From sexualisation to surrealism, a new exhibition traces how fashion has changed perceptions of the human form
To what extent can a fashion image push the human form? The last seven years will tell you very far. No longer just a medium to market objects, fashion photographers have taken the art deep into surrealist means by creating unbelievable, sometimes unnerving, portrayals of the human form. As backs hunch, limbs sprawl, and bodies seem like play doh, the human form is no longer restricted by its physical limits, liberating the fashion image in the pursuit of creating memorable art.
Tracing this seismic shift is Posturing: Photographing the body in fashion on at London’s Ground Floor Project between November 2-12. Curated by photographic editor of AnOther and AnOther Man, Holly Hay, and curator Shonagh Marshall, the show pulls together work from the archives of over 20 fashion photographers to charter a movement in which the body is captured in extraordinary gestures and poses, tracing a new aesthetic in fashion photography that originated in 2010 and continues to develop today. "We had seen something shift”, says Marshall. “I had noticed a few years ago that the approach to the body was moving away from sexualised image to something that felt more incidental, a bit more playful, witty, surreal, extraordinary. And in turn, that was really effecting the way you were viewing the garment. So you would see sometimes the garment not even on the body, sometimes you couldn't tell quite what it was.”
The show’s photographers are differentiated by their unique approaches to posture and pose, yet all united in taking the fashion image beyond the garment. Take Lena C Emery’s surreal posturing that turns the body into elastic and pushes it far beyond its physical limits with torso strewn over head. “We all call it naked yoga. There are no clothes in that photo, well actually they are they are strewn on the chair. So in that sense, the very function of the image has been removed.” Blommers and Schumm’s piece tampers with the idea of setting and appropriate placements of the body. “You notice the setting of the model lying on Holland Park pavement and you notice the women in the background in burqas but you don’t really notice the model till a little bit later.” Other key photographers include Coco Capitan, Tyrone Lebon, Charlie Engman, Johnny Dufort, Marton Perlaki and Zoe Ghertner whose works will be on display alongside specially commissioned editorial images from the archives of British Vogue, AnOther, i-D, Interview and The Gentlewoman.
While the photographers make their mark in pushing the human form forward, viewers are challenged to consider the body’s role in the construction of a fashion image and its effect on the presentation of the garment itself. This challenge is even reflected in the show’s curation, set out like a casting sheet split into five themed sections: casting, styling, location, props, and art direction.