Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Review: Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process @ Tate Britain

Images courtesy of Nick Waplington / Tate Britain

In ‘Working Process’ photographer Nick Waplington gives a rare look behind the scenes of Alexander McQueen’s last collection.

Selected from the previously published book project ‘Working Process’, Waplington’s photographs capture the creative journey of McQueen’s final Autumn/Winter collection ‘Horn of Plenty’ in 2009, one of the most celebrated fashion collections in recent history.

The major exhibition at Tate Britain reveals McQueen’s working practice through a selection of hundred large-scale prints completed by Waplington and McQueen three months before the designer’s suicide.

For over six months Waplington followed McQueen and his team from the designer’s studio in Clerkenwell to the final catwalk show in Paris, documenting every step of the creation of ‘The Horn of Plenty! (Everything But the Kitchen Sink)’, taking on recycling as a guiding theme.

McQueen conceived ‘The Horn of Plenty’ collection as an iconoclastic retrospective of his career in fashion, reusing silhouettes and fabrics from his earlier collections and creating a catwalk set out of broken mirrors.

‘Working Process’ reveals a raw and unpolished side of the fashion world. Waplington juxtaposes candid images of McQueen’s creative process with close-up shots of landfill sites and recycling plants, featuring beer bottles, plastic bags and piles of newspapers.

The exhibition, as the photobook, resulting from this unique artistic collaboration creates a powerful commentary on destruction and creative renewal – themes at the heart of the ‘Horn of Plenty’ collection.

Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process at Tate Britain until 17 May 2015

Miriam is the Deputy Editor of LPD.

Portraiture and Projection by Céline Bodin

Appearances are bearers of meaning. Our first impressions of a person are concealed within our own imaging process. The tendency to classify into types is almost instinctive; it is a common path towards identification. Portrait photography is its ambiguous medium. Scraping the surface, it destabilises our sense of reality. Because of its supposed guaranty of exact replication of the living reality, it has been established to ‘re-present’ and reveal.

In the 19th century it was considered the best means to classify and identify into types with the use of phrenology and physiognomy, as can be seen in Francis Galton’s composites which merged multiple individuals into one generic image. Photography offers time for the contemplation of subtle details; unlike painting, it isn’t the summary of its subject.

However, along its journey towards contemporary portraiture the notion of representation has become problematic: what is readable only on the surface? To what extent are we learning about the individual portrayed in the instant of an image? Does a portrait truly allow space for genuine presence?

Photography is objective only in its functional aspect but it is somehow weakened in its ability to unite self and subject. Imagery offers fantasy, it can comfort and reassure. Susan Sontag, in her study On Photography (1973), insists on a photograph to be only a ‘narrowly selective transparency’. It is only a part of reality.

The question of projection is key. Posing is an obstacle to the ‘air’ that allows us to recognise the person, as Roland Barthes stated in Camera Lucida (1980). In Portraiture: Facing the Subject, (1997), Joanna Woodall introduces the notion of ‘portraiture’s mimetic mask’, as we are bound to look for the flaw in the surface which will guide us to the true presence. Therefore, the portrait opens itself to interrogation and suggestion more than it delivers a sense of truth or character.

The works of contemporary photographers Rineke Dijkstra, Bettina Von Zwehl, or Marjaana Kella revisit the conventions of portraiture as a genre. Dijkstra’s work is strong in narrative, her subjects enter the camera’s frame to tell a story subtly shaped by the specificity of a moment or action. In the case of Von Zwehl portraiture is treated as a laboratory, as she carries out experiments on her subjects, confronting them with their own vulnerability while the camera witnesses their reaction.

When 19th century French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot documented hysteria, he proved that the likelihood of the patient performing was increased by the presence of the medical staff. The notion of performance, as an observed state, raises the question of authenticity in the self as it engages with attitude. To disrupt their subjects’ effort at self-representation Von Zwehl, and Dijkstra consider the residual traces of extreme forms of exertion or specific contextual affect, as a bullfighter leaves the arena (Villa Franca di Xira, Portugal, May 8, 1994), a woman just gave birth, or vulnerable subjects lie on the floor holding their breath (Untitled III, No 2, 1999). In Hypnosis (1997-2001), Marjaana Kella scrutinises the suspended moment of her hypnotised subjects (Niclas, Hypnosis, 2001).

Such works invite the viewer to investigate the layers of visibility a subject offers, as the ones represented here face the challenged projection of themselves, necessarily defying the notion of self-consciousness in the moment of being photographed.

The viewer’s examination should therefore remain aware of the body’s performative quality.

Images mediate a cultural coding. Acknowledging this dimension, Cindy Sherman’s work reveals how conventionalised appearances are acted out. (Untitled Film Stills, #12, 1978). Through genre performance she portrays gender as the ‘regulatory model’ Judith Butler defines in Gender Trouble (1990). In Sherman’s self-portraits, gender follows an imitative structure influenced by customs and ideals constantly revaluating the ‘corporealisation’ that imaging should set apart from identification.

