Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Behind the Scenes at the Couture House, 1954

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Taken by Mark Shaw for Life magazine, this photo series documents the backstage backstage goings on during a Pierre Balmain couture show in 1954. While the clients were being treated to a sedate and glamourous show in the well-appointed salon, in the cabine the models were being quickly squeezed into a variety of constricting yet beautiful garments. This rare peak into the frenzied backstage world of the couture helps to flesh out our understanding of that industry, and provides a welcome counterpoint to the idealized fashion photographs of the time. Ginette Spanier, Balmain's elegant directrice, vividly described this type of scene in her wonderful autobiography, It Isn't All Mink, and I have included an edited quote from it below.

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Above right is Ginette Spanier.


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"The first show, the very first opening each season, is something which always overexcites me. At my very first opening, Balmain pushed me, on the spur of the moment, into the cabine. At that time I hardly even knew what the cabine was. It is, in fact, the little hot, overcrowded room where the mannequins change from one model gown to another. As there are over a hundred and fifty dresses to each show, and only about eight girls to where them, the backstage scene is a mixture between a harem and a bathhouse.

All around me were half-dressed beauties with their feet up, sitting on little hard white chairs. Their names were emblazoned across the back as if they were boxers or film directors. There was the rustling of glorious dresses being lifted down from racks in the ceiling on a long pole, like turkeys in a market.

It is quite something to see a grande collection explode backstage. The model girls, stripped to pants and brassieres, always put on hats first: incredible hats. Marie-Thérèse, one of our great stars, chews gum monotonously. Eight girls step into fabulous dresses. Eight girls fight to get into a gap in the show line. They swear. They pull in their waists. They brush their hair for the evening dresses. They cry. The dressers scream at them. The chef de cabine screams loudest of them all.

The girls dress at fever speed. The professionals among them seem calm. This means nothing. Underneath they erupt like volcanoes. From snapping and behaving like fishwives they draw themselves up to become public idols and slide through the curtains..."


Spanier, Ginette. It Isn't All Mink. New York: Random House, 1960.

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All photos by Mark Shaw.

Photos of the Day: Storyville Nude

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Photo of a Storyville, New Orleans prostitute by E.J. Bellocq, c. 1912.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Ken Pate's Roquette Rockers

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Ken Pate's Roquette Rockers

Nothing makes me happier than uncovering a long forgotten gem. I found one such jewel two months ago when I was doing research at the Institute for Contemporary Photography's library- I was searching for something on the top shelf and when I pulled away one book I saw another that had fallen back. It was covered with a layer of dust but just by the cover I knew it was worth looking at. This rather remarkable book, Roquette Rockers, is a collection of photographs by Ken Pate of rockers hanging out around the rue de la Roquette in Paris. It was published in 1975 and the photos are contemporary, showing a rare glimpse into a subculture that never died but had become more marginalized since its heyday in the 1950s. Though I do not know how to ride a motorcycle (I can't even ride a bike!), I've always been intrigued by the culture and the style. These photos are raw and unedited, and while these bikers may not look as rough as some of the Hell's Angels you see in photos of classic American bike gangs, they have their own charm and unique spin on the look. There appears to be no information on this book or the photographer online, and I was not able to find out anything from ICP- they weren't even sure how the book came to be in their possession. I am still on the lookout for more information on Ken Pate so if anyone knows anything I would love to hear it- all of the photos suggest an artistic and sympathetic eye so I hope that he continued to shoot after this project.

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The book includes a preface by Carole Naggar, the photography historian, artist and co-founder of Pixelpress. This was written quite early in her career, but it quite vividly hits right out at us, the viewers, forcing us to look beyond our presuppositions and instead at the photos themselves:

"For you voyeurs, here are snapshots in every sense of the term, exploitative photos of shots. Here's the surprise: the thugs give them the same image you imagined. Let us avoid the vague attitude of pseudo upper sociologist who observes with curiosity and some disdain an unknown species; avoid the clichés of exoticism easy (they live in PARIS? Ah, I thought LONDON OR NEW YORK AMSTERDAM or) a change of scenery with it. Ken Pate live like them instead of the Bastille, and he knows them, they posed for him with pleasure, even complacency: the appearance is important to them So we will know them and their lives that they want to deliver: the foam and foil, leather and metal, makeup and dressing, the skin. "

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Photos of the Day: Bianca Jagger

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Bianca Jagger photographed by Norman Parkinson.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Photos of the Day: The Passionflower at the Gate

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Julia Margaret Cameron, The Passionflower at the Gate, 1867.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Shoes: On Stage

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Terry de Havilland thigh-high platform boots exclusively designed for Shoes.

