Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Anna and Georgina by Sarah Moon

I am currently developing my project, and looking at other practitioners who I am inspired by. These images by Sarah Moon for W Magazine are interesting. I really like the technique used to create them. The use of texture makes them eye catching and different to regular fashion magazines. I am not sure if I'm a huge fan of the styling on the first image, but the others are really beautiful. I like the third one down the best, as the model becomes blurred in the backgound. It feels sombre, and it looks like she is focusing on something below. It remind me of really old photographs, like the ones Faith showed me of the Victorians for her last project. 

The one thing I can take from this shoot would be the use of texture. How could I use this within my images? Do I need to? I really love the idea that the texture does change our perspective of the subject, and there becomes a barrier between the viewer and subject. Maybe images like this raise more questions, they are certainly more art based than the images I usually look at, but that is different and refreshing. 

Saturday, 28 January 2012

What is the Meaning of Craft in Contemporary Art and Advertising?

This essay will be discussing the new wave of craft, primarily knitting, and its meaning in contemporary art and advertising. The rise in popularity of the handmade and its commercial knock on effect will be explored, proving the morals behind modern adverts do not reflect on those of traditional Arts and Crafts, but only imitate associated stereotypes. With more people returning to the craft of knitting as well as a youthful following, a community of consumers has formed who are more aware of mass production and the loss of uniqueness in products. Despite the growth in the number of crafters, through conventions, social networking and knitting circles does advertising reflect the principles of craft or play to a negative stereotype to appeal to a mass audience?

The essay will be divided into two sections, craft in cotemporary art, and craft in advertising, each concentrating on the reasons behind the use of the handmade and what that means in terms of their construction and semiotic value. The first part examines the Arts and Crafts movement and how contemporary art echoes the values established by William Morris. Investigating artists that use craft to make a statement. Elaine Reichek, Barb Hunt, Shauna Richardson and Margi Geerlinks work will be studied to understand the meaning of craft in art, as well as theorists such as Anscombe and Gere, and Williamson. The second will analyse recent advertising campaigns that use knitting as a dominant feature to sell mass-produced products. The examination of adverts for Shreddies, Sudafed, Natural Gas and Smirnoff and Cola will prove how advertising is only using the craft because of its rise in popularity. Both sections will investigate not only the meaning of craft in each area, but its use of semiotic discourse and history.

Craft in Contemporary Art
The new wave of craft began in the early 1990s, rebelling against the digital process that many artists were incorporating within their practices. Craft’s renaissance had begun, contemplating many of the original principles of The Arts and Crafts movement. Wagner (2008, p1) writes ‘craft is not simply about making but about making a political statement’ reflecting on John Ruskin and William Morris and their development of arts political value.
The 19th century saw a new way of making art, a movement was established ‘as a reaction against the industrial revolution in hopes of returning society to a simpler way of life’ Hardy-Moffat (n.d.) states.  Led by Morris, the Arts and Crafts movement combined its own aims with the awareness that a nations art symbolised the moral values of its society.  Although Britain’s industrialism was leading in Europe there was a need for art to be restored, ‘an English art for England’ Anscombe and Gere (1978, p7) write, explaining the need for something new, a reaction against the issues affecting Victorian England.

Fig. 1

‘The Arts and Crafts movement was an attempt to raise design standards at every level’ writes Greensted (2005, p 4), focusing on education and Morris’ four founding principles that Hardy-Moffat (n.d.) examines as ‘unity in design, joy in labour, individualism and regionalism’. These four elements teach that the work produced must always be considerate of the values behind the movement, acknowledging the work’s aesthetics should directly parallel its reason for being. Equal credit would be given to both designer and maker of the piece, for example fig. 1 gives credit to Morris & Co. for publishing and Jeffery for printing, establishing a fair relationship throughout the whole process, Hardy-Moffat (n.d.) writes how this ‘served to minimize the division of labour imposed by the industrial revolution’. The pieces were original and unique, protesting mass production using nature as a source for inspiration rebelling against the advancements in machine technology that factories were incorporating.

The success of the movement meant Britain had become a leader in design development and production with its art; Anscombe and Gere (1978, p47) write ‘Its real aims were to educate people to an awareness that craft and the craftsman were worthy of protection’ which is to this day apparent through its legacy and revival.  Reflecting on this movement the new wave of craft can easily be associated with its reasoning. As Morris and Ruskin were rebelling against the industrial revolution and the replacement of worker with machine, contemporary artists also considering the rise of technology, Hung and Magliaro (2007, p11) write

While the fictionalized world of cyberspace flourished and popular media resigned itself to the slickness of MTV, a growing number of artists and designers began to rebel against the ubiquity and singularity of mass production and digital technology.

