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.  

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