Portrait photography can be considered the space for interpretation, its definition relying both on the artist’s intention and its relationship to the viewer’s judgment.

Looking at Thomas Ruff series of passport-like photos our longing to identify is frustrated. The person’s character remains a mystery. The quality of those deadpan portraits remains in the subtle signs of interaction, the way the subjects address the camera.

We can therefore witness multiple layers of projection within a portrait: The photographer interprets the sitter’s self-interpretation, and the sitter in return interprets the photographer and viewer’s expectation. Finally, the viewer interprets the overall impersonation.

In the end, the camera doesn’t classify, we do. As spectators we long to read through the subtlety of a face, the grace of gesture, the drama of expression. Portraits fascinate us because of what they could say. Our relationship with portraiture is therefore a subjective and sentimental one. It is easy to understand that more than it renders personality, photography reveals our intimate projections on the surface. We conjure a dialogue, and the desire to relate might in itself be the only possible truth portraiture could deliver.



Céline Bodin is a French photographer. After studying literature and architecture, she graduated from a photography BA at Gobelins, L’école de l’image in Paris. In 2013 she completed a Photography MA at the London College of Communication. As well as regularly writing about photography, her personal practice explores themes of identity, gender, and the metaphysical frustration of the medium in representation.

Coleen MacPherson introduces Guy Bourdin: Image Maker @ Somerset House

Guy Bourdin: Image Maker sheds new light on the infamous French fashion photographer Guy Bourdin. The protégé of Man Ray, Bourdin was deeply inspired by surrealism. He transformed photography in the 1970s and gained significant notoriety for his work with fashion magazine Vogue.

This exhibition invites the viewer to appreciate the artist’s process: to see original film footage, sketches, unpublished photographs and polaroids; the hidden Bourdin is revealed while the viewer is taken on a trip through his filmic, sexy, wild and powerfully suggestive images.

The exhibition begins in Britain, tracing the famous trip Bourdin took with his family across the country in a black Cadillac with a pair of mannequin legs and a suitcase full of shoes. Here he places the mannequin legs against the backdrops of Britain: train station, bus stops, fields, poolsides, crossing a cobblestone street, awaiting a black cab. These photographs in particular ignite the imagination, teetering off balance, suggesting movement. Bourdin invites the viewer to conjure a narrative around the image – and so, we are all the image-makers and photographers in his world.

Several rooms reveal unpublished photographs, alongside famous Vogue spreads and a film is projected on a Super 8 camera giving the viewer some insight into his process

Bourdin always searched for a location upon which to place his models, enhancing his worlds through various techniques to create filmic worlds that are imbued with narrative; models are hidden, only legs or lips or hands revealed.

Screen shot 2015-03-16 at 22.19.35Coleen is a Canadian writer and theatre director with a thirst to explore the world. She trained at École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, where she mentored with French playwright, Michel Azama. She is currently developing a new play through the Arcola Theatre Writers’ Programme. 

ESSAY: Anne Collier’s “Woman with a Camera”

Here is Faye Dunaway shot in black and white, holding a weighty Nikon to her eye, and adjusting the focus ring; here she is again, this time in color, the camera pulled back and uncertainty clouding her stare. The pair of prints—which show publicity photos from the 1978 thriller Eyes of Laura Mars—are from Anne Collier’s ongoing series “Woman with a Camera,” which explores the power dynamics of taking pictures. Photographed on a plain white background, the text accompanying one press photo reports that the movie is about the vision of a woman who foresees murders and that it was produced, directed, and written by men. In Collier’s coolly expressive work, on view in her first career retrospective that opened last fall at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and travels next to the Aspen Art Museum, she exposes the sometimes sexist or sublime patterns lurking in popular culture.

Using the slick mechanisms of advertising, she isolates old forms of media—photos, pages from books, cassette tapes, and record albums—and reshoots them. Her own photographs draw attention to the assumptions embedded in these artifacts, often about what it means for women to look and be looked at.

“Her work feels timely and relevant because we’re so photo-obsessed right now,” says Michael Darling, chief curator at MCA Chicago, who organized the recently closed show. “Taking a retrospective look at these technologies and how women have been portrayed in them prepares you to think about how photos are being used today,” says Darling. While Collier digs through older analog media, her work is useful for thinking about contemporary depictions of women, such as iPhone selfies of Kim Kardashian. “It’s the same kind of woman with a camera,” says Darling. “In many ways we haven’t come that far from these seemingly super-sexist pictures that Anne has uncovered in her photo archeology. I’m excited about how her work can create visual literacy and inspire critical thinking in our audiences.”