With the current boundaries of technology being constantly pushed the revival of craft is a natural rebellion. With the rise of knitting occurring with the movement it became a chosen media for many contemporary artists. However the reaction of feminism changed the craft from the 1960s, with women fighting for equality and change many stopped knitting to protest the dreary symbol history had deemed it. Williamson (1988, p25) states

Feminist thought has been increasingly to intervene and try to change symbols, to engage in struggle within the symbolic, and precisely to understand how our bodies and our images are used as part of a network of social meanings.

Acknowledging the semiotics of women and their general portrayal through time had to be changed in order to gain equality with men. With the stereotype of the knitter falling into a derogative social cast the dynamics of modern living had shifted and craft became less popular.

            The Arts and Crafts movement changed art by the use of its aesthetics, politics and crediting all those associated with the production of a piece, however the movement was predominately male influenced. Contemporary art sees a turn with women investigating and creating new meanings for craft in art, challenging stereotypes and traditions, and certainly celebrating the rise of feminism. Knitting was re-born in terms of its context, explored as a medium of art rather than a domestic craft. Before the new wave of craft artists explored textiles within their work, however throughout modern art the use of knitting does show evidence of irony. The 1970s and 80s saw Elaine Reichek’s conceptual work which Marter (1978) depicts as ‘complex pictorial systems with personal experience’, a formal series exploring knitting as a traditional woman’s craft and coding it as a problem for the artist to conceive and solve. Fig. 2, Laura’s Layette, is an example of how Reichek investigates the process of the craft; the two-panel piece features a child’s sweater, a graph drawing of the mechanical process on how to make it and a hand knitting instruction booklet. Marter (1978) writes

Reichek focuses attention on the formal patterning of our modes of operating in both knitting and in ‘family’ life, as for example, what we believe symbolises our archetypal home and mother,

by deconstructing the rituals of families and knitting Reichek changes the concept of the craft, it is no longer a domestic practice. The link to motherhood through the choice of the child’s sweater gives the piece a feminist value, under Williams’s notion it changes the typical view of the task of knitting by show casing it as a method to make art. By undermining its practical values and showcasing it as conceptual art Reichek changed the perceptions of knitting, allowing contemporary artists to develop upon the principle she established through this body of work.

Fig. 2

            The artists in the new wave of craft exploit knitting as a medium for making political and personal statements, from Barb Hunt’s ‘Antipersonnel’ series on war to Margi Geerlinks contrast of digital manipulation with the handmade in ‘Crafting Humanity’, craft’s changes its meaning to suit the maker and viewer. Whether the artists state their works to be feminist or not their use of craft does reflect feminist art theory. Meskimmon (2002, p381) writes

Feminists do not seek to find a ‘new’ language or an ideal theory (‘untainted’ by contact with ‘phallogocentric’ discourses), but instead focus on the ways in which the texts, objects, images and ideas which surrounded and interpellate us as subjects might be reworked towards different ends.

Considering knitting in the terms of Meskimmon’s writings contemporary artists such as Hunt do appear to use feminism as a tool to aid their art practice. The Antipersonnel series is made up of knitted replicas of land mines, life sized and in varied shades of pink; the work incorporates the themes of tradition and death. Considering William’s writings and the intent to change symbolic values in society Hunt successful does this. During times of war women would knit socks to send to support the troops, yet by using the same craft in the form of weaponry Hunt changes the meaning from a soft thoughtful form of help to a political message on the welfare of soldiers. The contrast in the subject and materials used allows a new perception of knitting, the pink, a very human colour, could connote a similarity to organs, and the slow process of hand making is much like human growth which, in reality, is
quickly ended by the content of the pieces. Hunt, B (2007, p90) states ‘knitting has traditionally been used to make garments that protect and warm the body, quite the opposite of land mines, which destroy the body’, acknowledging the soft texture of knitting and the frailness of human life, the pieces demonstrate the value of life. Shauna Richardson’s crochetdermy uses the same principle of representing the themes of death, replicating taxidermy animals using craft. The reasons behind the work fall into the Dada practice that anything can be art, pushing art theory, ‘if anything can be art why not crochet? Realism? Highly accessible themes such as animals?’ writes Yin-Wong quoting Richardson (2010). Like Reichek, Richardson is taking craft into another realm, different to domestication. Like Hunt, she considered the medium because of its traditions, Richardson testifies that ‘crochet being an endangered craft in this country fits nicely in the concept’, relating to the feminist dismissal of what it symbolised and the revival to change the meaning of craft.

