Picasso: The Artist and His Muses

This exhibition on Picasso staged by the Vancouver Art Gallery is not just an exhibition of his works, but more a tribute to his muses – his lovers who inspired his creations. In order to keep everything straight in my mind, I have tried to include some background and brief histories on each woman, who was an artist in her own right.

“To my misfortune, and maybe my delight, I place things according to my love affairs.”

Pablo Picasso

The exhibition pays homage to six women in Picasso’s life and really tells their stories through his artwork. The first woman in Picasso’s rakish life was Fernande Olivier who he met in 1904, during his Blue Period, where he painted the urban life of Paris and Barcelona in blue and blue-green tones. She moved in with him the following year initiating his transition into the Rose Period. The works in this period had more earthy and warm tones, depicting scenes of harlequins and carnival performers. Picasso was extremely jealous of her. Picasso often painted her in the nude or while she was dressing. It was during this time that Picasso began depicting the body in form of different planes and new ways of using space and object references. Picasso was fascinated with Spanish and Portuguese sculptures and African masks and he found inspiration in their geometric lines for his paintings. After mutual infidelities, the couple separated in 1912.

Standing Nude (Femme Nue), 1910: Fernande Olivier by Picasso
Standing Nude (Femme Nue), 1910: Fernande Olivier by Picasso

Olga Khokhlova was a Russian ballerina and became Picasso’s first wife, marrying him in 1918. The couple met in 1917 when Picasso was working on the stage design for the ballet Parade in which Khokhlova was performing.

Olga Khokhlova and Pablo Picasso
Olga Khokhlova and Pablo Picasso

Picasso explored Cubism for approximately seven years. The painting below was made shortly after Picasso met Khokhlova and shows a return to naturalism. He continued to integrate classicism into Modernism and looked at traditional Greek mythology and Christianity subjects for his inspiration. When their son, Paulo was born, Picasso’s art began to focus on timelessness and Neoclassical representations of motherhood. In the late 1920’s, however, Picasso began to seek out the company of Marie-Therese Walter who became his long-time mistress. He and Khokhlova separated in 1935, when Walter fell pregnant, but Khokhlova remained his legal wife until her death in 1955.

Head of Woman (Olga), 1917 by Pablo Picasso
Head of Woman (Olga), 1917 by Pablo Picasso

The theme of motherhood was an extremely important theme for Picasso while he and Khokhlova were together and he frequently painted her and his son as “Madonna and child” showing tender emotion.

Maternite, 1924 by Pablo Picasso
Maternite, 1924 by Pablo Picasso

Marie-Therese Walter met Picasso when she was just 17 and Picasso was immediately enamoured by her classical Greek-like features. Because he was still married to Olga Khokhlova, their affair was kept secret for most of the duration of their relationship. Picasso allegorized Walter in his works, often depicting her as eternal youth, and developed visual codes to portray her in disguise. His Bather series evolved during the early years of their relationship. Around the time that Walter gave birth to their daughter, Picasso’s roving eye had noticed photographer, Dora Maar.

Femme endormie dans un fauteuil, 1927 by Pablo Picasso
Femme endormie dans un fauteuil, 1927 by Pablo Picasso

Femme endormie dans un fauteuil depicts the transition from one lover to the other. The open vagina-like mouth and flushed cheeks in this portrait are sexually charged, depicting a sleeping Walter, a favourite motif used for Walter. However it is believed that by depicting four or more strands of hair are a coded reference to Khokhlova and therefore this painting references his transition of combing features and characteristics of his muses. Picasso’s painting style changed drastically after meeting Walter. He began to distort figures, creating angular and erotic lines. Themes of erotic fantasy and fertility abounded during this period.

Dora Maar was professional photographer specialising in fashion and advertising and was an active member of the Surrealist group. Other members of this group were Man Ray, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose. From her work she created uncanny photomontages. Maar and Picasso became romantically involved in 1936.

Group of friends in Paul Cuttoli's garden in Mougins, left to right: Ady, Marie and Paul Cuttoli, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar, photographed by Man Ray 1937.
Group of friends in Paul Cuttoli’s garden in Mougins, left to right: Ady, Marie and Paul Cuttoli, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar, photographed by Man Ray 1937.

Maar was an artist in her own right, and had her own photographic studio in Paris. Her connections with anti-facist and socialist movements prompted her to document the impending global economic crisis. The two artists fed off each other, each inspiring the other. The Spanish civil war lead Picasso to make his first political oevre, Guernica, while Maar documented the creation of this painting through her photography. Maar had a rather turbulent personality and Picasso often painted her in deep psychological states, and called her his ‘weeping woman’.