Portrait-150x150Rebecca Robertson is co-editor of New York Photography Diary. She is a freelance writer, curator and photo editor in Queens. She studied photography and art history at Bryn Mawr College and received her MFA in photography and related media from the School of Visual Arts. She has worked in the New York art world for more than 10 years. She has written about photography for ARTnews magazine and curated shows, most recently a series of benefit exhibitions for UNICEF.


A version of this article appeared in the November 2014 issue of ARTnews. “Anne Collier” is on view at the Aspen Art Museum from April 10 to June 28, 2015.

Images ©Anne Collier/Anton Kern Gallery/MCA Chicago

Marina Vitaglione introduces David Batchelor: Monochrome Archive @ The Whitechapel Gallery

Images courtesy of David Batchelor

“Monochrome is abstract art’s exemplary form, and you only find it in cities. You can’t find it in nature.”

It’s following this discovery that British artist David Batchelor set himself a challenge: taking a picture of every white square or rectangle he came across on his walks through various cities.

The result is no less than 500 images, taken from 1997 to 2012 around the globe, from London to Hong Kong via Berlin or Rome, all collected in this exhibition. The central white square is the only constant in this set of pictures, like a common denominator that the photographer’s eye keeps seeking everywhere he wanders.

The images keep interchanging on a multi-screen installation, while all the miniature prints are displayed on a lit table, with notes on when and where they were taken. The countless photographs appear to be a diary of Batchelor’s travels through the years, always looking for the abstract in the urban space.

At first, the white monochromes seem to give the exhibition cohesion and stability, but one soon realises that they are in fact ephemeral. As Batchelor himself points out, a white square is never going to stay white for long in a city: it will most likely get covered by ads, posters or writings. For this reason, the 500 pictures are unique: an abstract photography show not to be missed.

Whitechapel Gallery, 22 Dec 2014 – 3 May 2015

Marina Vitaglione 

MARINAMarina is a freelance journalist and culture writer based in London and an analogue photography enthusiast. She holds a Journalism degree from City University.​

Director and photographer Bertil Nilsson talks to Miriam Otterbeck

Images courtesy of Bertil Nilsson

After premiering his latest short film ‘Bromance’ on NOWNESS, a video channel showcasing contemporary culture through film, Miriam Otterbeck meets the Swedish artist Bertil Nilsson to discuss modern male relationships and how he employs varied mediums to explore movement and the human form.

M.O.: Always connected, the young male acrobats in Bromance seem to be very close to each other. Is the film analysing the line between their romance and friendship?

B.N.: No, the film is not about defining ‘bromance’. I am trying to show, through physical movement, the depth and complexity of modern relationships between men.

Guys don’t normally express friendship by holding hands. However, there’s an interesting parallel in hand-to-hand acrobatics, where holding hands is an essential part of the movement and also embodies the very act of trusting and relying on one another.

M.O.: Many know you as photographer, but this latest project Bromance is a short film. How did you get into filmmaking?

B.N.: Originally, when I came to London in 2004, I wanted to work in film production. Then, almost by chance, I ended up getting more involved in photography through photographing circus performers. I have always been interested in filmmaking and working with physical movement.

I started experimenting with moving images making small experimental films and now I have gotten to a point where I feel ready to explore more traditional methods of filmmaking, exploring how dance and circus can be used and understood in that context.

M.O.: How do your films relate to your photography? Are there any intersections?

B.N.: Of course there’s the visual aspect of exploring the moving body that connects them. But film as a medium is more directly oriented around narrative.

I think it’s really fascinating to explore how the themes of my work can be used or explored in the context of film in contrast with the more conceptual nature of my photography. Specifically for me, I think there’s a really fascinating tension in stills when you capture movement, how you represent or present the energy of feeling of movement in a single image. In moving images, it’s straightforward to capture and represent a moving body.

M.O.: Do certain projects work better as stills and others better as moving images?

B.N.: The themes and subjects are similar across my work, but I don’t find myself wondering whether a certain idea would work better in a particular medium because I think the medium is already an important part of how I think about the original idea.

With stills I tend to work in long or medium term project, a single image or session, is part of a longer and larger body of work that evolves slowly over time. With the short films I’m currently making, there’s a more intense process of production resulting in a single piece of work.

M.O.: Some of your work has been made using laser projections or has been printed on mirrors. How do you try to integrate new technologies into your projects?

Having a background in technology, I’m very keen to explore more ideas around using technology. I’m always interested in experimenting and trying new things and today I think many artists are using technology in incredibly interesting ways.

Bromance premiered exclusively on NOWNESS as part of the Modern Love: Romance in the 12st Century series and is now available to watch on Bertil Nilsson’s website.

You can find more of his photography and films here –



mo_lpdMiriam Otterbeck is the Deputy Editor of LPD.