Fig. 3 
            With art and craft constantly developing with and against technology representation also changes. Reichek work considers knitting in a personal but formal structure, Hunt and Richardson produce intimate pieces, which subtly shock the viewer through their semiotic discourse. Contemporary artists mimic the values of the Arts and Crafts movement, rejoicing the individualism in their work. Margi Geerlinks further challenges the notions of craft in art. The Crafting Humanity series focuses on the human body and issues of individualism, confronting the relationship of the handmade and digital manipulation throughout the series. Fig. 6 deals with the theme of creation, with the mother, the knitter, and the child who is inevitably the product of the craft. Padovani and Whittaker (2010, p11) write how ‘the art of creation, rendered inert by the photograph, appears here more self-driven than a selfless act of life giving’ realising the image as cold and not typical of the craft. Geerlinks use of digital manipulation in the image changes the content. The slowness of the craft juxtaposes the digital world and technology, a twisted nostalgia. ‘By merging art and craft, concept and function, this work and other like it, challenge the convention of knitting’ Padovani and Whittaker (2010, p11) write, showing how not only does this challenge women’s traditional role, it challenges the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement, incorporating digital technology with the notion of the handmade.
Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Through investigating the Arts and Crafts movement and contemporary art’s reflections upon it, knitting has been incorporated into art as a stable and significant medium. The meaning of the craft in general leads back to the feminist discouragement of home and hand making and the rise of women using knitting in an ironic way. Although the work examined all feature different discourse surrounding their content a feminist viewpoint is always established which the viewer would relate to. Recognising the nostalgic quality of knitting, the viewer, seeing it in a new form, will identify the change of the handmade through the new wave of craft. Williamson and Meskimmon’s writings on feminism make it clear that through the change of symbolism craft’s meaning suits the protest on equality, with the gender stereotype on knitters being lifted.

Craft in Contemporary Advertising
The rise of craft in art enables a huge following in culture, with many people returning to hand making and DIY projects. With online social networking sites such as Ravelry.com and buying and selling sites such as Etsy.com the community of crafters is growing worldwide, sharing patterns and products. ‘Culture depends on its participants interpreting meaningfully what is happening around the, and ‘making sense’ of the world’ Hall (1997, p 2) writes, the knitting culture therefore differs greatly to the perceptions the outside world has on it, the current knitting societies understand terms and thinking in a similar way, whilst outsiders only form opinions on stereotypes. Mass culture is therefore targeted more within advertising, rather than the communities who are more knowledgeable in the sub-cultures referenced. This proves that advertising hijacks ideas from art and trends in culture and changes their values to appeal to a wider audience. Therefore the adverts that feature knitting and other crafts do not follow the Arts and Craft movement’s morals, but rather extort them to make money.

Binet and Field (2009) state ‘The most effective advertisements of all are those with little or no rational content’, referring to successful campaigns that use emotional content to influence consumers to buy the product. Adverts like Shreddies ‘Knitted by Nanas’ are successful as they follow this rule. Knitted by Nanas features Shreddies, a Nestle branded cereal that is square shaped with a woven texture, being hand knitted by grandmothers in a factory of comfy chairs, Fig. 6. It could be perceived as a grandmother’s heaven, hours of knitting with friends in a comfortable environment. The product bears no real resemblance to a knitted item, but the association with the nanas lets the viewer believe, if only for a second, Shreddies are not mass produced in industrial factories but made with the love of a grandma. Williamson (1978, P158) writes how;

our past and memory of the past, are confused with someone else’s (or nobody’s, since the ‘past’ in the picture is a total construct). We are shown a hazy, nostalgic picture and asked to ‘remember’ it as our past, and simultaneously, to construct it through buying/consuming the product.

Fig. 6

This denotes how adverts that use nostalgia work; the Shreddies advert uses a universal stereotype of the familiar, our grandmothers, allowing the audience to relate to the fictional characters. By purchasing the product the consumer becomes closer to these characters, the same closeness as wearing a wooly jumper made by a grandmother. The loose associating with the physical identity of the product and the constructed concept of how it is made uses Williamsons theory to entice viewers to buy the product. However the truth behind the product, the mass production, was one of the reasons for rebellion in the arts and crafts movement, and the new wave of craft. The stereotype of the knitter is used; the semiotics that the art of Morris and Co, Reichek, Hunt, Richardson and Geerlinks all play against is instead reinforced. Because the viewer can identify with the pigeonholed character the advert becomes successful, ‘connotation is the arbitrary in that the meanings brought to the image are based on rules or conventions that the reader has learnt’ Crow (2010, p55) writes, reinforcing how by using the typical image of the knitter more products are sold.

