Fashion photography is a field of extreme visual sophistication and excellence. It also is an area, like many others, where mediocrity dominates and senseless stereotypes and repetition meet a mass audience.
Throughout its one-hundred-plus years of history there have repeatedly been periods in which constellations of individuals, places and times, and economic circumstances have allowed for pictures and stories of extraordinary clarity and poignancy to emerge.
The 1980s in London was such a period. Two small independent publications, i-D and The Face were started in 1980 by Terry Jones and Nick Logan respectively. Over the following decade they acted as the main visual printed outlet for a generation of post-punk creatives who took fashion publishing into their own hands. Operating below the radar of high-end fashion magazines, and indifferent to high street fashion, both magazines became an experimenting ground for a new eclectic, boundaries-pushing language in photography and in styling.
Modest economic success led to a stable environment where money for the next issue was secured and ambitious ideas could be realised. With a small print run of 20–60,000 these magazines were never mainstream, they nevertheless had a huge impact on visual culture, whilst not depending as much on the fashion and music industry's approval as it is usual today. There was almost no crossover to the established art world, and postmodern theory did not look eye-to-eye at these extraordinary artefacts. Page counts were limited to 92 or, for example, 140 in a prosperous month.
These precious pages received an enormous amount of attention and care likewise by its creators and readers. Beyond London and England the magazines were only available from a few newsagents, and overseas readers were prepared to sometimes travel long distances to obtain a new copy of i-D or The Face from the next biggest train station.
The images conveyed a sense of stylistic freedom unable to be expressed in mainstream publications.
By the end of the 1980s and early 1990s the magazines and its photographers and stylists were in a position to produce conceptual stories which were at the same time reflecting and also promoting the rethinking of images of 'style' with an intelligence and excellence that to this day remains inspiring. The collaborative nature of these collections of pictures is apparent, as stylists played an equal part in the creation of the images, as did the photographers. The simultaneous changes in world politics and history during those years is rarely directly, but often inherently reflected. A worldview, miles apart from the commercial reality of today, was thriving on visions of a more integrated, playful, and environmentally friendly and honest approach.
This exhibition focuses on the sensitivities at the end of the decade and the very beginning of the 1990s by displaying entire published fashion stories, which used the medium of the magazine as a complex and complete artistic medium.
On display is not a group exhibition of different photographer's prints, but instead the show consists exclusively of copies of original 'vintage' magazine stories, which are layed out mostly in full length – a six page story is represented by three complete copies of the issue opened up on consecutive pages. The stories are shown without glass or any protection: visitors are invited to pour over the richness of the displayed pages, but are not invited to browse through the entire magazines. The individual magazines, procured from a multitude of sources, are presented here not as a continuum or as a stream of images, but as a venue with limited space for specific ideas and takes on creating pictures in its time.
The magazines displayed feature the photography and styling of:
Nigel Shafran, Melanie Ward, Nick Knight, Simon Foxton, Jean Baptiste Mondino, Judy Blame, Marc Lebon, Juergen Teller, Travis (Jason Evans), Craig McDean, Stephane Sednaoui, Elisabeth Dijan, David Sims, Corrine Day, Malcolm Beckford, Georgia Goodman, Rachel Auburn, Charty Woolard, Bert Hardy, Andrew Macpherson, Xavier Guardans, Brett Dee, Zoe Bedeaux, Trevor Key, Andy Bettles, Lance Martins, Romel with Carlos
Fashion Stories have been selected by Wolfgang Tillmans.
We are enormously grateful to Conor Donlon / Donlon Books, London for sourcing the majority of the magazines.
Additional magazines are from the collections of Terry Jones and Wolfgang Tillmans.