In what’s fast becoming London’s outstanding photography space, Ashley Jouhar reports on the latest Somerset House show – the cool, sexy, elegant, avant garde, mainstream, graphic, Fashion image-making of Erwen Blumenfeld
Photographer Erwin Blumenfeld (1897 – 1969), who with Conde Nast’s Alexander Liberman created some of the most memorable, pioneering, and still unsurpassed fashion imagery.
I was familiar with much of Blumenfeld’s work but I was struck by how modern many of the colour images felt and how graphically strong they are. The collaboration with Alexander Liberman, the influential Vogue Art Director, was a very productive one and resulted in many beautiful images. But not only were they beautiful, they were underpinned with strong concepts. The ‘colour siblings, family of five’ picture, for instance, is a very innovative way to illustrate gloves and at the same time add glamour and visual wit to a fashion photograph.
He was a master at taking beautiful photographs but then took them to another level in the darkroom. William Ewing, the respected curator and writer says, “His highly original and visionary work was a seamless blend of the negative and positive: taking the picture in the studio and making it in the darkroom.” Many of today’s influential fashion photographers do the same – it’s just done digitally.
Which Image? Which Room?
The girl with the red dress raised above her head. It immediately makes me think of a poppy with delicate red petals and a slender stem. The pose is elegant and raunchy at the same time, which is a fine line to walk for anyone! Blumenfeld walks it successfully though and achieves a beautiful, graphic, iconic fashion image that goes way beyond fashion. It looks like art to me!
One question for the Image Maker?
Iconic covers like the Red Cross war time image are more like graphic design. Do you consider yourself an image-maker rather than a photographer?