Fig. 7

Fig 8.

            The recent 2011 Sudafed advert again coins knitting to promote another mass-produced product. Here stop motion is used to convey an ill character and the science behind the medicine, showing a detailed knitted view of the inside of her head, Fig. 7. The phrase ‘wooly headed’ is used, which the advert plays up to with the use of knitting, its discourse uses the concept that knitted objects are things of comfort, intended to protect, just as the product does. Like Hunt’s Antipersonnel series the viewer knows a substantial amount of time has been taken to knit the pieces, however here the obvious is being used. Rather than changing the meaning of the craft, it reflects on the known for success. Barthes’ ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ examines a Panzani advert, writing how its use of the familiar in culture is used.

The composition of the image, evoking the memory of innumerable alimentary paintings, send us to an aesthetic signified: the ‘nature morte’ or, as it is better expressed in other languages, the ‘still life’; the knowledge on which this sign depends is heavily cultural.

Barthes (1977, p69) states how the advert is constructed to induce an association with the past. Sudafed, like Nestle, are channelling a memory. Although the Sudafed advert is very simplistic and modern because of its reference to knitting it enables a connection with the past. The character used in the advert resembles a middle-aged woman, Fig. 8, which would be the target audience of the product, allowing it to be relatable without using a low budget actor. The relationship between the product and the concept of the advert does have more ‘rationale’ than the Shreddies advert, the target audience is less broad, however the women it is aimed at are in the age group who would stereotypically be knitting again, or be able to relate the craft to their mothers, showing a well thought campaign. However the company is only using the craft because of the recent trend in knitting. Because it is a recent advertisement it proves that the knowledge of the rise of craft in art has had a knock on affect in advertising, taking in only its aesthetics.

Fig. 9

            Like the Sudafed advert, Natural Gas use the stop motion technique, however on a much grander scale. Covering every aspect of a house in wool, Fig. 9, it gives the impression by using their heating you would be as snug as you would be in a handmade jumper. The production value of this advert reflects the time gone into the making of a jumper. Again using the idea that the knitted object is soft and warm. The biggest selling part of this service is the promise that will you feel not only warm and comfortable, but feel something real, a connection to the past through the tradition of knitting.  Reflecting on a Kraft peanut butter advert Williamson (1978, p159) writes ‘we are given a false place in an imaginary time by the movement between past and future’ explaining how, because the advert features a recipe to make a cake with the product it places the viewer between when the advert is set and the future notion of making the cake. Natural Gas emulates this, despite it being fairly recent, it places the viewer in a mind set, between the past – the tradition of knitting and it’s associations, now – watching the advert, and the future – turning on the heating to fully experience what is being seen ‘now’. In reality the advert is just using knitting to sell their service, the name Natural Gas seems innocent, earthly and friendly, however ultimately its aim is to sell, feeding on our memories to make the consumer buy into it’s brand. Considering Williams writings, the Shreddies, Sudafed and Natural Gas all use nostalgia to connect with the viewer. Using emotional advertising techniques consumers reflect on cultural stereotypes and traditions to produce meaning within the adverts.  Crow (2010, p55) writes ‘connotation is the arbitrary in that the meanings brought to the image are based on rules or conventions that the reader has learnt’, stating that for advertisements to exist and be successful they must rely on mass culture’s knowledge of the subject. The final example proves how ultimately advertising will always steal from art and culture to mislead the consumer into purchasing these products. 

Fig. 10
            Smirnoff’s ‘Classic Mixed Drinks, In a Can’ adverts use the slogan ‘Yes You Can’ in a number of scenarios, knitting being one of them. Featuring two male, hipster characters, one asks “can you drink Smirnoff and Cola while knitting an initiative set of leisurewear for your best friend?” takes a sip of the product and then answers “yes you can”. The advert takes knitting in advertising another step further, Sudafed realises the rise in knitting and takes advantage of the generalised age range of women interest in craft, Smirnoff aim for a much younger audience. By stereotyping a hipster as somebody who likes things ironically, knitting is given a whole new meaning.  It almost becomes the ultimate feminist aim, placing a man in a typical women’s past time to sell a generic female drink. The advert, like the conceptual artists using craft as medium, does so ironically. It challenges men to accept equality, in the traditional culture. If a man can knit then he can also drink a can of Smirnoff without social stigma. Despite the advert being a forward step for the views on knitting it does still conform to Crow, Barthes and Williamson’s writings on advertising. Its semiotics relate to the current trends, obsessed with the past, vintage apparel, furniture and music. It also relates to the new perceptions of men, the use of the pugs show how its indented audience would be okay with their feminine side.

