Did you know that the first "fashion influencer" was Joan Crawford?
Did you know that the first "fashion influencer" was Joan Crawford? Or that the first "street style" photo was taken in Paris 84 years ago?
Welcome to the genius fun of "Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography" currently displayed at the J. Paul Getty Museum. If you're in LA go enjoy this visually mesmerizing and totally cool show (the air conditioning is awesome), not to mention the grounds are great for a few Insta pics with friends!
It has been more than 40 years since an exhibit showcasing fashion photography has graced the world, and arguably longer since we have seen one of such sweeping magnitude. “Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography,” surveys the rich and mercurial history of fashion photography over the ages, including over 160 photographs from the years 1911-2011 with pieces both iconic and unknown. The show traces fashion photography’s trajectory from niche industry to powerful cultural force, serving as not only a retrospective of fashion photography, but the political, cultural, and social evolution of a century.
Although photography and fashion have gained nascent prominence in society, there still exists a tension-filled debate over the validation of their presence in museums. By way of explanation, curator Paul Martineau quotes Richard Avedon, who said, “Fashion is the f-word, the dirtiest word in the eyes of the art world.” After all, these were pictures most often first appearing in magazines - disposable monthly publications, completely contradictory to the art world’s eternal view of itself. Martineau says he wanted to explore “the intersection of these two marginalized mediums,” photography and fashion, to force viewers not only to appreciate the forms but to understand their lingering prejudices.
“Icons” seamlessly flows along the lines of history, acknowledging parallels between key cultural movements and the current fashion photography with scintillating precision. The pieces are captivating in themselves and thoughtfully juxtaposed to invoke deep reaction. Walking away from the exhibition left us with a dreamy awe only capable of a true masterpiece. Look through the photo gallery to discover some of the magic for yourself...
Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood (1989)
by Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Ritts created an atmosphere of trust that enabled him to convince his sitters to disrobe. "You knew you were going to look gorgeous," top model Cindy Crawford told an interviewer. "The way Herb Ritts photographed you was the way you wanted the world to see you." This photograph, which was circulated as a poster, became an emblem of the 1990s era of the supermodel. Superficially, it is a photo of raw beauty. Upon closer inspection, newfound appreciation for the formation, leading lines, lighting, and angles elevates it from simply a pretty picture to a photographic masterpiece, both iconic and genius.
Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque d'hover, Pairs (August 1955)
by Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004).
Taken in Paris in August 1955 to showcase Christian Dior’s latest collection, Avedon used one of Vogue's highest paid models, Dovima. Her regal elegance between a brace of circus elephants creates a striking contrast that is the photographic incarnation of a beauty and the beasts.
Black Evening Dress in Flight, New York (Negative 1963; print 1994)
by Hiro (American, born China, 1930)
Hiro landed a position as a staff photographer at "Harper's Bazaar" and quickly rose to prominence. There, he was asked to photograph a shoe. Challenged to create a shoe photograph unlike anything ever done, Hiro hauled his large view camera through a trap door in a stairwell, capturing the model, her dress, and her shoe from an uncommon perspective.
Jumping a Puddle (1934)
by Martin Munkácsi (American, born Hungary, 1896-1963).
Berlin-based Munkácsi originally started his career as a sports photojournalist. But while on assignment in New York, he did a shoot for Harper's Bazaar which would change his life and the fashion world forever.
Munkácsi brought the same action and spontaneity that he captured in his sports photography to the pages of fashion magazines. Fashion had only ever been photographed in studios; entirely staged, where models were posed like mannequins. While grainy, his photographs were revolutionary - the first outdoor action fashion shots, the first street style. In bringing action to the set of a fashion shoot, he was able to capture the vitality and zest of the all-American woman in a way that no one else had before.
Bathing Suits by Izod, Paris (1930)
by George Hoyningen-Huene (American, born Russian, 1900-1968).
This simple fashion portrait of two bathers looking off into the distance is considered one of the greatest photographs ever taken. It ran in the July 5, 1930 issue of Vogue with its meticulous and formal composition acting as an emblem to Hoyningen-Huene's balanced yet evocative aesthetic style. However, it wasn't taken near any body of water! In fact, this image was captured atop a high rooftop in Paris, with the illusion of a horizon in actuality being the neighboring building.
Peggy Moffitt in Rudi Gernreich Topless Swimsuit (1964)
by William Claxton (American, 1960-2008)
Captured by her husband, William Claxton, Peggy Moffitt shocked the world by modeling avant-garde designer Gernreich's infamous topless monokini. Done as a political statement, Peggy controlled the release of the photograph, declining its use for Playboy and Esquire, and instead organizing its debut for Women's Wear Daily. It was designed as a protest against a repressive society and an early feminist push for equality and female empowerment. Yet, here we are 50 years later, forced to cover her up with silly flowers just to share the iconic picture with you.
Joan Crawford Wearing the Letty Lynton Dress (1932)
by George Hurrell (American, 1904-1992)
Often paired with studio costume designer Adrian (né Adrian Adolph Greenburg), actress and model John Crawford's dresses set the trend for women of all classes. One of their first collaborations for MGM launched an unprecedented trend for the “Letty Lynton dress” with its lavishly ruffled shoulders. It was in such demand, in fact, that the year the film was released in 1932— at the height of the stock market crash—it’s estimated that over 50,000 knock-off versions of her organdy evening gown were sold at price points for every budget. Even the press noted the importance of her clothing as much as her performance, with the Motion Picture Herald declaring, “The gowns which Miss Crawford wears will be the talk of your town for weeks!”