This group exhibition provides a representative overview of the development of fashion photography from its beginnings in the 1920s to the present. Based on the collection of Camera Work in Berlin, the exhibition features approximately 200 prints, many of them vintages, by 51 photographers. Fashion! guides us through an exhilarating visual journey of the various trends of fashion photography.
The twentieth century witnessed a blossoming of the photograph in fashion magazines. The creation of Condé Nast Publications in 1909, and later, its acquisition of Vogue, particularly helped fashion attain its triumphant worldwide success through photography. The spectrum of photographs in the exhibition begin with early works by Edward Steichen, who led the development of the genre in the 1920s, to the maturity of unique pictorial styles, as seen in the fashion photography of George Hoyningen-Huene and Horst P. Horst. During the early history of fashion photography, artists were often employed to create fashion images, such as Man Ray, who engaged in experimental approaches via techniques such as solarization.
In works by Irving Penn, it became apparent early on that clothing was to be successively stripped away as the central focus in fashion photography. Indeed, instead of fashion, figuration and increasingly expensive arrangements as well as interpretation moved to the foreground of the image. Beginning with the 1960s, the photograph revealed fashion’s manifestation of the sexual revolution and the resulting emancipation of women, via casual clothing and revealing hem lines. Additionally, feminist theory created an awareness of voyeuristic tendencies in society, and how these tendencies were utilized in advertising and media, as revealed, for example, in photographs by Helmut Newton.
The cool elegance of the 1990s was influenced by the work of Peter Lindbergh and his cult of supermodels. Photography and painting hybrids by Michelangelo Di Battista and Tina Berning successfully visualized the strong orientation of fashion photography towards the fine arts, as did the highly imaginative works of Robert Nettarp. Additionally the turn of the century ushered in a new era of the cinematic in photography. David Drebin is one fashion photographer whose oeuvre builds on these new convergences. The latest in Swedish fashion photography is highlighted with works by Camilla Åkrans, Mikael Jansson, and Blaise Reutersward. The photographers mentioned above represent only a handful of names from this comprehensive exhibition.
Fashion photography, like no other genre, is able to capture the zeitgeist of a decade with such clarity. Moreover, it tells us, in a very vivid and lucid way, about the longings and dreams of respective generations. Fashion photography consistently defies convention and resists definition. Thus, to claim there is a linear development of the genre is incorrect. Rather, there is a complex and lively iconographic system of analogies, references, and astounding advances. It is the innovation and glamour that surrounds fashion photography that we find so enthralling. We live vicariously through its models, and we relish in the fantasy of its visual stories, which is why looking at this variety of fashion photographs is so truly pleasurable.