Friday, 13 March 2015

Creating the Image

'Behind every great man there’s a woman rolling her eyes', according to one old adage. There are lots of different variations on that particular saying, most on a scale from abysmal to just about acceptable. But if we applied the same formula to wintery blog shoots, it would go something like this: “Behind every great set of images, there’s a whole load of coats, boots, bags and gloves hidden just out of sight.” The picture only stretches as far as the reach of the lens, leaving out all the ephemera that joined us. Our tramp across a muddy field in wellies will be concealed in the instance of me pulling heels from a carrier bag. I’ll fling away all the practical bits and balance on the grass in my newly precarious footwear – trying to make the entire thing look effortless. 

It's something my parents and I have sometimes remarked on while setting up shots: the amusing disparity between the image of me, looking all serene in short sleeves or wispy layers, and the reality, which is a little more grumpy and sweary. For every snap where I’m posing naturally in a leather mini-skirt, there’s probably a minute’s worth of me hissing “I’m really bloody cold, can you hurry up?!”

That’s also before we get to the jaunts requiring a full change – a quick shimmy from HUGE jumper to sixties shift dress, somewhere, anywhere (but usually in the middle of nowhere). I’ve ducked behind bushes, hidden in cars, and brazenly stripped down and re-dressed on hill-sides – all the while hoping that no hikers stumble across me as I’m half-way into some ball-gown that’s proving tricky to get on. I’ve also grown adept at the art of hidden layers – of thick tights and thin vests that stave off some of the chill (any wonder I’ve shot so many polo necks recently?) All in pursuit of tacking on to an otherwise straightforward outing the just-in-case possibility of a few images I can use for the blog.

Fashion photography is artifice. This is how it is. The removal of anything practical or warm is just one element of that. Whether it’s in a studio or out on a countryside road, there’s an element of assembling something fictional or fantastical. It’s an exercise in imagination. Maybe I’m more aware of this with my forays into fairytale characters and whimsical get-ups; but the blogger in her skinny jeans casually stepping from a pavement is engaging in the same game. We frame, select, enlarge, conceal, reveal, and make myriad other choices over which pictures end up online. Doesn’t mean that they’re not ‘real’ – but rather that they are, inevitably, limited.

Maybe there’s some kind of distinction to be drawn between self-conscious invention/ illusion/ flight of fancy, and the semblance of a ‘gal about town just hanging out.’ Or maybe we’re just better at recognizing the former as make-believe.

At least the ‘coats, boots and gloves’ issue is beginning to ease as temperatures slowly creep up and the number of cardigans I have on diminishes. But it remains a humorous round of pragmatism versus appearance. What you see is a literal crop – or rather an idealized image in which, for a suspended second, all looks good. It’s a type of imagery I love playing with. There’s so much to explore and imagine there. 

This particular combination (above) of second hand jumper, my dad’s maaaaaassive jacket, a vintage Kangol faux-fur hat, woolly tights and my trusty men’s Russell & Bromley boots (from a charity shop) was the practical outfit I wore on the day we did this shoot - which took place on a family day out. The polo neck and ball-gown were pulled on, and everything else removed bar tights and boots. The rest of our afternoon was spent rambling around, gawking at my dad having a dip in a freezing Welsh stream, then driving up a mountain road full of hairpin twists and bends to see this extraordinary view laid out below. And I tell you what – I felt like I could properly enjoy looking at the landscape when I wasn’t shivering in it.


Hannah McManus said...

These are wonderful photos, the colours are so strong! Love your insights into the whole process too - it's quite amusing really when you think about it!
Hannah x

mariafelicia magno said...

nice pics..i like this parka

Vix said...

It's bad enough if I take my coat off for a blog shot, I'm grumbling at Jon to hurry up and that my hair's blowing around too much. I can't imagine having to galvanise a family into action and yomp across the dales! Still, the results are always fabulous and you must be the most glamorous wearer of a flak jacket ever. xxx

Ivana Split said...

Are photographs ever truly natural?in some ways they are like looking in a mirror,albeit an imagined one. It is impossible not to be self-conscious at least to some degree.…and there is nothing wrong in it. Isn't art in someway creating an image of ourseleves and the way we perceive the world? If robots took photos of us while we are not looking,would that be better? Certantly not…and in the context of what we as humans are,it would be meaningless. Created reality is perhaps more eal than what we call reality most of the time. as far as I can see, you look fantastic…wish I wasn't seeing this with a smart phone,but I'll be back.


My, oh my those are inspiring and wondrous clouds. I appreciate both real and fantasy, as an artist. As for the style changes in cold or volatile climates, I know exactly what you mean.
I love these earthy hues and the composition of the whole ensemble, amongst the landscape. Sounds like it was an enjoyable family day as well.

Lola Byatt said...

The most I can do is take off my coat and gloves. My outfit posts have come to a halt, I've been focusing so much on work and feeling quite grumpy about it that I end up mirroring how I'm feeling inside (disheveled, disorganized and uninspired). I have been thinking how I should get out of this rut...does the feeling good on the inside come first or does appearing well on the outside come first and I can somehow trick my brain into feeling good?

I've gone completely off topic here. Your blog is providing me a safe haven to unload my thoughts. Spooning out random thoughts and trying to make sense of them.

Going to your outfit, both are absolutely beautiful. Your Dad's jacket suits you so


Francesca Rose said...

I love how you can still wear men's clothes and look good. It never works on me!!
I also love how you chose to show these images as well as the proper shoot ones from the previous post. It really puts into perspective the efforts people go to. Which is good because your field shots always look so magical.