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In conversation...

The whole ethos of SHOWstudio is to do exactly that - to show the studio and thereby open up the creative process to the same scrutiny given to the finished product. The exhibition Fashion In The Mirror has a similar premise, examining self-reference and exposure of the 'nuts and bolts' of the image-making process in fashion photography from the 1950s to the present day. Penny Martin, no stranger to the backstage workings of photographic studios herself, discussed the exhibition with its curators Michel Mallard and Raphaëlle Stopin, and with photographer Jonathan de Villiers, whose rarely-seen ‘printers proofs’ are amongst the wide variety of material included in the exhibition. a transcript of their conversation, taken from a discussion panel at The Photographer’s Gallery on 2 September, is now available on SHOWstudio.

Fashion in the Mirror is at The Photographer’s Gallery until 14 September 2008


  1. GalileosUniverse
    18:51 9 Sep 2008
    Great reading !... Beautiful thinking and an accurate observation !
    PM: Aren't we already witnessing an increased desire for taste, opinion and guidance again?
    JdV: Gatekeepers.
  2. Sandrine
    19:13 9 Sep 2008
    Jonathan de Villiers is priceless.
  3. GalileosUniverse
    06:51 10 Sep 2008
    Heroes and Heroines , I believe, cannot be made ... HE or SHE has to be found and recognised at the right moment , at the right time, to take his or her rightful place where they truly belong... unfortunately we do seem to be rather slow in thinking when trying to recognise them ! ... but then again their wonderful patience and positive thinking does seem to pay off in the end .... when given the opportunity to play the part they deserve !
    " SHOW studio ------- Jonathan de Villiers on Pornography and Fashion "
    " The moment has now passed but at one point it was impossible to open a trendy fashion mag. without an allusion to pornography. There were probably many reasons for this but the recent tidal wave of the stuff pouring into people's homes and offices via the Internet is bound to have had something to do with it. In any case, what's new? After all, isn't the standard dynamic of fashion pictures a female model presented as an object of male desire?
    Well, yes, but...
    From the viewer's point of view; fashion photographs can mostly be seen to make the following claim; 'Wear these clothes in this way to make yourself desirable... oh, and here's who made them and where you can buy them.' Straightforward surely, and neatly tied to commerce. Except that on the one hand, desire encompasses a lot of things that can be dreamed or imagined and on the other hand, consumption of fashion imagery is not so reductively commercial. Perhaps to advertisers' regret, glossy magazines are not only read as catalogues but can also be entertainment, social comment, even critique. These two open-ended aspects to the whole business expand horizons immensely, opening up space for much of the extraordinary stuff that has been produced in fashion photography's name over the years.
    And pornography? As an aid to masturbation it is surely a substitute for imagination. In so far as sexuality is about the smelt and felt and dreamed about, pornography acts as a colonising force of visual objectification. It annexes the whole domain to the most cognitive of the senses, impoverishing and reducing along the way. Pornography lights up and makes precise and repeatable a realm whose liberating expansiveness lies in its hazy, fallible subjectivity. The desirability that fashion imagery speaks of, however, can be much more open-ended and indirectly sexual than pornography must be by definition. (Sure, all sorts of things can serve the function of pornography but pornography proper has a job description that is uncomplicated and specific).
    It seems to me that the fashionability of pornography occurred not only because of its sudden pervasiveness but also because of its apparent rrisqué authenticity. But pornography isn't the bald truth of sexuality; it only starts to become so with the consumption of pornography. (On a more basic level, men are undeniably attracted to porn and are happy to find excuses to look at it and, better still, produce it. If they can avoid making themselves look unattractive by dressing things up as cut-the-crap rebel honesty or meta-examination then so much the better). "