5 April 2012

In Context

I adore this portrait

Muse #14
Photographer: Wendy Bevan
Stylist: Jacob K
Model: Angelika Kocheva
(scans by OlgaKorbut)

I have always liked the way that fashion photography seems to transport you to somewhere beyond the clothes.  But is it ever truly beyond?  Perhaps it is simply readjusting the way you see the clothes, showing you something you could not see before, but that was always there.  Change the way in which you look at something and even the most familiar of objects can look entirely new and different.  Whether it be context, angle, lighting, or simply a change in your way of thinking or feeling, and suddenly what you see is not what you had thought to see.  The way in which we dress ourselves will always be open to that infinite realm of variables - what we think we are expressing and what others see us as expressing will never match perfectly.  But that dissonance is what fascinates me, and I think in that space between image and understanding there is always room for exploration.  We may never be able to control the way in which the image of our daily dress is consumed or considered, but we can certainly influence it.   

We all want to look natural in our clothing, and that sense of intimacy between body and dress is perhaps the most obvious influence, or message, we can control.  Fit is the most basic element of any dress, so whether it is something tight or something baggy, it is what first determines our silhouette, long before anyone sees the detail of our dress.  We all make our clothes our own (or at least, we hope to), so in this editorial, seeing such a clear visual displacement from what would be considered everyday styling makes me wonder as to the extent to which a finished garment can successfully be pushed.  How much can I push, or (to put it another way) readjust, the meaning of the garment?  Here the garments are clearly removed from the intended method of display and turned into costume (although unfortunately many pieces seem to remain costume when worn these days).  There are far more examples of this process being done wrong than there are of this process being done right, however I suppose that is only natural - you have to test the limits, and in that process there are bound to be mistakes.

What interests me is how the context of these images allows for a clearer transfer of intended expression.  Lighting, make up, background, soft focusing, etc., all work in unison to create a final image.  Through a series of vignettes a story is created for our consumption.  But life does not work like that - the urban environment lends itself only to seeing people rush by.  We see a snapshot, a movement, a wisp, an entirely fleeting moment.  So think of how much more adaptable our clothing has to be in real life in order to convey any meaning or message at all.  Indeed I find myself trying to understand that space between image and individual understanding, before even having the time to consider the social implications of everyday dress.  But perhaps they actually go hand in hand, because most cultures or social settings will inherently have a shared set of beliefs, principles, and traditions, from which individual thoughts will obviously also spring.

The most interesting dresser is perhaps not someone who entirely displaces the norm, as these costumes would if placed on the street, but one who subverts the norm - one who whispers rather than shouts.  Costume is fine for fashion photography, but for the everyday I would rather wear dress.


  1. "one who whispers rather than shouts"..I love that quote.

    Looking at these was like looking at history.

    Once we had some French display at our local museum of clothing. Ancient stuff, but it was supposedly how the French developed fashion. And I had no idea how sleeves evolved. It was just a piece one put on under other layers.

    So naturally, I had to go home, cut up a thermal Tee...and..wow, I had sleeves (a primitive shrug) for my regular T-shirts on those chilly April days.

  2. I thought these were paintings.

    So informative. I love reading about your perspective on fashion. And its history too.

  3. Beautiful photos,these look like paintings in Renaissance time. Well done.

  4. Loving the chiaroscuro effect these photos have... like looking at paintings.

    Ever since becoming a mother I've struggled a bit with my visual identity. I don't want to "give-up" and dress like all the other moms do... but I'm also not a 21-year-old (who can get away with wearing almost anything) anymore either. Not to mention weight fluctuations that come with such a life change.

    More and more I'm rediscovering my style again...