Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Vogue 100: A Century of Style

Photographs from a 100 years of Vogue at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Many of the truly great photographers of the last century contributed to Vogue so just to see the works of some masters would be worth the visit. I do suppose it depends a bit on what you think about fashion in general. I am sure with two minutes to spare I could come up with some pointless cynical views on the subject but no doubt I would be in a minority, which is where I generally prefer to be.

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Now as you may imagine I know little about fashion photography so here is a review in Time Out of the exhibition by someone who gives it 5 stars

Not just a pretty face – the style bible is a reflection of our times.

Fashion may be fickle, but the fashion photographer’s lens is also a mirror. ‘Vogue 100: A Century of Style’ is as much a reflection of a hundred years of our history as it is a celebration of the original glossy.

Born in 1916 during WWI, when shipping the US magazine became impossible, BritishVogue has always been more than a fashion mag. And this exhibition is so much more than a collection of pretty models in pretty clothes – Boris Johnson has found his way on to the walls, for goodness’ sake! JG Ballard and Aldous Huxley have both written for Vogue. A pre-fatwa Salmon Rushdie has shared an issue with John Galliano, years before the latter’s fall from grace. Both Queen Elizabeth and her boozy mum have appeared. And, of course, most of the century’s best photographers have shot for its pages. Exhibition curator (and contributing editor to British Vogue) Robin Muir gave Tim Walker, the man responsible for many of today’s most fantastical Vogue shoots, his first job in the 1990s: archiving Cecil Beaton’s work for the magazine from the 1930s.

In this thoughtfully arranged show, it’s the little details that make the difference – from the cocktail style menu of credits in the 1930s room to the wall of seemingly disparate portraits of actress Helena Bonham Carter, milliner Stephen Jones and model Ben Grimes-Viort – united by a colour scheme of feathery pink. A side room shows a series of slides from the ’40s to the ’90s; as though you’re in the cutting room, you watch images go from picture to page.

There’s a charming library of bound copies in which you can survey the century of Vogue as a physical thing. A peek at the pages reveals coverage of major events with far-reaching consequences, like the bloody Alsace campaign at the end of WWII, as reported by Vogue’s very own war correspondent (and former model) Lee Miller. There are also moments of fashion history that reflect societal leaps, such as the launch in 1947 of Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’, which celebrated the end of austerity with its extravagant layers of fabric. Or Donyale Una becoming Vogue’s first black model, gracing the cover in 1968 – a whole ten years before US Vogue would do the same. British Vogue has been around for a century and, in one way or another, it has documented it all in the most beautiful fashion. 

National Portrait Gallery

St Martin’s Place
London
WC2H 0HE
020 7306 0055
Contact us

Opening hours

Daily 10.00 – 18.00
Thursdays and Fridays until 21.00.
Last admission to the exhibition is one hour before the Gallery closes.
Exiting commences ten minutes before the closing time

On until the start of May

 

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