Nadia of FrouFrouu fills her posts with timeless shades that wouldn't look out of place in a 1940s forest, farm or film - rich purples, muted olives, soft browns and blacks. Her photos resemble newly discovered heirlooms... If only we could all stumble across images of someone so striking in our attic!
One of my favourite places to visit in London is the National Portrait Gallery. Alongside the V&A, it is somewhere that sums up what I love about our capital city – culture. Last time I swung through the revolving doors, it was to see the BP portrait prize with one of my best friends. We went from one painting to another, discussing the techniques and our reactions. There were some portraits we unanimously decided were brilliant and others that one or the other of us hated.However, I don’t usually visit the NPG for the paintings (brilliant as they are); it’s the photos that entice me. I can think of no other place that has left me so inspired after an exhibition. The work of Hoppe, Ida Kar and Irving Penn all made me feel so stirred that I wanted to pick up my camera then and there. Anyone who thinks photography does not qualify as art should see Penn’s masterful portraits of cultural figures such as Truman Capote and Louise Bourgeois. These are not just snaps, but deeply insightful observations into the characters of his subjects.
As Penn himself said, “Very often what lies behind the facade is rare and more wonderful than the subject knows or dares to know”. The skill lies in that accurate portrayal – not a photo that seeks to glorify the sitter or make them look pretty.
I am sure (in fact I am positive) that this is a talent that takes many years to develop and perfect. There is so much I wish to improve about my own photography, but the only way to move forward and to learn is through practice and pedantic evaluation. That is why I have been setting myself varying portraiture tasks.
Dvora of Fashionistable has long been one of my favourite street style photographers, not only for her perfect use of colour, composition and framing, but also for being interested in drawing out the characters behind the shots. You can see her excellent photos of me at LFW here. She also shoots for Vogue.com. I was honoured that a photographer I admire so much agreed to be photographed.
I am also intrigued by the implicit divide between portraiture and fashion photography. The former is about truth, while the latter is about fantasy and escapism. I think they require separate disciplines – and some current photographers, such as Tim Walker, have mastered both - as has my ‘honorary uncle’ Clive Boursnell. His photos of Bill Gibb’s dresses are on a different continent altogether to his sensitive reflections of the working lives at Covent Garden.
The photos of my own that I occasionally post on my blog are of friends, styled by me and shot in a fanciful location – maybe a stately garden or the hills surrounding where I live. I like to create narratives and make up characters to accompany these images. I rarely feature portraiture as it does not chime so much with ideas of ‘style’ and ‘fashion’. However, here is where that changes.
Lucy of Snippets of Shiny Thoughts makes me think of colour, colour and more colour. Both her personality and clothing choices are immensely vibrant, and she has the prettiest (and most infectious) smile you will ever see. Her great sense of humour extends into her blog too. The second image was more than a little impromptu, due to Lucy accidentally toppling in the Serpentine as our photo-session neared its end.
There was a particular NPG exhibition that turned sparks into a bonfire – Ida Kar. She was best known as a ‘bohemian photographer’ who was prolific during the 50s and 60s. The majority of her subjects were artists and writers.The book released alongside the exhibition is now spread open in front of me. How could I not be stirred by her use of light, of framing? Of her ability to ensnare the characters and work of her subjects?
I was struck by Kar’s specialisation in the creative fields, and wondered if I could start a project that was similar. If I had my way I would be asking the great writers of our generation if I could take their photos – Owen Sheers, Carol Ann Duffy and Andrea Levy to name a few. But for now I wanted something more immediate, more relatable. Thus: bloggers.
Daniela of Couture and Crumpets is an afficionado of clothes, designers and words. Extremely knowledgeable about the world of fashion, she writes brilliantly for her blog and also 1883 magazine, and is always a delight to meet up with.
The term fashion/style blogger is now a canopy that houses beneath it those who specialise in street style, those who post their own outfits, those who write about collections and more.My aim when I hatched my initial idea was to ask a selection of bloggers I admired if I could take their photo, with a mix of those who worked behind the camera, and those who posed in front. I had met nearly all the bloggers at the previous London Fashion Week in February. Once I had a rough list of willing participants, I packed my camera and bought train tickets. Over the course of the summer holidays I took photos of many bloggers (more in this series to be featured in upcoming posts), and I hope to expand on the number in the coming months too.