Diversity has never been hotter in the fashion industry. This year, more non-white, plus-sized, and transgender models have walked the runway than ever before, and a record number of black women have appeared on the covers of glossies worldwide. Alessia Glaviano, senior picture editor at Vogue Italia and director of the Photo Vogue Festival thinks we owe it to the internet. “I believe that nothing would have happened, or not this fast, in terms of inclusivity, if it wasn’t for social media,” she says. “It’s a progressive platform for talking about race, identity, sexuality, and disability.”
But diversity isn’t just a trend, it’s a reality. Years before #diversity began to take off, forward-thinking publications such as Vogue Italia were already poking holes in the industry’s representation problem, with initiatives such as the July 2008 “all black” issue. Vogue Italia is known for being adventurous, for setting a standard for cutting-edge fashion photography. Over the years has given artistic freedom to commissioned photographers such as Steve Meisel, Ellen von Unwerth and Miles Aldridge, who have shot stories unlikely to be seen elsewhere, engaging with themes such as plastic surgery and domestic violence.
“It’s been in our DNA since the beginning,” says Glaviano. “We’ve always been really engaged and committed to this part of fashion that can be very strong and influential.
“I’ve never believed in boundaries and labelling things,” she adds. “No one cares that Michelangelo was commissioned to create the Sistine Chapel. What they care about is the final result.”
Born in London’s prosperous Hampstead in 1904, Cecil Beaton went to school with Evelyn Waugh (who bullied him), and Cyril Connolly (who admired the beauty of his singing). Taught photography by his nanny, Beaton found work assisting cutting-edge young photographer Paul Tanqueray, and became famous for his portraits of the Bright Young Things – the decadent young socialites of the 1920s and 30s, whose hedonistic lives were captured in Waugh’s glittering, somewhat fatalistic novel Vile Bodies. Beaton was taken on by Vogue in 1927 and moved to the US in 1929; he was a staff photographer for both Vogue and Vanity Fair until 1938, when he was fired for inserting anti-Semitic phrases by the side of an illustration of New York society in American Vogue. Returning to Britain, he went on to take photographs for the British Ministry of Information during World War Two and later rehabilitated his career, going on to photograph stars such as Mick Jagger, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol. He also launched a successful career in set and costume design in the 1950s and …
“There were things happening in black America that lend themselves to the conversation in Italy in a way that perhaps people never would have imagined,” says Theaster Gates, a social practice artist and curator of a new exhibition,The Black Image Corporation, dedicated to exploring the legacy of the Johnson Publishing Company archive and its two acclaimed magazines, Ebony and Jet.
Presented at the Fondazione Prada from 20 September to 14 January, the exhibition gathers photographs from the company’s extensive archive of more than four million images, focusing primarily on the work of two photographers – Moneta Sleet Jr and Isaac Sutton. “When the Prada Foundation invites you to do a project, you know there’s already this big and ambitious living legacy; and so it felt really amazing to then put the Johnson Publishing Company in the context of this other fashion family,” explains Gates.
He’s best-known for his work with British and Italian Vogue, but Tim Walker is also a successful solo artist, opening his third solo show at London’s V&A on 07 September (his first two were also in London, at the Design Museum in 2008, and at Somerset House in 2012). The exhibition will feature a “brand new body of work inspired by the V&A’s collection,” stated V&A director Tristram Hunt as he announced the show yesterday, adding: “He will work his magic and come up with a series of photos.”
Starting his career by working in the Condé Nast picture library, where he worked on the Cecil Beaton archive for a year before university, Walker went on to assist Richard Avedon and shot his first story for Vogue at the age of 25. Famous for his use of elaborate sets, Walker is collaborating with celebrated British art director Shona Heath on his V&A show, which will include photographs, films, sets and installations around the museum.
Nelli Palomäki, Justine Tjallinks, Denis Dailleux, Mark Seliger, Thomas Sauvin, Gilles Coulon, Mattia Zoppellaro and The Karma Milopp are all showing work in the Portrait(s) Photography Encounter – a festival devoted to pictures of people. Based in Vichy, France, the festival is now in its sixth year, and has been overseen this time by artistic director Fany Dupêchez.
