Face of Fashion
National Portrait Gallery
by Sidonio Costa, whitehot magazine, London
The UK National Portrait Gallery in London, opened on the 15th of February an exhibition presenting portraits by some of the better known and revered fashion photographers today. Curated by Susan Bright, author of Art Photography Now, the exhibition presents the works by the collective Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, and independent photographers Corinne Day, Steven Klein, Paolo Roversi and Mario Sorrenti.
Face of Fashion at the NPG follows a tradition of showing fashion photography at that institution. The first fashion photography show there, opened in 1968 showing Cecil Beaton, and since then there have been regular photographic exhibitions on that theme.
The five photographers chosen for this show have all different styles of shooting and thinking about their work, their photography is an obvious evidence of that and in this exhibition that is apparent. If one was to find a similarity between all the works exhibited it would be easy, all the pieces show a great level of intimacy between the photographer and the sitter; this screams at us either in the photography as a finished piece or in the conditions of shooting and thinking about their shooting sessions.
Some of the photographers showed portraits of models with whom they have been working for years, like for example Corinne Day and her photographic portraits of Kate Moss, Georgina Cooper and Rosemary Furgusson. It is very clear in Corinne’s work that what she is looking for are moments of intimacy or private conversation between her sitters, her camera and herself. The result is a set of photographs, some published, others not, that show us images of extreme candidness, not very usual in Fashion Photography.
The exhibition is very well hung and when entering the gallery there is a clear sense of what we are looking at, beautiful portrait images give us eye candy all the way through the show. There is a rhythm to the show and the way it is hung. We start with the extraordinary sexy works by Mert Allas & Marcus Piggott, a result of dialectic shooting sessions with their sitters, where they are very much involved in the way they are run, and the end result. We pass through Corinne Day’s pieces, almost more “artistic” photography then fashion photography. Paolo Roversi presents works in composition closer to the 19th century Photography, then to contemporary fashion. He is a master of getting the best off his sitters when in the confined space of the studio.
Mario Sorentini exhibits works that transcend more then one style, documentary, narrative and studio based work, his interest in the sculptural effects of light produce great work. We end with Steve Klein and his highly narrative portraits, the shock effect of the show, for many a bit displaced in this show, but that is Steve Klein for you, a subversive spirit!
Face of fashion is a great show and will undoubtedly be a crowd puller for the NPG. It does what it says in the label, it shows you some of the faces of the fashion world and the work of the photographers that shape and create trends and trendy images for the fashion world today. In this show we have 5 different visions of portraiture in fashion photography, some of them already iconic and unforgettable, others groundbreaking and subversive, but all of them inventive and inspiring in a way.
Sidonio Costa has been living and working in London for over five years now, he has a degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology (Museum Studies) from Coimbra University in Portugal, and a Post-graduation in Sociology on Globalization and Identity (Media Studies) from the same university. Sidonio has done research for his Post-graduation in the USA both at Brown University and University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. He has been working with museums and art galleries since 2001. Currently he works as a freelance curator and contemporary art consultant and agent for art galleries in the UK, France, USA and other countries. He is also a freelance journalist for art/culture magazines. Sidonio is the Programme Co-ordinator of a new Masters Degree in Photography (Historical and Contemporary) at Sotheby's Institute of Art London.
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