Fashioning Fiction in Photography since 1990
MoMA QNS, The Museum of Modern Art, Queens
The Museum of Modern Art presents its first exhibition devoted exclusively to fashion photography, Fashioning Fiction in Photography since 1990. Organized by Susan Kismaric, Curator, and Eva Respini, Assistant Curator, Department of Photography, the exhibition is not a survey, but a focused critical consideration of a particularly inventive development in the 1990s, when the reciprocal influences of artistic and commercial photography effected a clear and consistent change within fashion photography. The exhibition demonstrates how the cinema and the amateur or personal photograph inspired the invention of a new visual vocabulary in fashion photography. On view from April 16 to June 28, 2004, Fashioning Fiction presents approximately 100 photographs from 13 photographers: Tina Barney, Cedric Buchet, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Nan Goldin, Simon Leigh, Peter Lindbergh, Glen Luchford, Craig McDean, Steven Meisel, Cindy Sherman, Mario Sorrenti, Larry Sultan, Juergen Teller, and Ellen von Unwerth. All of the photographs were commissioned and published for editorial features in fashion magazines or for advertising campaigns.
Ms. Kismaric says, “While The Museum of Modern Art has consistently collected and exhibited works by fashion photographers, this is the first exhibition devoted solely to fashion photography, demonstrating what a significant and transitional time the 1990s were for the genre. At the root of the new imagery is the fashion industry’s shift from selling products to selling lifestyle. Photographers and advertisers responded to the changing commerce of fashion by abandoning descriptions of the season’s silhouettes and hemlines to tell stories about contemporary life.”
>"MR. LINDBERGH’S MEMORABLY CINEMATIC IMAGE OF A MODEL IN A COCKTAIL DRESS WALKING ALONG A DUSTY RANCHLAND ROAD, ACCOMPANIED BY A MARTIAN, MIGHT HAVE BEEN A LOGICAL PLACE TO START; IT WAS MADE IN 1990."
Ms. Respini says, “Fashion photography in the 1990s is marked by a desire to communicate narratives outside the world of fashion. Like fashion, photography relies and thrives on change, not only through advances in technology but, more importantly, through the countless shifting cultural, social, and economic forces. These works demonstrate a convergence and exchange of narrative conventions and techniques.”
>Roberta Smith (The New York Times, 2004)
In the 1990s, as the culture was increasingly informed by images from television, film, music videos, the Internet, comics, graffiti and art, the magazine publishing industry expanded. The development of desktop publishing and an explosion of new magazines geared towards visually sophisticated and savvy consumer-readers cultivated an intersection of art, fashion, and youth culture. These magazines fostered the work of photographers, stylists, and editors who were influenced by the cinema or the personal photograph to express ideas and construct narratives that spoke to their generation, creating story lines that imbued the images with dramatic complexity and contributed to the aura of personal intimacy and authenticity.
In her 2004 feature "Images of Fashion Tiptoe Into The Modern' published in The New York Times, journalist Roberta Smith explained: "[The exhibition] 'Fashioning Fiction" rolls out a title that could conceivably encompass any number of contemporary artist-photographers, including Peter Lindbergh, Jeff Wall, Anna Gaskell, and Jessica Craig-Martin. Instead, it serves up a thinly sliced canapé that mixes images by 13 artists and fashion photographers; all were originally published in advertising or editorial pages of magazines. Hung against expanses of breathless hush and white walls, little of the work sustains the concentration we are invited to give it. It wants company.
But no. In a time when dozens of new magazines –The Face, Dutch, ID and Index– have mingled coverage of fashion, art and music, this exhibition limits itself primarily to mainstream American fashion magazines, especially W and Harper’s Bazaar. It covers a time when sexual innuendo is turned to ever higher volumes but omits Bruce Weber.
Purporting to cover work since 1990, the exhibition jumps back to the mid-1980′s to include Nan Goldin’s antifashion images taken in the Russian baths on East 10th Street and published in The Village Voice, while ignoring other precedents. Otherwise, nearly everything else dates from after 1997.