It really doesn't get any better than this- a dance show "exploring the highs and lows of footwear from Christian Louboutin to Crocs" with song and dance numbers dedicated, and using, Ferragamo and Terry de Havilland shoes. Sounds amazing, right? Well, this rather fantastical event is called Shoes and is being performed at Sadler's Wells in London on September 3-11. Below are some rather wonderful quotes from my favourite shoe designer of all time, Mr. de Havilland (read more on him here and here), from a Vogue.co.uk article, along with some photos of the gorgeous shoes he designed for the show.



"When I heard about the number Your Mums Shoes, and the fact that the director Stephen Mear wanted to make this a Seventies-inspired piece, and have the performers tap dance in platforms, I jumped at the chance to provide the footwear."



"For this, my inspiration came from past experience. I love making shoes for performers. I cut my teeth on Tim Curry for the Rocky Horror Show. I've been addicted ever since."



"We suggested a mix of knee high and ankle boots for the girls, front laced for stability around the ankles but with an inside zip to make the costume changes easier and a peep toe for comfort - there's nothing worse than hitting your big toe against the front of a boot when you're "hoofing it" up on stage - pure agony!"

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More exclusive Terry de Havilland designs.



"The shoes I’ve produced for the show are made on a set up that I developed in the Nineties. I made a lot of footwear for stage performers back then so I knew that they were strong enough and comfortable enough for the dancers to cope with." "We were asked to produce a special pair for Drew McOnie (the male lead) so we came up with a fusion of the two styles using the masculine last but creating them in the same fabrics as the girls boots. These are purple kid suede appliquéd with a shooting star motif crafted in silver holographic leather with trails of Swarovski crystal detailing to represent the tails of the stars."

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"Each shoe is adorned with Swarovski crystals that really explode under the stage lighting."

For the Ferragamo section they used shoes from the Creations collection, which are all replicas of original designs made for iconic women including Marilyn Monroe, Carmen Miranda and Judy Garland.

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Ferragamo's Carmen wedge.

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Ferragamo's moulded wedge.

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Ferragamo's America wedge.

Looking through photos on the Sadler's Wells website I spy some heelless platforms by Daphne Guinness' favourite, Natacha Marro, including the red glitter pair that are currently for sale on 20LTD for an inexpensive £495.

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Several of Natacha Marro's designs for Shoes.

Below is a video on the making of Shoes, which includes interviews with Terry and his wife, Liz, around 7:00- it is a great look into their workroom with Liz hand applying crystals to one pair of platform boots. This is followed by clips of the dancers practicing in some of the highest and most fabulous boots you can imagine.



I wish that I was in London to see this- is anyone going? It seems like tickets are still available. I find it a little odd that so much work has obviously gone into putting this show together yet it has such a short run, but I know so little about the theatre world. I do wonder what they are going to do with all those amazing shoes after...

Photo of the Day: Donna (Again)

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Barry Lategan, Donna Jordan in a Harvey Nichols dress, from Vogue UK, March 1972.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Field of Dreams

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All photos by Waldemar Hansson of Anastasia Scherchen for F♥ Hush magazine, issue 1.
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Photos of the Day: Robert Heinecken

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Robert Heinecken, Cliche Vary: Fetishism, 1974. Photo emulsion on stretched linen with chalk.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Sacrilege

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Joséphine de la Baume photographed by Cameron Smith for Oyster 88.

Though I have never seen the appeal of Joséphine de la Baume before, she looks smoking hot in this editorial from Oyster, where she wears many of the best pieces from the fall collections. Unlike the chic, pulled together 70s look that most of the magazines are pushing, here is the other side of autumn- edgy and sensual with a heavy dose of leather and plush velvet.

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