Posts Tagged ‘French Vogue’

Photography | Studio Erwin Blumenfeld

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941-1960
Somerset House
London, UK
23rd May – 1st September, 2013

Day and night I try, in my studio with its six two-thousand watt suns,
balancing between the extremes of the impossible, to shake loose the real from
the unreal, to give visions body, to penetrate into unknown transparencies.

Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969)

With around 100 colour photographs as well as archive material from fashion magazines, this show at Somerset House focuses on the work Erwin Blumenfeld – one of the most influential, innovative and sought-after fashion photographers of the 1940s and 1950s – produced at his studio in New York.

Born into a Jewish family in Berlin, Blumenfeld began taking photographs when he was just ten years old. His first job was as an apprentice dressmaker, but between 1916 and 1933 he produced dadist montages in Germany, where he was closely associated with George Grosz, before moving first to Holland, then to Paris in 1936, where he met Cecil Beaton, who got him an introduction to Vogue. However, as a result of his publishing bitingly mocking collages of Adolf Hitler, Blumenfeld spent the occupation years in a concentration camp, eventually fleeing Europe with his family for the United States in 1941. In New York he worked in the studio of Martin Munkacsi until his own career started to flourish. Taken up by Russian emigré art director Alexey Brodovitch, who was fostering  the development of an expressionistic, almost primal style of picture-making at Harper’s Bazaar, Blumenfeld continued to work for Vogue, gaining him a reputation as the highest paid freelance photographer in New York. He went on to produce advertising campaigns for top cosmetics clients such as Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and L’Oreal.

Blumenfeld had a passion for the female form, which he expressed through headily erotic images in which mirrors, gauzy fabrics, screens, wet silk and elaborately contrived shadows and angles were used to enhance or discreetly mask the body. He became a master of complex studio photography and developed sophisticated techniques of solarisation and superimposition that, even today, continue to influence photographers. The renowned fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø recently commented: ‘Blumenfeld was shooting 60 years ago what the rest of us will be shooting in 10 years time’.

Images from top
City Lights

Support for the Red Cross
American Vogue cover, March, 1945

Grace Kelly
Cosmopolitan, 1955

Spring Fashion
American Vogue, 1953

All images ©The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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mouth2mouth | Philip Treacy on Photography

Friday, February 1st, 2013

mouth2mouth | interview
philip treacy | milliner

Over 30 of his hats were worn at HRH Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Probably the world’s best-known hat designer, Philip Treacy began his career in 1990, in London, having been taken under the wing of the late Isabella Blow. Milliner of choice for many top fashion designers, he created hats for Alexander McQueen’s white haute couture collection at Givenchy, for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, as well as for Valentino, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karen. In 2000 Treacy was invited to present the first ever Paris couture show dedicated to millinery. Named British Accessory Designer of the Year five times at the British Fashion Awards, he created hats for film – Harry Potter – for Grace Jones, Daphne Guinness, Naomi Campbell, Lady Gaga and Madonna. A new book, Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies, the result of a 20-year collaboration between the milliner and his long-time friend, photographer Kevin Davies, is published in February by Phaidon. Former creative director at Tatler turned photographer, Pedro Silmon asked Treacy about his passion for photography and photographers.

In the introduction to your and photographer Kevin Davies’ book you say that every hat you ever made began, in your mind, as a photograph. Who is the photographer?
Always Irving Penn. He was the quintessential hat photographer.

A hat is an idea. A suggestion. A hat isn’t an inanimate object you put on your head – it’s supposed to do something – you’re drawing with material to create an illusion. I identify with photographers because they’re doing the same thing as I am.

Is there a particular genre of photographer you like best?
Iconic Hollywood. Greta Garbo’s photographer, Clarence Sinclair-Bull, George Hurrell. Those I discovered in the books I saw for the first time when I went to art college in Dublin. The photographers who invented glamour and made people look beautiful: Hoynigen-Huhne, Edward Steichen, Horst, Cecil Beaton, Angus McBean.

Which other photographers’ work do you like?
Helmut Newton. He was very persuasive and impressed me so much with his charm that I felt I couldn’t seriously say no when he asked to photograph me, who hates having his photograph taken – topless!
Bruce Weber is amazing. His black and white is really colour. So many tones… He put my hats on male models. Such a simple idea but it worked and just looked fantastic. Avedon asked me to make a hat specifically for an Egoïste cover he was shooting with Stephanie Seymour as the model. He was like a teenager – full of energy – really excitable.