Weeping Woman, 1937 by Pablo Picasso
Weeping Woman, 1937 by Pablo Picasso

In Weeping Woman, Picasso returns to Cubism once again, breaking up the geometry of the face with harsh angular lines, dynamic streams of tears flowing from one eye and harsh cross hatching markings on the handkerchief Maar presses to her eyes, the raw emotion of despair quite visible.  Maar was the inspiration for a series of the weeping women featured in the Guernica painting.

Guernica, 1937
Guernica, 1937

Francoise Gilot, a young art student, met Picasso in 1943. It was during their early years together that Picasso was introduced to pottery. Picasso did not paint Gilot realistically, preferring to depict her in floral form. Gilot had two children by Picasso, a son, Claude and a daughter, Paloma. Gilot tired of Picasso’s philandering ways and left him in 1953. After the children were born, Picasso’s art depicted joyous family life, often from a child’s point of view. As Gilot and Picasso drifted apart, Picasso’s work changed from joyous to harsh, violent lines and saw a return of the weeping woman images he had depicted when he was with Maar.

Francoise, 1946 by Pablo Picasso
Francoise, 1946 by Pablo Picasso

Jacqueline Roque met Picasso at a pottery workshop in  Vallauris in the south of France in 1953. It was at this time that Gilot’s relationship with Picasso was floundering and Roque and Picasso became an item. After the death of Olga Khokhlova  in 1955 proposed to Roque who agreed to marry him in 1961. The period with Roque, which lasted until Picasso’s death in 1973, was exceptionally creative for him. Upon his death Roque suffered greatly from depression for a time. She became responsible for his legacy, donating various works to museums. She took her own life in 1986.

Femme au fauteuil (Woman in Armchair) Jacqueline Roque-Picasso by Pablo Picasso, 1960
Femme au fauteuil (Woman in Armchair) Jacqueline Roque-Picasso by Pablo Picasso, 1960

The painting above depicts a double face motif, something which Picasso used quite often in his work in his Maar period. Roque’s face is split in two: one half looks at the viewer, while the other has the illusion of being swept away.

This exhibition was quite the eye-opener for me. A total of 67 works, including 27 canvasses and 40 sketches, drawings, prints, and sculptures were featured and to a photographer, this work is rather mind boggling. What clearly came across was Picasso’s style was continually changing. He was always developing new ideas and trying different techniques. His work was heavily influenced by all his relationships. I can’t say that I “get” his work, but I did come away with a better understanding of “why” he painted his women’s features as he did.

There is a good video about this exhibition below (see Moriarity, Wayne in Bibliography) where senior curator Ian Thom comments on the intricacies of the exhibition.

Bibliography

Moriarity, Wayne (2016). Some fascinating facts from VAG’s Picasso Show [online]. The Province. Available at: http://theprovince.com/opinion/columnists/wayne-moriarty-some-fascinating-facts-from-vags-picasso-show [Accessed 10 July, 2016]

Epps, Philomena (2016) The Women Behind the Work: Picasso and His Muses [online] AnOther. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/8799/the-women-behind-the-work-picasso-and-his-muses [Accessed 10 July, 2016]

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Assignment 1 – The Non-Familiar

The brief:

Your first assignment is to make five portraits of five different people from your local area who were previously unknown to you.

Due to work constraints and other personal issues happening in my life during the past few weeks, I decided to do this assignment while I was on holiday, where hopefully I would have more clarity of thought. While vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I decided to photograph the hotel staff that I met for this project. The photographs were only taken after having some interesting dialogue with each of the subjects. All photos were taken in situ where the subjects worked. With the exception of the room attendant (fig 5), all photos were taken in one of the many restaurants on the premises. The room attendant’s photo was taken in the hotel room. Those of the servers and restaurant manager were taken at the end of the meal and I remained seated in my seat to take the photo as I wanted to convey their attendant stature. I gave no instructions other than to indicate where they should stand on the opposite side of the table. I allowed the subjects to pose themselves and their facial expressions. As they were all busy working, I had to work quickly and only managed to fire off about three shots for each subject.

