Photography: The Nude Objectivity

by Penny Martin .

Delicate flowers gracing the nude and flesh-tone fabrics have gradually been overlaid with geometric shafts of light evoking the dynamism and grandeur of the early European Avant-Garde and late American Deco periods. 

Knight's conflation of two apparently conflicting modes of Modernist photography is impressive.

29 November 2003 19:00hrs

Having started with one vision of Modernism - the tight, feminine floral arrangements of Constance Spry - the photo story at the heart of 'By Arrangement' has blossomed into another. Throughout the shoot, the delicate flowers gracing the nude and flesh-tone fabrics have gradually been overlaid with geometric shafts of light evoking the dynamism and grandeur of the early European Avant-Garde and late American Deco periods. 

Knight's conflation of two apparently conflicting modes of Modernist photography is impressive.

The 'straight' photography advocated by large-format camera enthusiasts Paul Strand and Edward Weston survives, miraculously unflattened by the vigorous, prismatic light formations so evocative of the cameraless, Vorticist imagery of Alvin Langdon Coburn. Though the two movements were ideologically opposed in their day - the truth of the natural world set against the iniquity of the machine age - in these fashion portraits, the Formalist pattern frees-up rather than constrains the models.

Graphic abstractions add drama to the portraits, allowing the models to contribute something far quieter: an intimate trace of their youthful inner-selves. 

Cleverly echoed by Michael Howells in the conical, spherical and Surrealist flower arrangements juxtaposed against the fashion images in SHOWstudio's broadcast, Knight's sensitive appropriation of New Objectivity motifs lends 'straight' portraiture the dynamic elegance so lacking in much of contemporary fashion photography.