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Chris Moore Catwalking exhibition Bowes Museum Versace
Versace, SS91Photography Chris Moore, © Catwalking

The new exhibition documenting 60 years of iconic catwalk moments

‘Catwalking: Fashion through the Lens of Chris Moore’ opens at County Durham’s Bowes Museum this weekend

It’s hard to believe catwalk photographer Chris Moore has been shooting the world’s biggest fashion shows for over 60 years. From his early days assisting the likes of Cecil Beaton and Henry Moore at Vogue in the mid-1950s, to snapping from the side of the runway at Demna Gvasalia’s landscape-shifting Vetements and Balenciaga shows, Moore has seen analogue become digital, trends come and go, and models go from girl-next-door to ‘super’.  

Now, to celebrate a career spanning over six decades, County Durham’s Bowes Museum throws open the doors to Catwalking: Fashion through the lens of Chris Moore – a new exhibition documenting some of the photographer’s favourite images, alongside garments from the photographs themselves. As co-curator and AnOther editor Alexander Fury put it, “The excitement is in combining the ephemeral with the eternal: the clothes will literally ‘leap’ out of the images and back to life again.”

Featuring a line-up of over 250 images, Catwalking covers shows from Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Prada, Alexander McQueen, and many (many) more. Editing down his vast archive was a difficult task according to Moore. “Some of the photographs I wanted to include were quite obvious there were a few by Alexander McQueen that had to be in there, for example, and a number of shots of Hussein Chalayan’s shows at Sadler’s Wells in the late 90s,” he explains. “I can’t narrow down exactly which ones were my favourite shows over the years, but the one featuring Chalayan’s ‘airplane’ pieces, and the dresses made of sugar that the models broke with a sugar hammer are definitely up there. There are some great Prada shows in there. And of course, McQueen’s wonderful, wonderful shows.”

Though Moore can’t pin down a definitive favourite, there is one show that he looks forward to every season: “Comme des Garçons,” he says. “I’ve always loved Rei Kawakubo’s shows, absolutely loved them. They were always a challenge to photograph, they were never easy there was always very difficult lighting. But Rei makes it interesting, she has always pushed forwards and done the unexpected.”

Moore has never been adverse to a challenge. Having shot on film at the beginning of his career in the 1950s, the photographer used to make a dash for his hotel where he’d set up a darkroom in the bathroom (using the bath itself to develop his photos), before rushing to the printers with friend Suzy Menkes in an effort to meet newspaper deadlines. 

“I’ve always loved Rei Kawakubo’s shows. They were always a challenge to photograph, they were never easy – there was always very difficult lighting. But Rei makes things interesting, she has always pushed forwards and done the unexpected” – Chris Moore

In 1995, he began shooting on a digital camera and embraced the future of photography – as well as the future of fashion. “The very early 90s were a really exciting time,” he says. “Things were changing, technology was advancing, all these wonderful big productions were starting to happen, the supermodel was born. But the millennium was an amazing time, too. Things are always moving forward, and that’s always exciting.”  

Where many of fashion’s biggest exhibitions take place in London, that Catwalking would open in the North was something that was important to the photographer, too. Having been born in Newcastle, Moore moved to London when he was four but still feels a strong connection to Northumbria, and now splits his time between a cottage there and his home in Islington.

“I love Newcastle, and I love the people here,” he explains. “The Bowes Museum is such a beautiful building, and I’ve visited a number of times – I came to the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition here not so long ago. The Catwalking show came about when I was discussing my book with one of the tutors at Northumbria University and mentioned I’d like to show some of my work at Bowes perhaps. The next thing you know, I had the museum on the phone.”

As for the next generation of talent emerging onto the fashion landscape, Moore is enthusiastic. “At the exhibition, we’re going to have students from Northumbria show their work here on the opening night, and we had a wonderful sculptor who made a catwalk out of paper that people can walk on,” he explains. And when it comes to designers, there’s one that the photographer has his eye on. “Martine Rose is very interesting,” he says. “I covered her first show, in that closed market in Tottenham, but I couldn’t go to the one on the street in Chalk Farm as I was up here working on Catwalking. But I loved that, I absolutely loved it. The next one? I’ll be there.”

Catwalking: Life through the lens of Chris Moore opens at The Bowes Museum in County Durham on July 7, 2018 and runs until January 6, 2019.