What I really like about this set of images is the pride that is evident on all the subjects’ faces, as well as the pleasure of being asked for their portrait. This series is all about recognition. How often do the restaurant staff and room attendants just meld into the background of one’s experiences unnoticed when one is out enjoying oneself? Berger (2013: 140) states that “between people there is no such thing as unilateral one-way knowledge.” An exchange is always required, be it either verbal or for instance in a foreign country by means of various gestures in order to make oneself understood. Each person that I have photographed here is a unique individual. Sure they are identified by their uniforms and badges (signs), but these are all man-made items and don’t serve to reflect their personalities. They only aid to tell us ‘what’ they are, but not ‘who’. In conversations with some of these people it appears that they are not highly paid at all – approximately 80 pesos per day (just a little over CAD $5 per day) so providing excellent service for tips is a huge part of their daily routine.

The close-up is the opposite of a statistic. … What first matters is recognition. Recognition. The word appears to make no claim and to sound poor. Yet that perhaps is how it should be.

(Berger, 2013: 142)

The clothing, gestures, and facial expressions all contribute to the semiological system of reading the photograph.  There is a coherence of appearances in the series below. As Berger (2013: 71) states:

Appearances also cohere within the mind as perceptions. … To recognize an appearance requires the memory of other appearances. And these memories, often projected as expectations, continue to qualify the seen long after the stage of primary recognition. … One image interpentrates another.

Fig 1. Martin - Server
Fig 1. Martin – Server at Casa Grande
Fig 2. Oscar - Server
Fig 2. Oscar – Server at BlaZe
Fig 3. Saul - Server
Fig 3. Saul – Server at PureZa
Fig 4. Oscar - Restaurant Manager
Fig 4. Oscar – Restaurant Manager at MelanZane
Fig 5. Adriana - Room attendant
Fig 5. Adriana – Room attendant

 

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

I used my Nikon D7200, together with a  50 mm f1.8 lens so that I could blur the backgrounds. My primary focus was on the eye closest to me and I am happy that all the eyes are nice and sharp. I had to use my camera’s pop up flash on a few occasions and this enhanced the specular highlights on the faces of the subjects in fig. 1 and 4 who were sweating due to the heat. The choice for background was rather limited in the indoor restaurants while the outdoor restaurants provided a more interesting background in terms of thatch texture and vegetation. Also the headboard of the bed in fig 5 was quite spectacular so I was extremely pleased to include that as the background. The only issue I had with fig 5, and unfortunately I only noticed this when uploading the photos after returning home, was the hint of red cushion behind the subject on the bed. I tried to remove it in Photoshop but I am very rusty with Photoshop so decided rather to leave it in than make a mess. I need to upgrade my PS skills.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

My work was largely influenced by August Sander from exercise 1.2, Hans Eijkelboom and Paul Matzner. I am fairly happy with the outcome of the photographs which I shot under very difficulty circumstances, as my mother had passed away while I was on holiday. Sontag in her essay “Photographic Evangels” writes that ‘every portrait of another person is a “self-portrait” of the photographer’ (1977: 122). Each portrait that I made was a stepping stone to celebrating my mother’s life, and in a way each portrait was serving as my mask in hiding my sorrow.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

By choosing to do headshots I might have limited my creativity a bit. However, I felt that headshots would best allow for an element of ambiguity that I wanted to introduce to the portraits in that their occupations are not immediately evident until one reads the caption. My 50mm lens allowed for some interesting blurred backgrounds.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

I am finding that portraiture is quite a difficult topic, more so than I initially envisioned. In particular the semiology of reading faces is quite daunting. It is perhaps more akin to analysing a close-up than a wide-angle photograph. One has to be more in tuned to very subtle nuances.

In preparation for my assignment I looked at the following photographers (my details remarks can be found on their pages):

  • Juergen Teller – I particularly liked the semiology of framing his subjects in that no-man’s land on a doorstep, highlighting their transition between their ordinary life and professional life; their youth and innocence about to be discarded on the pavement outside the studio.
  • Paul Matzner – the typology of people on certain streets in various US cities. Paul Matzner also stopped by my review and left a comment.
  • Hans Eijkelboom – the typologies of fashion found on various locations around the world revealing a social anthropology and society’s reliance on consumerism – the identity of fitting in.

I have also decided to study one of the visual culture textbooks on the side, with the hope that this will help improve my critical analysis. As I go along I will make brief notes on my exploration. Thus far I have covered:

I was really lucky to attend quite a few exhibitions. The annual Capture Photography festival brought quite a few unknown photographers to my attention. My detailed notes are on the relevant exhibition pages linked below:

Reference List

Berger, John (2013) Understanding a Photograph. New York: Aperture.