Photographers are engaging and obsessive and I understand that. I like photographers that have a point of view and who put their stamp on a picture as if they’ve painted it. You can always tell a Sarah Moon, a Deborah Turbeville, a Paolo Roversi – they have a signature look and extraordinary personality. People like Nick Knight continue experimenting but his pictures are always identifiably his. I like David LaChapelle, who’s charming and has amazing vision. Although I haven’t worked with him a lot, I find Steven Meisel’s work exceptional and unusual – unlike anyone else’s.
One of the biggest influences on me and someone who has been a great inspiration, is Jean-Paul Goude. He’s so talented he doesn’t need to be an arse-hole. He’s a intriguing and charismatic. A designer’s dream. He has incredible ideas that are so simple they show he’s a genius.

What about newer photographers?
I think Mert & Marcus are great. They asked me to make a lace mask for them for the 90th Anniversary cover of French Vogue (2010). I’ve also been working with the German photographer, Cathleen Naundorf, who produces massive, very stylised polaroids.

Which photographers you haven’t enjoyed working with, and why?
I don’t think I’ve come across any… Photographers are like a race of people. I like working with them all.

Sometimes my hats are sent out by publicists to be photographed and I hate it when the photographer tries to do something edgy that just doesn’t work. The best photographers just photograph the hats – no tricks.

Do you like to go on shoots?
Shoot culture has become very irritating and makes going to a shoot daunting experience. So many people. And every time an image pops up on the computer screen, everyone has something to say. I remember when it was the photographer’s point of view that was important. That’s why I was such a fan of Irving Penn, who once took a portrait of me for American Vogue in his little glass-roofed Paris studio, where there was no lighting, no assistant, just a simple chair and a small table, his little camera, him and his charm. Fascinating!…

Do you collect photographs?
I have two wonderful Penn prints – one black and white, one colour – and five of Garbo by Clarence Sinclair Bull, plus a few others by Bruce Weber, Arthur Elgort and Ellen von Unwerth.

Do you have a preference for black and white or colour photographs?
I prefer black and white – it’s more dramatic. But it depends… Colour is a different language. Black and white is more romantic… But, I don’t see it in black and white. I love all the colours in it. What I also love are the really dark pictures that people like Clarence Sinclair Bull did in the 1920s and 30s. The pictures were about darkness, not about light – a lot of photography now is too bright.

You mention in the book that there were always photographers around the studio at 69 Elizabeth Street in the 1990s. Who were they?
Isabella (Blow) was always bringing people in: Michael Roberts, Alastair Thain – all absolutely obsessed – it was wonderful, manic!

Do other photographers still come in or does Kevin now have exclusive access?
They do, Yes. Kevin doesn’t have exclusive access but with him it’s not in your face. He’s a one man band. Quiet. Not loud. Easy. Often, I don’t notice he’s around. I didn’t really understand the pictures when he first starting doing them. They seemed to be the opposite of what people would imagine – not really about the hats, more about the environment. Now I have some of them framed and up on the wall.

Which photographers’ work is on your mood board right now?
… Everybody’s! Because I’m developing another book, with Rizzoli, that won’t be out for another couple of years.

Images from top
In the Studio, 10th February, 1999

The Royal Wedding, Battersea Studio, 27th April, 2011

In the Studio, 69, Elizabeth Street, 11th November

Images by Kevin Davies from the book
Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies
Phaidon
www.phaidon.com
192 pages, hardback, £39.95/€49.95, February 2013

All photographs © Philip Treacy

Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

The publishers of The Blog insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier

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Exhibition | Ralph Gibson’s Selective Eye

Friday, June 15th, 2012
Ralph Gibson
Camera Work, Berlin, Germany
16th June – 4th August, 2012

American photographer, Ralph Gibson’s Leda, 1974, is simply one of the most erotic pictures I’ve ever seen. But is it a game? Is it meant to be humourous? Or is it for real? The ambiguity itself is tantalising. As with many of his pictures, nothing is explained; the viewer is left to draw whatever conclusion he/she chooses. Leda was the very first Gibson image I was shown when I was introduced to his extraordinary work in the late 90s by a female photographer friend, who was already a big fan. And I could see why: glimpses of a mysterious and secret world, many of Gibson’s pictures appear to exude a close understanding of female sensuality and sexuality.

British editorial art director/curator, David King’s maxim has been described as: ‘If you can crop any more off a picture then you haven’t cropped it enough.’ Not refuting the accuracy of the description, King later clarified his doctrine by explaining that, obviously, if it’s a fantastic picture then you leave it alone, but most photographs are enhanced by cropping. As a magazine art director, myself – often praised for the skill of my cropping, reviled on the odd occasion (by sensitive photographers) for its insensitivity – I was immediately struck by the impact of Gibson’s images that are the product of his highly selective eye and absolute economy of crop. Could anyone, other than perhaps fashion and beauty photographer, Hiro, who throughout the 1960s to 1990s produced many closely-cropped, elegant images for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar and French Vogue – have come close to the graphically succinct statement of Gibson’s Mary Jane, 1980?

