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Culture

Fashion Photography Fuses with High Art

A new exhibition in Hamburg, “Archeology of Excellence”, looks at creative fashion photography of the 1980s and 1990s. It was a time of bold experimentation.

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Fashion photography with a strong artistic vision: Alexander McQueen & Isabelle Blow

Ever since Baron Adolphe de Mayer created his first photographs for Vogue in 1910, there has been a dynamic interchange between photography and fashion. Later, renowned photographers such as Man Ray and Yva published their photos in a growing number of fashion magazines, turning them into a kind of storehouse of the cultural zeitgeist.

Now the "Archeology of Elegance" exhibition at Hamburg’s Deichtorhallen examines the fusion of art and fashion photography that took place in the 1980s and 1990s. It was during this time that fashion photography started reacting to societal changes and began to freely take artistic chances.

Archeology of Elegance Tyson Cover

The show includes 150 prints from such well-known photographers as Guy Bourdin, Herb Ritts and Bettina Rheims.

The show divides its pictures into four categories: Glamour, Punk Rock, High-Tech and Arts. But the boundaries between the categories are anything but clear. In "Punk Rock", the exhibition shows how fashion photographers first dared to showcase the rebellion typical of the followers of the punk scene, one which denies any pretensions to glamour, fashion’s stock-in-trade.

Still, there’s no taking the glamour completely out of fashion.

Archeology of Elegance Dolls

The photographs under the "Glamour" rubric are sumptuously stylized, usually down to the tiniest detail. Some of the most notable use striking juxtapositions to throw the viewers off, thereby creating a photograph they’ll remember.

For example, Bettina Rheims shows pop star Madonna doubled up on a bare floor. Claudia Schiffer poses elegantly in a dirty, run-down kitchen. French photographer Guy Bourdin puts his stunning model in front of pig carcasses hanging in the slaughterhouse.

The last two decades of the twentieth century provided something of a laboratory for photographers working in fashion. The clear delineation between advertising and art became distinctly fuzzy and as the exhibition shows, photographers found the freedom to inject their own artistic vision into the commercial sphere.

The exhibition "Archeology of Elegance" runs until August 25th.

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