Dailleux’s images were shot from 1987-1992, and show children based in the working class suburbs of Persan-Beaumont, Northern France; the images Sauvin is showing are also from the archives, but were taken by amateurs in China, and rescued by the French artist after the negatives were sent to the Beijing Silvermine to be melted down.
“I am just obsessed by the beauty of botanical drawings,” says Kenji Toma, describing his new book, The Most Beautiful Flowers. It’s a homage to Pierre-Joseph Redouté’s celebrated book of watercolours, Choix des plus belles fleurs [The most beautiful flowers], which was first published in France back in 1827 – long before colour photography was available. “His images were illustrated with the purpose of replicating the botanic subject as close to reality as possible,” says Toma. “I’m more interested in doing the exact opposite with photography.” His series shows hyperreal, unrealistically perfect images of flowers, each shot with the same lens, angle, and lighting, and delicately arranged with pins and armature wire. Going one step further than nature, they put a contemporary spin on the concept of the botanical encyclopaedia.
Based in Lagos, Nigeria, A Whitespace Creative Agency is in the business of “creating narratives for a new vision of contemporary Africa”. It was set up in 2014 by Papa Omotayo after he “saw the need for creatives to have a platform and organisation that aimed to push new ideas being developed by a new generation of visual artists,” says Omotayo. “We sought to bring young dynamic creatives and pair them with local and international brands and organisations,” he continues, “whilst also developing personal projects and programmes that focused on art and culture as a currency and catalyst for change within the city of Lagos.” AWCA works with local and international brands and NGOs, creating lookbooks, campaigns, editorials, documentaries and films; it also works on projects presenting the cream of Lagos’ talent overseas. AWCA’s collaboration with Amaka Osakwe of Maki Oh won Best New Director at the Fashion Film Festival in Milan in 2016, for example; in 2016 AWCA took up a ten-day residency in London, showcasing some of its creatives, giving photographer Kadara Enyeasi a …
There is something frantic about David Brandon Geeting’s photography. In his latest collection, Amusement Park, the Greenpoint, Brooklyn-based artist creates a mood that is exhilarating and vibrant, but also verging on collapse, as though its tether could snap at any moment. Where his 2015 book, Infinite Power, was energetic and kinetic, with Amusement Park he’s aiming for “information overload”. “I’m not afraid of making people confused or dizzy,” he says. “I wanted it to be an onslaught of colours and forms and things that don’t make sense.”
Just three months after blacklisting the photographer Terry Richardson amid allegations of sexual misconduct with models, Condé Nast has dropped two more high-profile contributors after similar claims – Mario Testino and Bruce Weber. Anna Wintour, artistic director of Condé Nast and editor in chief of Vogue, has published a personal statement on 13 January in which she writes that: “Even as we stand with victims of abuse and misconduct, we must also hold a mirror up to ourselves—and ask if we are doing our utmost to protect those we work with so that unacceptable conduct never happens on our watch. Sometimes that means addressing the fact that such behavior can occur close to home. Today, allegations have been made against Bruce Weber and Mario Testino, stories that have been hard to hear and heartbreaking to confront. Both are personal friends of mine who have made extraordinary contributions to Vogue and many other titles at Condé Nast over the years, and both have issued objections or denials to what has emerged. I believe strongly in the value of remorse and forgiveness, but I take the allegations very seriously, and we at Condé Nast have decided to put our working relationship with both photographers on hold for the foreseeable future.”
“The first time my American agent came here, she said ‘I can’t believe you do all these pictures in this little room’,” laughs Paolo Roversi as he looks around the modest space he’s used as his studio for more than three decades. The Italian remains one of the world’s most sought-after fashion photographers, having forged his reputation during the mid-1980s shooting inspired catalogues for designers such as Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto, in an age when creatives were given unparalleled freedom of expression. Yet his studio is just a room in an unremarkable building in a nondescript arrondissement of southern Paris, furnished with battered chairs and old blankets. He wouldn’t have it any other way.