Mark Bradford, iona rozeal brown, Nick Cave, Willie Cole, Lalla Essaydi, Samuel Fosso, James Gobel, Brian Jungen, Bharti Kher, Takashi Murakami, Grace Ndiritu, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Mickalene Thomas, Aya Uekawa, and Kehinde Wiley. Many of these contemporary artists have migrated from one culture to another, be it national, ethnic, racial, socioeconomic, political or religious. Rather than trade one identity for another, the artists reveal ways in which identity can be cumulative, employing a patchwork of textile patterns and dress as meaningful vehicles to locate one’s place in society against a backdrop of globalization. Taking a range of approaches from humor to irony and formal beauty, these artists borrow from popular culture, world history, and art history to transform and redefine the cultural meanings of patterns.

For instance, the use of African textiles as props and backdrops in the works of Yinka Shonibare, Samuel Fosso, and Grace Ndiritu play not only on traditional and modern forms of representation, but also on cultural myths, politics, and ideas of post-colonialism, reclamation, and subjugation. The headless mannequins in Shonibare’s Three Graces fashioned in elaborate Victorian garb made out of atypical ‘African’ fabrics and arranged as a tableau satirizes the notions of authenticity and identity. The installation relies as much on the Dutch wax-print cloth ‘ethnicizing’ the space as on the references to 18th and 19th century masterpieces of European art. However, it is the textile that is a testament to cross-cultural interactions brought about by mercantile trade, having undergone a series of replication, transformations, redefinitions, and repackaging for different markets and tastes. Although linked by ideas of post-colonialism and identity, his works are not necessarily contained by them.

Still Life
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Posted in Exhibitions, Museums, Performance, Photography, Textiles

Fashion Projects #3

Fashion Projects 3
Cover Image: Shelley Fox, “Foundation,” Study and Telephone Room, Belsay Hall: Northumbria, 2004. Photo: Keith Paisley.

Fashion Projects 3 is out and will be available in newstands and bookstores in North America, as well as on our website! The issue focuses on the topic of fashion and memory and was inspired by a moving essay on the topic by Peter Stallybrass. It features interviews with fashion curator Judith Clark, fashion designer Shelley Fox, photographer Tanya Marcuse and much more—and was beautifully designed by Shannon Curren.

We hope you’ll enjoy our new issue, as we much as we enjoyed making it!

Posted in Designers, From the Magazine, Issue #3, Museums, Performance, Photography, Publications, Sustainable Fashion, Textiles

Dress Codes at ICP

Miyako Ishiuchi, mother’s #49, 2002, Gelatin Silver Print

Today I visited the Third ICP Triennial, “Dress Codes,” which is dedicated to the interaction between fashion and art. Culminating the ICP’s year of fashion, the outstanding exhibition opens tomorrow and will be on view through January 17.

Some of my favorite artists were included in the exhibition, including Tanya Marcuse and Miyako Ishiuchi, whose moving photographs of her deceased mother’s clothes and accroutments were originally included in the Venice Biennale’s Japanese pavilion in 2005. Also included is the work of the Brooklyn-based video artist Kalup Linzy (whose humorous work was first shown at Taxter and Spengemann), and the Turkish New York–based artist Pinar Yolacan, as well as a number of artists, whose work I was not familiar with, such as the German-based artist Thorsten Brinkmann, whose extravagant self-fashioning is reminiscent of Leigh Bowery’s alterations of the body.

Fashion Projects‘ contributor Tamsen Schwartzman was also in attendance. She has a long-lasting interest in photography and its relation to fashion, and has written an extensive review for the Museum at FIT, which she has kindly agreed to let us republish:

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Posted in Exhibitions, Museums, Performance, Photography

Films and Installations: Alternative Fashion Presentations at New York Fashion Week

Tim Hamilton and Collier Schorr
Tim Hamilton and Collier Schorr, Rope, 2009

I always find ways of presenting fashion design other than a typical fashion show interesting—particularly as a number of shows in New York are often streamlined events due to the nature of the industry and, at present, recessionary pressures. (For instance, I just returned from a Maria Cornejo’s show which was visibly paired-down both in terms of colors and looks.)

Among the non-model heavy presentations was Tim Hamilton’s event, which showed two short films by the New York–based artist Collier Schorr (best known for his portraits of adolescents) of a male model climbing a rope in various stages of dress in Hamilton’s pieces. The British designer Gareth Pugh also presented a number of films which he completed in collaboration with the filmmakers Ruth Hogben and can be viewed on SHOWstudio. (Both Hamilton’s and Pugh’s films, however, served as prelude to their upcoming fashion shows in Paris.)

Slow and Steady Wins the Race celebrated fashion week with an installation which opened last night at Saatchi and Saatchi, where it will be on view through September 18. This incorporated works from a range of other designers and artists (Andrew Kuo, Miranda July) alongside Ping’s own. (Talking with some of the British guests at the show, it was interesting to reminisce,in the midst of an artsy and, one assumes, progressive crowd, how Saatchi and Saatchi came to prominence through an advertising campaign for Margaret Thatcher.)
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Posted in Fashion Shows, Film, Photography

Weird Beauty: Fashion Photography Now

Tim Walker Vogue Italia
Tim Walker, “Magic World,” Vogue Italia, January 2008.

The International Center of Photography just opened four exhibitions to inaugurate their “2009 Year of Fashion,” including the contemporary Weird Beauty: Fashion Photography Now. Surveying recent fashion photography, the show includes magazine spreads alongside actual photographic prints. As noted by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith in her review of the show, the majority of the magazines featured are either European or Japanese, with the lone American titles, W magazine and the New York Times. Smith’s candid admittance that she was unfamiliar with most of these foreign publications was striking: Considering the importance of some of the titles in fashion circles (i.e. Vogue Italia and Purple), it goes to show the strict divide between fashion and art in the States. Perhaps the fashion exhibitions at the IPC will contribute to narrowing this divide.

