Friday, May 17, 2013

Many people don't know the history of runway modeling, although modeling is one of the most popular professions. The exact origin of modeling is largely unknown, but we do have evidence that suggests how and where runway modeling began. The runway is a decidedly Parisian idea, forming in 19th-century France. During this time in France, couture salons in Paris hosted events to showcase certain fashions. These shows were considered "fashion parades." An illustrated book from 1885 called "Art et la Mode" depicts four women modeling fashions. In the beginning of runway modeling, only a small and select group of people were invited to the show. In fact, photographers weren't invited to fashion shows until the late 1940s. The lack of photography evidence is one of the reasons why we have little information about the origins of runway modeling.

Terry Richardson, Jimmy Choo, 2010
Through comparing fashion and art, I also look at fashion photographers today whose work is similar to their predecessors. Fashion photography typically represents scenes of life, most often orchestrated but based on reality. There are similar fashion photos because they are similar female scenarios. But there are photographs that have become iconic. I try to support the historic photographers and reveal that postmodern photographers of today who sample the existing lexicon. Yet fashion is less restrictive than art, it is a system of endless inspirations from other creators, from life, and without ownership. Is there ever a line between inspiration and imitation in fashion or fashion photography?

David Bailey, 1970s
Runway modeling came to America during the early part of the 20th century. American department stores began hosting their own runway shows, modeled after their French counterparts. These shows were targeted toward women. As runway modeling became more popular, department stores all over the country hosted their own fashion shows. These shows featured a narrative of a specific theme, such as Parisian or Asian. Early runway shows were known for their flamboyance and storyline.

When I first started looking at the intersection of fashion and art in photography, I discovered many doubles. There is a precedent of duality throughout art history. In fashion photography, the contemporary double suggests the practice of imitation, the exploration of the other self, sexuality and much more.

"We are at a point of excess with imitation. Everything can be duplicated and imitated. Whatever it is that we have culturally considered with virtual reality, the simulacra, the mirror image, the other, has been made even more apparent and mundane by something like reality tv where we watch reflections of 'ourselves.'"

"But what we imitate is not so much one another, or even the culture industry. We are imitating indeterminate images, fantasies really, and those images are an imitation of real life itself - that is the rupture to imitation. Reality inspires the mirage and we imitate the mirage to bring it back to reality."

Text excerpts from RKW and Photos Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton for Numero 133


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