Various contrasts emerge in the exhibition. Anonymous African studio photos are presented next to world famous icons such as Brigitte Bardot and Paul Newman, two photographs of the renowned English photographer Terry O’Neill. Well-known images of influential fashion photographers like William Klein and Frank Horvat are displayed as well. There is no hierarchy, because the essence of these photos is identical: the portrayed tries to show his personality to the viewer. Poses and facial expressions are universal.
The oeuvre of Jacques-Henri Lartigue is very versatile. Besides his fascination with movement and the quest to capture the dynamics of car racings and airplanes in photographs, elegant portraits are also a constant throughout his photographic career. In Beyond Style his muses Florette Ormea and René Perle are shown, respectively his wife and his mistress. A similar sophistication and flair can be found in “Hat with rose”, a portrait of the Italian model Isabella Albonico by Irving Penn.
Compare the vintage and the recent portraits of Malian photographer Malick Sidibé. His studio photos from the sixties and seventies characterize the post-colonial Bamako community. He portrays the inhabitants at their best, in robes with vivid ethnic prints and with remarkable attributes. The series he made for The New York Times Magazine in 2009, shows the same models in a similar setting, but wearing the designs of Dries Van Noten, Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada. The aura of the portrayed hardly differs.
Fashion and style go hand in hand, but are certainly no synonyms. This is also reflected in the portraits of Jacques Sonck. The Belgian photographer chooses expressive and extravert models, who stand out by their exceptional attitude. Although Sonck never had the intention to make fashion photos, his images would easily fit in an avant-garde magazine. The link with the legendary American photographer Diane Arbus who is best known for her photographs of eccentrics, is not remote. Her portrait of notable couturier Madame Alix Gres for Harper’s Bazaar corresponds perfectly with the broad context of Beyond Style. The stately portrait of fashion designer Christian Dior by Emile Savitry is also exhibited.
Fifty One Fine Art Photography creates with Beyond Style a new context and takes all those images from their obvious framework. The link between the different photos may not seem that evident, but their common character is impossible to ignore. The charismatic presence that defines the subject, is always in focus.
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