The meaning of craft in this advert is to sell, to reach the masses and encourage them to buy a product that is not handmade. The use of knitting gives the sense, like with the other adverts, that the products are made with care. Although the Smirnoff advert is slightly different, it ultimately proves that advertising will steal from the latest trends. Through exploring the Arts and Crafts movement the knowledge of what the handmade should consist of becomes clear, Morris’ principles developed a new form of art, an art for the people, establishing craftsmen and women as artists. The new wave of craft shows contemporary artists and their uses of meanings and signs within art, as a rebellion against the digital world it reflects the history of the Arts and Crafts movement. The meaning of craft, primarily knitting, is developed by the artists that use and explore it, it will always relate to feminist theory because of its history, using irony to make political and personal statements. The meaning of craft in advertising, however, does not reflect upon the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement. As the handmade will always be about the individuality of the product and the physical human flaws seen on the pieces, mass production can never reproduce this. Advertising will borrow for all genres, its intent only to sell. Advertising knows its target market. The use of craft in advertising is intended for mass culture, Shreddie’s use of the ‘iconic’ traditional knitter proves nostalgia is exploited, Sudafed and Natural Gas both use knitting, like Hunt, to express care in production, and Smirnoff reflects upon the craft in an ironic fashion. In conclusion despite adverts appearing as if using the handmade for ‘good’, ultimately they will never reflect on the true meaning of craft in art, only imitate it to make sales.

Fig. 1
Morris, W, Morris & Co, Jeffery. Blackthorn. (1892). [Online Image]. Available from: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O250943/wallpaper-blackthorn/ [Accessed 4 January 2012]

Fig. 2
Reichek, E. Laura’s Sweater. (1979). [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.elainereichek.com/Project_Pages/16_EarlyKnit/LaurasSweater.htm [Accessed 12 January 2012]

Fig. 3
Hunt, B. Antipersonnel – detailed landscape. (n.d.). [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.barbhunt.com/ [Accessed 12 January 2012]

Fig. 4
Richardson, S. Crochetdermy Deer. (n.d.). [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/gallery/22/6452/5/crochetdermy [Accessed 12 January 2012]

Fig. 5
Geerlinks, M. Crafting Humanity – woman knitting. [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.margigeerlinks.com/ [Accessed 15 January 2012]

Fig. 6
PassionateGuinevere. (2007). Shreddies – Knitted by Nanas. [online]. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRuiQrpXpG0 [Accessed 15 January 2012]

Fig. 7
Sudafeduk. (2011). Offical New SUDAFED TV Advert. [online]. Available from:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5BEAxOdA0c [Accessed 15 January 2012]

Fig. 8
Sudafeduk. (2011). Offical New SUDAFED TV Advert. [online]. Available from:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5BEAxOdA0c [Accessed 15 January 2012]

Fig. 9
HQSAVE. (2010). Natural Gas: Warm Comerical, a best commercial TV Ads. [online]. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukOyklWOUXw&feature=related [Accessed 15 January 2012]

Fig. 10
Yesyoucantv. (2011). Smirnoff and cola: Knitting. Yes you can. [online]. Available from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EySKuCGZO6E&feature=related [Accessed 15 January 2012]


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Binet, L and Field, P. (2009). Empirical Generalizations about Advertising Campaign Success. Journal of Advertising Research. [online]. Available From: http://mediablog.typepad.com/files/empirical-generalizations-about-advertising-campaign-success-1.pdf [Accessed 2 January 2012]

Barthes, R. (1977). The Rhetoric of the Image. In: Hall, S. (eds.) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: The Open University

Crow, D (2010). Visible Signs: An Introduction to Semiotics in the Visual Arts. London: AVA

Greensted, M. (2005) An Anthology of the Arts and Crafts Movement: Writings by Ashbee, Lethaby, Gimson and their Contemporaries. Hampshire: Lund Humphries

Hardy-Moffat, M. (n.d.). Feminism and the Art of “Craftivism”: Knitting for Social Change Under the Principles of The Arts and Crafts Movement. Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History. [online]. Available from: http://art-history.concordia.ca/cujah/essay3.html [Accessed 12 December 2010]

Hall, S. (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: The Open University

Hung, S. and Magliaro, J. (2007) By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art. New York: Princeton Architectural Press

Hunt, B. Barb Hunt. (2007) In: Hung, S. and Magliaro, J. (eds.). By Hand: The Use of Craft in Contemporary Art. New York: Princeton Architectural Press

Marter, J. (1978). Elaine Reichek. Arts Magazine. [online]. Available from: http://www.elainereichek.com/Press.htm [Accessed 2 January 2012]

Meskimmon, M. Feminisms and Art Theory. (2002). In: Smith, P and Wilde, C (eds.). A Companion to Art Theory. Oxford: Blackwell

Padovani, C. and Whittaker, P. (2010). Twists, Knots and Holes: Collecting, the Gaze and Knitting the Impossible. In: Hemmings, J. (ed.) In the Loop: Knitting Now. London: Black Dog Publishing. pp. 10-17.