Weird Beauty’s inclusion of the actual magazine spreads makes for an interesting contextualization of the photographs and gives its due to stylists and make-up artists, yet one would have hoped for more of the actual prints to be included. After all, an avid reader of fashion magazines would have seen a good number of these photographs on the printed page, and the museum could provide a different perspective on the work through blown-up prints. In fact, the photographs whose prints were included alongside the spreads stole the show. Particularly interesting were works which originally had been published in Vogue Italia. A black and white photograph by Tim Walker looks diaphanous, as it explores the transparency of fabrics like organza and tulle. It also points to the notion of prostethically altered bodies via a round egg-shaped ruffle “dress” worn by one of the models and a fork-like device (reminiscent of a prosthesis) that partially holds up the other model in the frame.

Deborah Turbeville, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vogue Italia
Deborah Turbeville, “Charlotte Gainsbourg” Vogue Italia

Other photographs that stand out are a portrayal of Charlotte Gainsbourg by Deborah Turbeville—an established photographer with an enviably long career—also in Vogue Italia. The shot is reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century Chaplinesque heroine. Also of notice are Surrealist-inspired photographs by Sara Van Der Beek for W Magazine, as well as the lighly disturbing photograph by Richard Burbridge, a close-up on an eye doused in candy pink liquid, and aptly titled Pink Eye.
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Posted in Exhibitions, Photography, Publications

Edward Steichen In High Fashion

Models Claire Coulter and Avis Newcomb wearing dresses by Lanvin and Chanel at 1200 Fifth Avenue, 1931.

Don’t miss the recently published book Edward Steichen In High Fashion: The Condé Nast Years, 1923-1937, which discusses and re-publishes Steichen’s fashion photography and celebrity portraits. The images—all from the Condé Nast archives—were originally published in Vanity Fair and Vogue, and illustrate Steichen’s contribution to the burgeoning field of fashion photography and celebrity portraiture. That these two fields did not sit in high regard within the fine arts and photography realms with which Steichen had been previously associated, made his choice controversial and, to some extent, unusual. However, as Tobia Bezzola—one of the book’s authors—explains, his previous work as a painter and a fine art photographer clearly informed his “commercial” work—particularly in his rendition of clothing, as well as his choice of poses for his subjects.

The lavishly illustrated book, published by W.W. Norton, developed as a result of research that curators William A. Ewing and Todd Brandow completed in the Condé Nast Archives for the exhibition “Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography.Steichen in High Fashion undoubtedly benefits from their extensive knowledge of the photographer’s work, which allowed them to fully contextualize this aspect of Steichen’s output within the rest of his career.

Spanning a period of 15 years, it is interesting to notice how the early prints from the 1920s–featuring theater actors alongside fashion models and silent film actors–are more painterly in their softer lights and greater gradation of grays in comparison to his later works, which feature a more stark contrast of black and whites and geometric shapes. (One of the book’s authors, Carol Squiers, describes this as Steichen’s “evolution from pictorialism to modernism.”)

Gary Cooper, 1930

Among the most iconic portraits included are those of actress Gloria Swanson and Pola Negri, and, later, Greta Garbo and Anna May Wong alongside those of dancers as Martha Graham, as well as Winston Churchill and Walt Disney.

An accompanying exhibition on Steichen’s photographic work is currently on view at the Kunstmuseum, Wolfsburg through January 1st, 2009, and will be traveling to the International Center for Photography in New York on January 16, 2009. (For a full exhibition schedule, please visit the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography.)


Posted in Exhibitions, Photography, Publications


Laurie Simmons Dolls
Laurie Simmons, Woman/ Purple Dress/ Kitchen, 1978

While the Victor & Rolf exhibition opened at the Barbican in London, with a gigantic doll house containing doll-size replicas of Victor & Rolf’s collections of the past fifteen years, in New York there is a much more “minute” doll-themed show by the artist Laurie Simmons.

The New York-based artist’s early work, dating from the late 1970s, is on show at Caroline Nitsch’s project room and will be on view until June 28. Simmons’ black and white photographs stage female dolls in miniature houses and rooms. Some of the houses’ façade are disassembled, while the rooms’ furniture gets “dislocated” from their proper place. These altered female interiors combined with the off-kilter placement of the figures doubles the uncanny feeling conveyed by the dolls and relays a feeling of disrupted and alienated domesticity.

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Posted in Exhibitions, Photography

Fragments: Photographs by Alex Salinas

Fragments: Photographs by Alex Salinas

Fragments, an exhibition of the work of Belgian photographer Alex Salinas, just opened at the Soho Grand gallery, where it will be on view through April 30. I first encountered Salinas’ work in the 2006 issue of +1 Magazine, which included a series he staged at Saint Augustinus Hospital. The images combined orthopedic casts and other medical gear with corsets, implants, and intricate jewelry in ways which seemed to comment on the prosthetic body and alternative standards of beauty.


Posted in Exhibitions, Photography

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About Fashion Projects

Fashion Projects began in New York in 2004, with the aim to create a platform to highlight the importance of fashion — especially “experimental” fashion — within current critical discourses. Through interviews with a range of artists, designers, writers and curators, as well as through other planned projects and exhibits, we hope to foster a dialogue between theory and practice across disciplines.

We are primarily a print journal, however we also publish web-based updates and interviews (a “digest” version of which you can receive by signing up to our mailing list or via our RSS feed) and are currently working on exhibits based on past and future issues. To order any of our issues visit our ordering page.

We are a nonprofit organization, which has previously received grants from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

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