Sontag, Susan (1977) On Photography. New York: Picador.

Bibliography

Angier, R. (2015) Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography (2nd edition). London: Bloomsbury.

Kozloff, M. (2007) The Theatre of the Face: Portrait Photography since 1900. London: Phaidon Press

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Assignment 1 – Planning

For some or other reason, I just can’t get motivated to do this assignment. I’m experiencing a total mental block and I can’t fathom why. I mean, I have no problem walking up to strangers and asking them if I can take their portrait. I did a similar exercise when I took a documentary photography class here in Vancouver and we set up shop on the disused steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery, strung up a sheet and asked passers by to step up to have their portrait taken, Richard Avedon style. But that was four years ago and I’m a little out of practice with street photography these days.

While doing research for this assignment I’ve been rather inspired by Hans Eijkelboom and his method of shooting on the street. Paul Matzner’s work also appeals greatly to me. So I think I’ve found my methodology about how to go about creating a good series for this assignment, yet I still continue to have this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. I’m not sure if it is related to work pressures or the really bad weather we’ve been having here lately or the worries I’ve been having about my mother’s health. It’s really tough when you are so far from family and they become ill. I was hoping to have this assignment all wrapped up before I go on vacation, but that is not going to happen, so I will try and work on it there, while doing the touristy stroll along the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta.

Hans Eijkelboom

Hans Eijkelboom is a Dutch photographer whose work revolves mainly around typologies, specifically anthropological street photography. His work is influenced by August Sander, Walker Evans, the Bechers and Garry Winogrand. Eijkelboom also has a great affinity with Martin Parr as they both offer a critical review on how complicated life can be. He has an extremely interesting work technique. He goes to a city and looks for a good place with lots of passing pedestrian traffic. He will look around for ten minutes or so and decides his theme for the day. Then he shoots for two hours, no more. He hangs his camera around his neck and uses his remote shutter release, which is in his pocket, when he takes a photograph. He lays his images out in grids complete with a date stamp beneath, also noting the place and time period.

His style is quirky to say the least. Some of the sets are of men strolling the streets sans shirts revealing muscular torsos and enviable six packs; people caught unawares snoozing on a train; businessmen dressed in mackintoshes carrying briefcases; women dressed in brightly coloured floral or geometric print dresses and tunics; men dressed in denim jeans and denim jackets; women carrying the same designer store shopping bags – the series are endless.

HansEijkelboomEijkelboom claims his work is “always about identity. In the beginning it was about my identity, and now it’s more about identity generally in society”1. When one looks at his various grids, one becomes aware that identity is very fluid. We are under the assumption that we all have our own sense of fashion and style, but when we look at Eijkelboom’s work, we can clearly see the herd mentality coming to fore. No one really wants to be all that different, so we try and “conform” to various trends that we are most comfortable identifying with.

People are looking for ways to have an identity, to find the answer to the question: are you a product of the culture you live in or are you something really of yourself?

Hans Eijkelboom (2014)2

It is interesting that he remarks that we are all products of the culture in which we live. We are constantly bombarded by advertisements telling us to buy this product or that product so that we can assert our individuality, but we all really tend to forget that thousands of other people are receiving and acting upon that very same message. In today’s society and cultures, it is extremely difficult to forge a unique identity. Every purchase we make has been subconsciously influenced by some type of advertising, whether we want to acknowledge it or not.

In viewing Eijkelboom’s work, we try and find our place in his typology grids: are we the Asian couples who stroll the streets arm in arm, or the pink T-shirt clad ladies? Maybe we’re at home among the plaid shirt brigade, or just maybe we’re the hunks whizzing down the street on our roller-blades…

Reference List
  1. Phaidon (2014) Ten questions for photographer Hans Eijkelboom [Online]. Phaidon. Available at: http://ca.phaidon.com/agenda/photography/articles/2014/october/02/ten-questions-for-photographer-hans-eijkelboom/ [Accessed 14 June, 2016]
  2. Pellerin, Ananda (2014). Hans Eijkelboom on Photography for Aliens [Online]. AnOther. Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/4045/hans-eijkelboom-on-photography-for-aliens [Accessed 14 June, 2016]
 Illustration

Eijkelboom, Hans (2004) 31 December, 2004, Amsterdam, NL 13:00 – 14:00 [Photograph] Available at: http://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/4045/hans-eijkelboom-on-photography-for-aliens [Accessed 14 June, 2016]

Bibliography

Strategy, Johnny (2014). Photographer Spends 20 Years Documenting How We All Dress Exactly Alike [Online]. Colossal. Available at: http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2014/12/photographer-spends-20-years-documenting-how-we-all-dress-exactly-alike/ [Accessed 14 June, 2016]

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Mashup Curators’ Salon

The video below is an accompaniment to my exhibition write up of MashUp – the Birth of Modern Culture exhibition in Vancouver. Various curators present brief presentations on their contributions to the exhibitions, providing more depth to some of the artists featured in this exhibition.