Wagner, A. Craft: It’s What You Make of It. (2008). In: Levine, F. and Heimerl, C. (eds.).  Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft and Design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press

Williamson, J. (1988). Consuming Passions: The Dynamics of Popular Culture. London: Boyars

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Yin-Wong, F. (2010). Crochetdermy. Dazed Digital. [online]. Available from: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/6452/1/crochetdermy [Accessed 2 January 2012]

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The 1930s

Horst P. Horst

A small part of his biography from horstphorst.com 

In the history of twentieth-century fashion and portrait photography, Horst's contribution figures as one of the most artistically significant and long lasting, spanning as it did the sixty years between 1931 and 1991. During this period, his name became legendary as a one-word photographic byline, and his photographs came to be seen as synonymous with the creation of images of elegance, style and rarefied glamour.

Born on 14 August 1906, Horst Paul Albert Bohrmann was the second son of a prosperous middle class Protestant shop owner, Max Bohrmann and his wife, Klara Schoenbrodt. 

The first pictures that carried a Horst credit line appeared in the December 1931 issue of French Vogue. It was a full-page advertisement showing a model in black velvet holding a Klytia scent bottle in one hand with the other hand raised elegantly above it... Horst's real breakthrough as a published fashion and portrait photographer was in the pages of British Vogue... starting with the 30 March 1932 issue showing three fashion studies and a full-page portrait of the daughter of Sir James Dunn, the art patron and supporter of Surrealism. 

War was declared between America and Germany on 7 December 1941. Horst was called up for service, though he was not officially enrolled until July 1943. The late 1930s and early 1940s were his most productive years, during which he excelled at working with 10-x-8 inch colour transparencies both for covers and for portrait and fashion sittings...

As a typical example of wartime escapism, the Rita Hayworth film Cover Girl (1944) provided Horst with the opportunity to produce one of his most sumptuous film-star covers in a montage of seven different portraits of the cover girl Susann Shaw set against a silk design. His picture of Loretta Young became an almost immediate classic when it was featured in a special edition of Vogue which included masterpieces of photography selected by (classic photographer Edward) Steichen to show off the first hundred years of the medium. 

Madame Jose Maria Sert in the costume she wore at Le Bal Oriental, 1935

Eyes, hands and painting, 1936

Fashion - Model in Robert Piguet design, 1936

Mainbocher dress, 1936

Looking at these photos it does feel like Horst had a really distinctive style, shooting on 10x8 and creating contrasty black and white images. I do think with this project I do need to consider the great fashion photographers, because I do want to shoot a range of vintage images. Although Horst shot until the 90s here I am concentrating on the images he made in the 1930s. Perhaps I will look at his later work throughout my research for my other eras. I really wanted to accumulate a good body of research for each decade I am looking at, so I will be confident with making appropriate hair pieces and the hair and make up. These photos are very dark, which I will consider with the making of this image. Maybe I will be lighting it more contrasty?

1930s Actresses 

Jean Harlow 

I really love the first image with Harlow staring up, I think it is dramatic and the blur on it is really nice. Her hair is the looser finger wave with the curls tighter at the bottom, like on the last image. She has the red lips and the thin eyebrows. I really like on the last image how they start further back than her eyes. I think this is quite traditional of the 1930s. 

Marlene Dietrich

The first image of Marlene Dietrich I really like, I think her small eyes and thin eyebrows are really interesting, maybe this is the type of girl I want to cast? I like how the light is coming from directly above her, with the strong shadow under the nose. In the other images she does have the loose wave, I like in the second one how it is quite smooth on the top and then tight curls on the bottom. The third is much shorter, but the side parting and swoop on the top is really nice. 

Fay Wray

The top image of Fay Wray I have chosen really caught my attention because the middle parting seems so different to all the side partings I have researched with era. I think it looks pretty/ugly, and is really quirky. It could be something to experiment with. I like how long her eyebrows are, and that the lips do not have loads of red on them. The black is quite minimal on her eyes in all of these shots. The second image is very contrasty, and I do like the way the light is coming from the left on the third image. 

