The best fashion photographs don’t do what the name suggests – they don’t inform us of what It bag is on trend, they don’t tell us what swimsuit to wear for holiday. Instead, they force us to rethink our perception of beauty or whisk us away to a new imagined universes. Featuring 100 of the finest works by over 40 established and emerging photographers, the Beyond Fashion exhibition at Artistree presents a body of work that is a must-see for any fashion lover. From photographs which capture the sentiments of a certain era, to ones which celebrate beauty in its many forms, it is a walk down memory lane at Artistree as one goes past images both iconic and intriguing. Below, here are five of our favorite photographers featured.
Nick Knight is the groundbreaking fashion imagemaker and director of SHOWstudio, a pioneering fashion website created “based on the belief that showing the entire creative process, from conception to completion is beneficial for the artist, the audience and the art itself.” As a fashion photographer, he has consistently challenged conventional notions of beauty and is fêted for his groundbreaking creative collaborations with leading designers including Yohji Yamamoto, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen. He is also one of the first and most high profile imagemakers to adopt digital film as a medium for showing fashion – a designated section at the exhibition will showcase 30 films produced by SHOWstudio, which offers international audiences instant and full access to the previously closed world of high fashion.
One of best Nick Knight works shown at the exhibit is a picture the photographer created with Alexander Mcqueen for his Spring 10 campaign Platos Atlantis, of model Raquel Zimmerman wearing a printed bodysuit entwined with a few snakes, seeming as if she’s blending in with them. Its iconic status is multifold – for one, this is a picture from the late designer’s last collection; the snake is also historically symbolic of temptation, a center figure in Christianity human’s origin story — creating a highly contradictory visual result: is it beautiful, or is it menacing? And this contradictory nature is common in some of the most legendary fashion images — teetering on the edge of what’s beautiful and what’s ugly, what’s trendy and what’s kitsch, what’s socially acceptable and what’s taboo — pushing not just fashion, but culture forward.
Erik Madigan Heck
As one of the most talented photographers of the new generation, Erik Madigan Heck’s has a unique way of looking at fashion, often with subtle references to legendary works of art and “a dreamlike quality marked by surrealist undertones” as described by journalist Dan Thawley. Meticulously constructed and enhanced with bright colours, the featured image in the exhibition highlights the unconventional silhouette of a garment by fashion designer Rei Kawakubo, resulting in what seems like a contemporary cubic painting. This might come as no surprise once we learn that Heck identifies himself as a “painter who uses photography,” and cites the 19th century painter Edouard Vuillard as one of his major influences. The photographs of Erik Madigan Heck have this ability to take one away for a moment to idyllic imagined lands — magic or art or a bit of both? You be the judge.
Four themes run through Miles Aldridge’s works: glamour, religion, darkness and domesticity, and they are often depicted in highly saturated and precisely staged photos. The picture featured in the exhibition shows model Carolina Trentini in a slick hairdo and red polka dot garb, drawing to mind the outfit of a 60s housewife. With her neck taut, head near the stove and almost lifeless eyes staring deadpan ahead as she tries to light a cigarette hanging from her mouth, Aldridge depicts a bright-coloured scene of domesticity glazed with an obvious varnish of sinisterness. Such irony and precision is signature of the great photographer’s work, with many of his other work conveying the beauty and ominous nature of money and glamour in the same picture.
Photographer Peter Lindbergh’s is most well known for his black and white images that highly humanises its subject – minimal in fashion but maximal in personality – his subjects are often dresses in simple clothing so their expressions and imperfection shine through more easily. Of his subjects he says “I was more concerned about a more outspoken, adventurous woman in control of her life and not too concerned about her social status or emancipated by masculine protection”.
People often credit the birth of the supermodels to Peter Lindbergh’s photo for the January 1990 cover of British Vogue, but in a piece of writing for The Guardian, the photographer attributes it to the white shirt shoots shot two years ago, one of which we see in the exhibition. At the time, women featured in fashion photography are often donned head to toe in glamorous garments and with full makeup — all nice handbags and cars — Lindbergh wanted to show a different kind of women, liberated, dressed minimally and proud of who they are, not what they have. Revolutionary at the time, Lindbergh paved a way for a different and more honest kind of beauty in media. Till today, he is highly critical of modern techniques photographers use such as photoshop to alter bodies and faces. “When someone has the courage to be themselves, that is beautiful,” he says on artnet.com.
Having started posting her pictures on blogs since she was 15, 26-year-old photographer Maisie Cousins has no interest in creating “beautiful” pictures. “There is no need for me to appeal to nice – I’m not making an advert for a perfume! I’m not interested in nice things; I like grossing myself out,” the London-based creator says in an I:D interview. From photographing nature to women, she captures them in unconventional perspectives, in all their beauty and repulsiveness. Cousins stands out as one of the most original and intriguing young talents presented at exhibition.
Date: 12 January –24 February 2019
Time: 10am –8pm (Monday to Sunday)
Venue: ArtisTree, 1/F Cambridge House, Taikoo Place, 979 King’s Road, Quarry Bay
Tickets for The Beyond Dinner – an immersive evening of food and art, hosted by Mike Bagale, former Executive Chef of Chicago’s three- Michelin -starred restaurant Alinea, can be purchased from Ticketflap @ HK$2,400 + 10%
The exhibition will be closed on 5 and 6 Feb; and be closed at 2:30pm on 12 Jan, and 14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 23, and 24 Feb.