Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911- 2011

Bevvy of fashion photographers at Sydney Fashion Palette 2015, Art Gallery of NSW, Australia, photo ©Steven Godbee, courtesy Steven Godbee Publicity & Photography
Bevvy of fashion photographers at Sydney Fashion Palette 2015, Art Gallery of NSW, Australia, photo ©Steven Godbee, courtesy Steven Godbee Publicity & Photography
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Detail: Richard Burbridge (British) Alana Zimmer for Italian Vogue 2077, British, Chromogenic print, Framed: 55.9 × 71.1 cm (22 × 28 in.), Courtesy of Bruce Weber and Nan Bush

Starting June 26, 2018 in the J.Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, will be the most comprehensive exploration and celebration of a century of fashion photography.

Steven Godbee

Bevvy of fashion photographers at Sydney Fashion Palette 2015, Art Gallery of NSW, Australia, photo ©Steven Godbee, courtesy Steven Godbee Publicity & Photography

“Once overlooked by collectors and museums because of its commercial origins, fashion photography is now recognized as having produced some of the most creative work of the twentieth century, transcending its illustrative function to yield images of great artistic quality and sophistication,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.

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Richard Burbridge (British) Alana Zimmer for Italian Vogue 2077, British, Chromogenic print, Framed: 55.9 × 71.1 cm (22 × 28 in.), Courtesy of Bruce Weber and Nan Bush

Over 160 fashion photographs will be showcased alongside costumes, illustrations, magazine covers, videos and advertisements many from the Getty’s own collections, with many others lent from private sources.

Some eighty photographers will be represented, presenting some of the most ‘creative work of the twentieth century’.  From day wear to evening, from sartorial splendour to new age chic, the photographs ‘… are intended to arouse desire in viewers, whether it be for beauty, style, or even the trendiest lip shade or haircut’.

Givenchy Red, Paris; Victor Skrebneski (American, born 1929); Chicago, Illinois, United States, North America; 1990 to 1995; Cibachrome print; 51 × 40.4 cm (20 1/16 × 15 7/8 in.); 2016.92, © Victor Skrebneski, courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council

Givenchy Red, Paris; Victor Skrebneski (American, born 1929); Chicago, Illinois, United States, North America; 1990 to 1995; Cibachrome print; 51 × 40.4 cm (20 1/16 × 15 7/8 in.); 2016.92, © Victor Skrebneski, courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council

They change constantly to reflect the fashions and passions of our age.

Fashion photographers can indeed create stunning images renowned for their beauty and style, which appeal to consumers of magazines in particular, whether in print form or published Online as well.

“In 2010, we began working to strengthen the Museum’s collection of fashion photographs in the hopes of creating a foundation on which we could build a groundbreaking exhibition,” says Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs at the museum and curator of the exhibition…

…“I continue to be intrigued by the ability of some fashion photographs to transcend their original commercial function in order to be considered true works of fine art” he said.

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Dovima with elephants, evening dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, August 1955, Photograph by Richard Avedon, ©The Richard Avedon Foundation

Richard Avedon is one of the names in an impressive list of works to go on show, who is well known in the art world where his works showcase how he so eloquently captured the essence of his subject.

Only 22 when he began working he became known for ‘resourcefulness and inventiveness to present works that highlighted ‘stylistic and narrative purposes.

Avedon came to his art form from serving as a Photographer’s Mate Second Class in the US Merchant Marines, where he successfully captured images of those going to war.

This led him to believe he could become a photographer in the first place and the first of many retrospectives of his work was held at the Smithsonian Institution in 1962.

Edward Steichen  American 1879–1973, worked in France 1906–23 Actress Gloria Swanson 1924 gelatin silver photograph Courtesy Condé Nast Archive  © 1924 Condé Nast Publications

Edward Steichen American 1879–1973, worked in France 1906–23 Actress Gloria Swanson 1924 gelatin silver photograph Courtesy Condé Nast Archive © 1924 Condé Nast Publications

At the other end of the spectrum in 1911 the year pinpointed to begin this survey, is Edward Steichen who was challenged by the French publisher Lucien Vogel to create the first artistic fashion photographs through his lens.

He won over the hearts and minds of all his lady viewers to become the fashion photographer par excellence, changing the way we look at the world by changing attitudes in the industry.

His innovative lighting techniques and crispness of style meant his portraits of movie stars like the great Gloria Swanson highlighted their allure.

In her day France’s Coco Chanel (1883 – 1971), whose style became a byword for those seeking modish elegance pointed out that ‘elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress…nor is it, the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future‘

The V Back Evenings, Suzy Parker, Dress by Trigère, New York; Lillian Bassman (American, 1917 - 2012); United States, North America; 1955; Gelatin silver print; 24.1 × 21.7 cm (9 1/2 × 8 9/16 in.); 2011.35

The V Back Evenings, Suzy Parker, Dress by Trigère, New York; Lillian Bassman (American, 1917 – 2012); United States, North America; 1955; Gelatin silver print; 24.1 × 21.7 cm (9 1/2 × 8 9/16 in.); 2011.35, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

“My hope is that this sweeping introduction to fashion photography will not only educate and delight our visitors, but also inspire new scholarly inquiry,” adds Paul Martineau. “Long overlooked, the gradual integration of fashion photographs into museum collections will make it easier for these pictures to be evaluated in terms of the larger history of the medium of photography.”

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Tim Walker (British, born 1970), The Dress-Lamp Tree, England 2002, 2002, British, Chromogenic print, Image: 148.2 × 125.2 cm (58 3/8 × 49 5/16 in.), ©Tim Walker, Courtesy of Steven and Catherine Fink

Other photographers featured, include Lillian Bassman, Guy Bourdin, Erwin Blumenfeld, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Hiro, Inez & Vinoodh, Peter Lindbergh, Man Ray, Helmut Newton, Nick Knight, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts and Tim Walker, as well as lesser-known but influential artists such as Corinne Day, Gleb Derujinsky, Toni Frissell, and Kourken Pakchanian.

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Yohji Yamamoto, Autumn/Winter 1995, 1995, David Sims (British, born 1966), Chromogenic print, 88.9×71.1 cm, Courtesy of and ©David Sims

“Museums… have been slow to embrace this genre. The time seems ripe to present a sweeping overview of the finest examples of fashion photography produced over the past century”, Director Potts also said.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018

Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911–2011

June 26–October 21, 2018

J. Paul Getty Museum
The Getty Center
Los Angeles

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