FEBRUARY – APRIL 2023
Fashion is interesting as a theme for me in two ways. Firstly, it is a prominent genre of picture accompanying haut couture and appeals for its role in the world. I began thinking more generally, seeing the models as mythic figures, informing current culture in ways parallel to my previous themes in LOVED ONES, ROBO, MUSING and VIGILANTES. Costumes offer an ever-changing allure that balances prominence against conformity. The myth is about standing out or excelling on initial impact – on first sight – and this ushering further favour. We want that to count, although as often it soon disappoints.
Fashion photography goes to great lengths to suggest and integrate outfits with a range of situations. I researched ‘mood boards’ and the full array of preparations for location shoots. Although fashion obviously applies to both sexes and all ages, I mainly found ladies fashion the more compelling. Initially I thought I would just use the latest trends that had filtered through to the street. But it became less clear cut which street I ought to observe. Then there were retro and topical strains– spinoffs from music, movies, TV and the web. The sample ended up much broader than planned.
Secondly, fashion is also a deliberate exercise in presentation, much like advertising or performance. As in previous series such as SERENADES, ACTIVISTS and YOUR TURN, the aim is to show how presentation smoothly grades into representation. The content is part of the form. In FASHION I extend photographic means into digital graphics and stretch mythic elements into more elusive and allusive abstraction. Here nothing is completely coherent or factual. All rests on tips and hunches. Fashion makes for passion.
More notes at the bottom of the page
Fashion settings tend to suggest an appropriate occasion, some social prestige in which dress matters. These may be modest or grand, local or exotic, topical or traditional; the idea is just to hint at relevance for dress, perhaps a formal affinity to composition, circumstance. Part of the fun was matching pose and outfit to novel settings. The risk was that the focus would simply remain with an attractive model, that dress would seem unexceptional amongst all the reconstruction. Yet somehow the fashions still seem to survive.
Interestingly, fashion shoots often use parks or wilderness for backdrops, perhaps hints at leisure or travel situations, but also suggests a match with nature at some level, possibly a female alignment with season. There may be semiological studies along these lines, somewhat after Roland Barthes, I haven’t looked. But the aesthetic appeal is clearly to deep roots.
Because the theme returns to figures and core concerns with genre and presentation, I have thought hard about my overall project and formal issues. These have expanded, particularly with the use of digital graphics, to offer a more nuanced range to reconstruction and irrealism. Realism and photography have become matters of degree, so too painting and style. Nowadays, I happily flit across the spectrum, according to genre or not. It may be the work seems crude or inept as Photoshopping, for my efforts. I welcome that. Natural stupidity could be the next big thing. Then again, the work may seem more conservative, more compromised, but it could not be otherwise at this point.