Born in 1939 in Los Angeles, California, Gibson, whose work is in the collections of over 150 international museums and galleries, assisted American documentary photography icons Dorothea Lange – and later – Robert Frank before embarking on his own freelance career as a photographer in the late 1960s. He crops, as they did, as Henri Cartier Bresson, as Eugene Richards does and as most other great photographers do or have done – in camera. Like Cartier-Bresson, Gibson uses only Leica cameras and, among a long list of other, major commendations, won the Leica Medal of Excellence Award in 1988.

Gibson’s early close-ups – Umbrella and Car, 1954 – of sections of cars are reminiscent of Paul Strand’s (1890–1976) early, modernist-inspired photography – Wire Wheel, New York, 1917 – that hover on the edge of the abstract. But, whereas Strand’s images, in line with prevailing modernist preoccupations of the time, remain objective studies, Gibson’s are enigmatic, hinting at a story – something beyond the picture area that the viewer must invent, imagine for himself. In this way they come closer to the surrealist photographs of André Kertész and Man Ray. Often his female nudes – Untitled, 2008 – subjected to strong natural light, are reduced to a series of light, sensual, softly-toned areas crossed by heavy geometrical shadows. At the brink of abstraction – Torso Palms, 1973 – they hold back, and it’s at that point the viewer is forced to stop and think: is it me, or does the shape of the breasts really resemble the underside of a phallus?

Images from top
Leda, 1974 © Ralph Gibson
Christine, 1974 © Ralph Gibson
Umbrella and Car, 1954 © Ralph Gibson
Untitled, 2012 © Ralph Gibson

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Exhibition | Babar’s 80th Birthday

Friday, December 2nd, 2011


Les histoires de babar

Les arts décoratifs, Paris, France. 8th December 2011–2nd September 2012

‘Aaagh!’ yelled Lesley as she slid down and bounced on to the floor from a giant slide in the shape of an elephant and intended for use by small children, permanently damaging her tailbone. It was around 1978. Boyfriend and girlfriend, we were at a small exhibition illustrator friends had enthused over, in Paris’s then pre-gentrification, down-at-heel Marais district. This was our first introduction to Babar the Elephant, created by the Brunhoff family, who would play a significant role – after we married – in our, and our two daughters’ education.

Babar himself was born in 1930. Cécile de Brunhoff, mother of Laurent and Mathieu, then five and four years old, told them a story about a little elephant who lived in the jungle but became an orphan, his mother having been killed by a hunter, who makes his way to the big city and learned the ways of humans before returning home to become king of the elephants. The story would have remained merely a memory had the boys not then told it to their portrait painter father, Jean de Brunhoff. Enchanted by the tale, he produced a watercolour album entitled The Story of Babar the Little Elephant. When the boys showed their uncle Lucien Vogel – influential publishing figure and founder of reportage photography magazine Vu – the album, he was so impressed that he persuaded Jean to have it published in 1931. It was an instant bestseller. Six albums followed – millions of copies were sold between 1931 and 1939 – in which Jean developed his talents as an illustrator, combining his skills as a painter, storyteller and observer. Jean de Brunhoff, however, died of tuberculosis in 1937. At this point his brother Michel, who had become editor at French Vogue asked Laurent, then only 12, to do the colouring for some pages of two as yet unpublished albums. After the war, Laurent, then 20, continued the series producing some 40 albums himself, beginning with Babar’s Cousin, That Rascal Arthur. He carried on with many of his father’s characters: Babar, Celeste, Arthur, the Old Lady, Cornelius, Zephyr the monkey and the three children, Pom, Flora, and Alexander but over the years added many others. Laurent’s style was subtly different from his father’s but no-one seemed to notice and attributed the gap in publishing to the war.

This retrospective exhibition at Les arts décoratifs in Paris is a celebration of Barbar’s life. Now 80 years old, he made his TV debut in 1949 and went on to become an international star of animated film. However, in the early 1980s when our kids were born, Babar was not well-known in the UK and the albums were only available in French. Francophiles but not French speakers, loving the illustrations, we bought the books anyway and found the stories, albeit sophisticated, so easy to follow intuitively, by way of the drawings, that we were able to take the children through them and at the same time, improve our own understanding of the language. Meanwhile – Lesley’s coccyx never having quite recovered – our children grown up and left home, the precious Barbar albums remain with us to be rediscovered some day by their children, our grandchildren.

Illustrations from top
Jean de Brunhoff, original watercolour for The story of Babar, pp 20-21, 1931
Laurent de Brunhoff, original watercolour for Babar’s Cousin: That Rascal Arthur,
pp 4-5, 1946
Illustrations courtesy of the Morgan Library & Museum Collection, New York, USA

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