Monday, 23 January 2012

Eponine's Character

Working on my new project I wanted to share some visuals of my thought process. Everything is still a little blurry, and I am trying to bring it all together. My starting point is Les Mis. The character Eponine really interests me. 

I think Les Mis is wonderful. It may be a little sad, I'm not sure, but you like what you like at the end of the day. I think I do have an emotional attachment to it, but then I have an emotional attachment to everything. What I like about it is how the complex and interwoven story line is told, how the characters are passionate, ultimately I like it because it is a love story. I think the fantasy of love portrayed in the book and the musical pulls you in so well. It makes you believe in a love that maybe isn't seen in modern days. Are the best love stories those of the past? Before the world went digital? 

There is something special about it, as Victor Hugo was a christian and the book reflects those values on love there is another level to it. There is such sadness, yet love carries the characters throughout the book. Even Eponine is driven by love, although she is so tragic. And Marius never knows this until she dies. The musical makes portrays her character in more of a family friendly way, whilst the book describes her in much more detail.

A quite young girl was standing in the open doorway, facing the pallid light of the one small window in Marius's garret, which was opposite the door. She was a lean and delicate-looking creature, her shivering nakedness clad in nothing but a chemise and skirt. Her waistband was a piece of string, and another piece tied back her hair. Bony shoulders emerged from the chemise, and the face above them was sallow and flabby. The light fell upon reddened hands, a stringy neck, a loose, depraved mouth lacking several teeth, bleared eyes both bold and wary: in short, an ill-treated girl with the eyes of a grown woman; a blend of fifty and fifteen; one of those creatures, at once weak and repellent, who caused those who set eyes on them to shudder when they do not weep.
Marius had risen to his feet and was gazing in a sort of stupefaction at what might have been one of those figures of darkness that haunt our dreams. But what was tragic about the girl was that she had not been born ugly. She might even have been pretty as a child, and the grace proper to her age was still at odds with the repulsive premature ageing induced by loose living and poverty. A trace of beauty still lingered in the sixteen-year-old face, like pale sunlight fading beneath the massed clouds of a winter's dawn. 

The description was great to read, as from the musical you do not get a real sense of how bad the poverty is in paris. It is a sad description, especially the part of how she could have been pretty. It is interesting with Marius, as he falls in love with Cosette in an instant, as she had the beauty that Eponine did not. It is great for visual references and Hugo writes so well. 

He looked up and recognised the unhappy girl who had called upon him one morning, the elder Thenardier daughter, Eponine, whose name he had subsequently learned. Strangely, she appeared at once more impoverished and more attractive, two things which he would not have thought her capable of. She had progressed in two directions, both upwards and downwards. She was still barefoot and ragged as she had been on the day when she had marched so resolutely into his room, expect her rags were two months older, dirtier, their tatters more evident. She had the same hoarse voice, the same chapped, weather-beaten skin, the same bold and shiftless gaze, and added to these apprehensive, vaguely pitiable expression that a spell in prison lends to the face of ordinary poverty. She had wisps of straw in her hair, not because, like Ophelia, she had gone mad, but because she had spent the night in a stable-loft. And with it all she had grown beautiful! Such is the miracle of youth. 

Reading the book is really interesting, you see so much more and really understand the characters. I want to take the initial descriptions and the emotions of Eponine and portray it in a contemporary way. I think trying to re-create the play literally will not make for a good shoot. I want to look at how Eponine is never truly seen by Marius, how she loves him, but he does not realise until her death.

"Promise to give me a kiss on my brow when I am dead.--I shall feel it."
She dropped her head again on Marius' knees, and her eyelids closed. He thought the poor soul had departed. Eponine remained motionless. All at once, at the very moment when Marius fancied her asleep forever, she slowly opened her eyes in which appeared the sombre profundity of death, and said to him in a tone whose sweetness seemed already to proceed from another world:--
"And by the way, Monsieur Marius, I believe that I was a little bit in love with you."
She tried to smile once more and expired.

My next step is to make the concept more contemporary. Reflecting on modern riots and revolutions to find a place for the styling and how I will be shooting it. From reading the book I have learnt a lot, which I would have never found from the musical. I recently watched the film which had no sign of Eponine, apart from the brief mention of the two Thenardier daughters. I was really disappointed, but hopeful that the new Les Mis film will reflect on the musical more.

Friday, 20 January 2012

The 1920s

To accompany my sketch book I am doing blog posts on each era with more detailed information on the photographers and actresses/models of the time. I am starting with the 1920s. 