The presenters were:

  1. Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator, Vancouver Art Gallery: 21 Thoughts on MashUp
  2. Patrik Andersson, Curator and Associate Professor in Critical+ Cultural Studies, Emily Carr University: Jacques Villegle
  3. Stephanie Rebick, Assistant Curator, Vancouver Art Gallery: Christian Marclay
  4. Ian Thom, Senior Curator – Historical, Vancouver Art Gallery: General Idea
  5. Daina Augaitis, Chief Curator/Associate Director, Vancouver Art Gallery: The sculptures of Liz Magor, Doris Salcedo and Rachel Whiteread
  6. Diana Freundl, Associate Curator, Asian Art, Vancouver Art Gallery: Gu Wenda, Xu Bing and Qiu Zhijie
  7. Lisa Couthard, Associate Professor, Film Studies, University of British Columbia: Quentin Tarantino
  8. Makiko Hara, Independent Curator based in Vancouver and Tokyo: UJINO

Reference List

Vancouver Art Gallery (2016).  MashUp Curators’ Salon [user-generated content online] Creat. Vancouver Art Gallery. 1 March, 2016. 1 hr 6 min 25 sec Available at: https://vimeo.com/168075188 (Accessed 12 June, 2016)

Paul Matzner

I was browsing through Lenscratch searching for some inspiration in preparation for Assignment 1, when I came across Paul Matzner’s work. Matzner is a photographer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lenscratch ran a feature on his latest project Facing You/Facing Me which is a series of headshots he has made of people out on various streets. His project statement reads as follows:

We pass people on the street every day without making eye contact or even acknowledging their presence. We are connected to our music, our phones, our technology, but not necessarily to the people around us. I have chosen to share a momentary, public intimacy with those passersby so that I can gaze longer at their faces and value their humanity. We need each other in this world. Awareness of the people around me is the first step toward appreciation of who I am and who they are, whether those relationships remain anonymous, or become more revealing over time.

Paul Matzner

This project seems to be one quite long in the making as Matzner has created a portfolio for every street he has photographed in. He has faces of Michigan Avenue, Chicago; 5th Avenue, Harlem; Brady Street, Milwaukee; Mitchell Street, Milwaukee; Delancey Street, New York; Smith Street, Brooklyn; Devon Avenue, Chicago;  and Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee.

Upon closer inspection of the sets of photographs it seems that Matzner shot most of the images at the same location on each street. Although the background is very blurred and all context removed, one can recognise the shapes and background colours. It is also interesting to note that only three streets (Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Delancey Street in New York and Smith Street in Brooklyn) feature a cosmopolitan cross-section of the population. All ethnicities are present. In 5th Avenue, Harlem mainly African-Americans are featured with a scattering of Latinos and Caucasians which contrasts sharply with Brady Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee which feature mainly a Caucasian population. Devon Avenue in Chicago is clearly home to a large Middle Eastern and East Indian population while the Faces of Mitchell Street in Milwaukee were a bit more difficult to pinpoint and left me feeling rather ambiguous.

The photographs are all taken quite close up to the subject. In most of the photographs, the top of the subject’s head is cut off and in some even the bottom of their chins. What is compelling throughout the entire series though is the gaze. All the subject look directly at the photographer (and viewer). Matzner allow for many visual clues to be visible on his subjects. We only catch the tiniest glimpse of their clothing, not enough to discern whether they are rich, poor, homeless or gainfully employed. Granted we can guess at their social class or status when we observe tattoos on their neck, but that is all.

We only really have two of the four key elements (face and location) present that make up a portrait:

  • face (facial expressions, hair) – personal appearance
  • pose – manner and attitude
  • clothing – social class, sex, cultural values and fashion
  • location (or background setting) – social scene of the person in the picture

Bate, D. (2009), p.73

From the closely cropped headshots we cannot discern the pose or clothing. We see enough of the blurred background to know that the portraits have been taken outdoors on the street, but no specifics are discernible. So we can draw no real social connotations about the subjects. The headshots are really quite close and in your face and there is an intimacy about this closeness.

