Many may say that fashion photography is all about the clothes, but behind all the glamorous connotations of being a fashion photographer, there’s a visionary on a quest to capture the perfect moment that marries the subject, the clothes and the context. A quest that marks the identity, even the career, of the photographer. A quest in which the woman is captured and perceived in different light, to reflect the creative’s vision. From soft light to spotlight, the following artists expose her melancholy, her innocence and her salvation through freedom, through the humble lens.
Known as the anti-Helmut from the pages of Vogue and Mademoiselle of the Seventies, Deborah Turbeville juggles between fashion photography and fine-art in her subdued romantic and nostalgic impressions. Not that it’s not about the fashion, but the undeniable emphasis on a narrative distinctly distinguishes her from her peers. The models are burried in their designated characters of the story, with occasional stylised imperfections on soft-focused, over-exposed and unconventionally obscure effects, seized in the spontaneity of the moment. The authenticity of the protagonists play a great part in helping Turbeville create works that retain history and emotion in a time of sleek and
sexual aesthetics. In her first book Wallflower (1978), the anxiously wavering and hesitant group of lonely women roam the deserted bath houses and flax fields, shot in the then-present with memories from a mysterious past, in all their anti-glamour.
Paralleling that universe, there’s the one of David Hamilton, the man behind the grainy and dream-like Hamilton Blur and the misty Flake girl from the Eighties. With a rich portfolio that mainly consists of young fresh-faced often nude portraits, the softness and serenity are meant to be a nice escape form the darkness and violence of modern society. The multidisciplinary even further emphasises on the latter, as his locations remain quite intimate to keep his work from being tainted with the hustle and bustle of billboards and the streets. The young models embody harmony that blends together grace and candor, purity and sensuality. In fact, Hamilton strives to accurately record the moment a girl transitions to a woman, a time that many would find it to be an “awkward” stage in life. A hazy innocence gliding on the rim of eroticism. Despite the ever-longing controversy, The Best of David Hamilton (1976) compiles some of his best masterpieces, including the ones of the ballerinas.
Another whole-heartedly devoted to the photographic craft – the lengths he’s gone to for African Image (1967) – is Sam Haskins. His pre-Photoshop expertise in image-making with skin-bearing protagonists, cinematic approach and whimsical composition put him on the map. The heroine is not just the one of the narrative but also the one of the image and her life – her movements, her curves and edges bring playfulness and liveliness to the eyes. Winner of the Prix Nadar in 1964, his black-and-white publication Cowboy Kate and Other Stories: Director’s Cut (1964) tells an undefeated tale of cowgirls with a Sixties flare. Indeed, the women look absolutely show-stopping in lingerie, but they won’t hesitate to pull out their gun if necessary.
The fascinating multi-dimensional character of a woman will always be embraced by artists in different stages of the process. Her complexity is molded into muse material – a dash of melancholy, sweet escape and tongue-in-cheek – ready to fuel our guest editors’ appetite. It’s no surprise these coveted works made it onto their list of favourites.