I have started by looking at Edward Steichen, who is known as the first modern fashion photographer. Offered the job as chief photographer at Vogue and Vanity Fair, his work was seen as controversial because it was commercial, rather than being fine art. 

Lens Culture weblog write:
He began by applying the soft focus style he had helped create to the photography of fashion. But soon he revolutionized the field, banishing the gauzy light of the Pictorialist era and replacing it with the clean, crisp lines of Modernism. In the process he changed the presentation of the fashionable woman from that of a distant, romantic creature to that of a much more direct, appealing, independent figure. 

InHighFashion, Edward Steichen, The Conde Nast Years 1923 -1937, an exhibition of his work write this description:

In 1923, Edward Steichen was offered one of the most prestigious and lucrative positions in photography - that of chief photographer for Condé Nast’s influential magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair. For the next fifteen years, Steichen would take full advantage of the resources and prestige conferred by the magazines to produce an oeuvre of unequalled brilliance, putting his exceptional talents to work glamorizing contemporary culture and its achievers in politics, literature, journalism, dance, theatre and, above all, the world of high fashion. This innovative exhibition celebrates Steichen’s remarkable achievement.Chanel, Lanvin, Lelong, Patou, Schiaparelli and a host of other designers saw their clothing depicted creatively by Steichen on the pages of Vogue. In doing so, Steichen created a wholly new approach to fashion photography. His crisp, detailed, high-key style revolutionized the practice and is a strong wind felt to this day — Horst, Richard Avedon and Bruce Weber are only a few of his most illustrious descendants.
Meanwhile, Steichen was innovating in the field of portraiture for Vanity Fair. The full list of Steichen’s sitters is astounding for its range. Among the more than one thousand subjects were the filmmakers Cecil B. De Mille and Josef von Sternberg; the actors Gary Cooper and W.C. Fields; the actresses Gloria Swanson and Marlene Dietrich; the writers W.B. Yeats and Colette; the dancers Martha Graham and Fred Astaire; the musicians Vladimir Horowitz and George Gershwin.
This exhibition features an equally balanced mix of Steichen’s pioneering modernist fashion photography and glamour portraiture. The original vintage prints have been selected from the Condé Nast archive, to be shared with the public for the first time since the 1930s. These prints are complemented by a selection of rare copies of Vogueand Vanity Fair showing how the photographs actually appeared on the page.

I feel these are better descriptions of Steichen to have in my research, rather than copying them. I have also found some of his photographs, which I really like and can hopefully draw inspiration from. 

Edward Steichen
Pola Nergi
I think this photo is really interesting, for my research it is great for the make up, you can see the dark around her eyes and the dark red shade of lipstick. Her hat is not something I have come across i nmy sketch book really and is a consideration for my project. Could I re-create this? Or should I stick to the hair? You can tell she has a small dark bob. The lighting is coming from above and the side, as she has shadows under her eyes and right of her nose. I do like the crop on the hat, and I shouldn't be scared to do this with my work.

Edward Steichen
Gloria Swanson
This is the photo on the front of the Vanity Fair portrait book, which I have, so I am very familiar with it. It is an interesting and inspirational image. The lace between the model and the camera adds an extra depth to it, as the pattern is over her eyes. The composition is really thoughtful, and because the light is flat there are no harsh shadows to take your attention away from Swanson or the material. I like the way you can tell the brows are still quite thin and she has the black make up around her eyes, and again although it is black and white you can see her lips would have been red. 

Edward Steichen
Greta Garbo
The image of Greta Garbo clearly shows Steichen's style, like with the previous two photos it is not harshly lit, and the subject appears to be showing something real. As this was at the forefront of fashion images, Steichen had creative control, despite being commercial images. I like the different tones in the background, as the white contrasts with the black she is wearing.  

Edward Steichen
I think this image is really beautiful, it is not really what I am looking at for my project, as I am concerning more with portrait images. I wanted to demonstrate how interesting fashion was, and even though the setting is incredibly simple, the models, clothing and his style of fashion photography does make it a huge inspiration throughout time. 

Actresses of the 1920s:

Louise Brooks

Here is the classic bob, with the dark eyes, thin eye brows and dark lips. The images are classically 20s. What i really love is the blur around them, and how the large format camera would have been used to do this. Can I do something like this myself? Should I be using film or make it more contemporary though the use of digital?

Clara Bow

Her hair has the looser curl to it, with the dark under her eyes and the really thin eyebrow. Here I really like the blur in the images, which is more from motion than camera movements. 

Marion Davis

Here the top image is absolutely beautiful, I think the hair and make up are really traditional, with the light on her hair. To me this is more 1920s than the other actresses I have looked at and think this will be the route I go down.