While I was scrolling through the images, I had the distinct feeling that I knew or had encountered some of these faces. There was a strange familiarity to some of them. Have I seen their doubles on the streets of Vancouver? Or is it the expression in their eyes that I recognise in people I pass on the streets? The majority of the portraits have a deadpan expression, but there are a few with slight enigmatic expressions. I think even if the subject assumes a deadpan expression, there is still a slight emotion that is evident in the eyes, be it a soft or hard expression.

Reference List

Bate. D. (2009) Photography: The Key Concepts. London: Bloomsbury Academic

Pault Matzner Photography Facing You/Facing Me [Online] Available at: http://www.paulmatzner.com/f282907006 [Accessed  11 June, 2016]

Bibliography

Smithson, Aline (2015). Paul Matzner: Facing You/Facing Me [Online]. Available at: http://lenscratch.com/2015/06/paul-matzner-facing-youfacing-me/ [Accessed 11 June 2016]

Juergen Teller

Juergen Teller was born in 1964, in Erlangen, Germany. He studied at the Bayerische Staatslehranstalt für Photographie in Munich, and moved to London in 1986 to avoid conscription. He works comfortable in both the fashion industry as well as the contemporary art world. Some of his commercial clients include Celine,  Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood, and Louis Vuitton. He is extremely well published, having published thirty-nine artist books and exhibition catalogues featuring both his commercial and personal projects.  He currently holds a Professorship of Photography at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Nürnberg.

A go-see is fashion industry lingo for when a model is sent along with her portfolio to see a photographer or agency in the hopes of getting booked for a job. In his Go-Sees project, Teller photographs the subjects (the models) framed in the doorway to his studio. They are positioned in that in-between space of neither in the street nor in the studio. This positioning is a visual metaphor for these young girls’ lives. They are all still very young, early teenagers really, but let loose in this cut-throat industry of fashion, expected to act and masquerade as adults on the runways. Teller ‘shot them framed in his west London doorway, caught between anonymity and potential fame, looking apprehensive, disarmed and disconcerted ‘(Searle, 2008).

Teller’s project is quite ironic in that, as a renowned fashion photographer where he makes beautiful portraits of wonderfully made up fashion models for his daily bread and butter, he turns the tables and reveals the models in their “raw” and vulnerable state. The fact that these portraits have a snapshot quality about them also adds to the irony.

Teller is known to have a “naughty-boy ability to subvert the image of fashion. He’s known to have it in for glamour – taking poor, vulnerable supermodels and putting dark circles around their eyes, giving them scars, in effect dismantling a beauty industry he seems to despise.”

Jauffret, 2006.

These images tell us something about the photographer too. Teller is also complicit in the exploitation of these young girls. After all he is responsible for making the photograph that will launch the product or clothing the girl will be advertising. He is caught in a vicious trap of the lure of the commodity vs. the exposure of it. Most of the girls arrive at his studio dressed innocently in T-shirts and dungarees or jeans, their youthful vulnerability written all over their faces. Some of them pose very awkwardly, a foot hooked behind a leg in shyness, arms dangling by their sides like the gangly teenagers that they are. It is hard to believe that after a makeup artist and a fashion designer are done with these girls they will be totally unrecognisable. In a way Juergen Teller is capturing the last of their innocence.

 

Reference List

Jauffret, Magali  (2006). Juergen Teller – Do you know what I mean Aperture 184 | Fall 2006 p. 10

Searle, Adrian (2008) All human life [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2008/may/21/photography.art [Accessed 8 June 2016]

Tate (2008) TateShots: Juergen Teller – Studio Visit [online] Tate. 4 min 40 secs Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY0CCj4ujww  [Accessed 8 June, 2016]

Bibliography

The ASX Team (2014). JUERGEN TELLER: “Go-Sees” (2000) (online). Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2014/12/juergen-teller-go-sees-2000.html [Accessed 8 June, 2016]

The ASX Team on December 21, 2015 Juergen Teller Discussing “Go-Sees” and Ping-Pong Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2015/12/juergen-teller-discussing-go-sees-and-ping-pong.html [Accessed 8 June, 2016]

CLM Agency Juergen Teller [online] Available at: http://www.clm-agency.com/photography/juergen-teller [Accessed 8 June, 2016]