“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.
“The whole jury was in agreement that Eva has a very strong vision and that her work is characterised by a consistency both in aesthetic and content, since the concepts explored are the hot topics of our contemporary society,” says Alessia Glaviano, senior photo editor on Vogue Italia and member of the Hyères Festival photography jury this year – which has awarded the grand prix to Eva O’Leary. The New York-based photographer has won with a series called Spitting Image, which shows American girls aged 11 to 14 photographed while looking at themselves in a mirror. A project involving both photographs and videos, Spitting Image shows both the girls’ discomfort with being put in front of the lens, and the ways in which they – and others – present themselves for the camera.
Fashion photography is changing – as Holly Hay and Shonagh Marshall, co-curators of a new three-part project entitled Posturing: Photographing the Body in Fashion, will attest. In November 2017, the pair held a London exhibition which placed 42 framed photographs and six magazine shoots in a west London space. It called into question both the function of this branch of contemporary image-making and the changing role of the figure in fashion imagery, placing work by Johnny Dufort, Marton Perlaki, Charlie Engman, Brianna Capozzi and others side by side. The show was followed by a specially commissioned film by artist Coco Capitán, Learning to Transcend the Physical Barrier That Owning a Body Implies, examining the respective practices of a choreographer, an artist and the founder of a traditional film-based darkroom, interrogating physical selfhood in all of its guises. This month, they launch the third part – a book created with Self Publish, Be Happy, in which photographers, stylists, editors and set designers respond to ideas about the body in fashion.