14 September 2016

Going Digital

"It's All About Shapes"
Vogue Italia (March 2016)
Photographer: Sølve Sundsbø
Stylist: Patti Wilson

When trying to explain why I am so drawn to certain pieces of fashion, the answer I most often seem to come up with is that I enjoy truth in design. Now I admit that sounds entirely pretentious, but I struggle to find a more concise summary. What I mean by truth in this case is twofold, in that I enjoy designers who display some understanding of a garment, what I would call its truth - you see this most easily with the basics, because all you have to do is try on a t-shirt or shirt from a designer who understands the body and one who does not, the difference is night and day. But this understanding in itself is not enough, because I also seek a designer who has discovered some sense of truth of their own in design, or to put it another way, their own voice. While I think that you could easily focus on one or the other, I think that finding both is what allows an average designer to become great, because it is that total dedication to the craft that makes it easier to produce something truly unique and beautiful.

For me it is the difference between looking at a later painting by Picasso and the work of someone who simply cannot paint (or is lazy, *cough*Hirst*cough*) - at first glance there might be little discernable difference, but if you actually stop to take a proper look, you begin to appreciate an understanding apparent there in the Picasso that is difficult for many to achieve. So many designers seem to want to jump the gun and start doing “classic with a twist”, without bothering to actually learn how to make “classic”. I think that is why I enjoy the story of Tao Kurihara’s job interview for Comme des Garçons so much. She went in thinking that Rei would ask her to create something fantastical and complicated, but all Rei asked was for her to make a plain white shirt. Always start with the basics, and for me, your basic understanding of a topic or idea becomes your starting truth. It is something you can always play upon and develop, in order to find your own path, but ultimately I think that how we come to relate to that fundamental belief colours all of our work later on. 

I think that anyone who is serious about their art form is seeking their version of a truth (or truths) about that art. Whether it be a musician trying to understand their instrument and allow for it to become an extension of their selves, or a writer who wants to be faithful to the characters and the story they have created, or a painter who wants to really understand what it means to be a painter, I think it is human nature to want to understand our chosen crafts and explore their meaning. It is for this reason that I often find myself at odds with digital photography that seeks to mimic film photography. I most certainly understand the appeal behind it and the fact that much of what we call an “analogue” effect has now become very much part of the digital aesthetic, but there is part of me that is uneasy at what has now become cliched retro nostalgia. I often find myself thinking that if you really want to go for that aesthetic that you might as well learn to do it manually and use film, whereas for digital I think that there is a whole different world of effects and aesthetics to pursue - finding the truth of the medium.

I learnt to develop and print black and white film when I was in school, and I remember being absolutely entranced by the magic of the whole process. And then came the time when I used a digital camera for the first time, and here was the same feeling of magic, but it was decidedly different from film. This was when digital cameras had a floppy disk slot in the side and you could only fit three or four images to a disk. I remember taking those few photographs and then running to upload them onto the computer before taking a few more. You were either tethered to a computer or carrying a box of floppy disks. I remember uploading those images and sometimes they would come up with weird glitches and multicoloured pixelated noise that was so far removed from anything I had ever seen in film photography that it felt incredibly futuristic. These digital images were blurry, grainy and dark, but there was a beauty to them that was all their own. I think that fashion imagery is always imbued with some sense of nostalgia, because so much of fashion itself is built upon the idea, but I sometimes wish there were more editorials that fed into the sense of digital nostalgia I feel. And in doing so, choosing to revel in the medium itself, rather than mimicking an entirely different art.

P.S. Entirely unrelated, but go check out Gracia's blog The Rosenrot if you get the chance, she has been killing it with her writing recently. 


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