“Strike a Pose” Celebrates the Magic Between Photographer and Model

Photo: Left: © Julia Hetta, Right: © Julia Hetta. Courtesy of Grundemark Nilsson Gallery, Stockholm.

The best fashion photographs reveal a deeper relationship, one that exists privately between photographer and model. It is here, in the dialectic between artist and muse, that great art is produced.

Also: The Best Fashion Photography of the Last 20 Years

The idea of posing has come about from the tradition of presenting one’s self to be captured for posterity—whether appearing as themselves or cast in the roll of a figure in a historical, mythological, or Biblical story. The subject would take on a costume that conveyed their identity then arrange themselves in such a manner that suggests qualities of status and personality. It began with oil painting but truly found root when the camera made it possible for anyone to become a subject worthy of veneration and contemplation.

Over the past century the fashion photograph has evolved to stand for all the great stories of yesterday. It has subsumed the archetypes of myth, history, religion, and literature, even going so far as to recreate the poses of past works of art. It has also opened doors for new iconography, as the camera captures the present moment, freezing it for all eternity.

As a result the fashion photograph has become a mode all its own, one that is designed to sell products, but transcends the boundaries of commercial work. The very best fashion photographs capture a feeling, a mood, a sensibility conveyed by the very pose itself.

In celebration Grundemark Nilsson Gallery, Stockholm, presents Strike a Pose, a group show of some of the very best fashion photographers in the business. Now on view through April 29, the exhibition presents the works of Carl Bengtsson, Sandra Freij, Julia Hetta, Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton, Tekla Severin, David Sims, Christer Strömholm, Elisabeth Toll, Ellen von Unwerth, and Albert Watson.

Strike a Pose features Watson’s famous nude photograph of Kate Moss, taken for German Vogue at the end of a very long day of shooting. It is a simple, elegant photo reminiscent of the works of Edward Weston and Alfred Steiglitz, revealing the space where photography blurs the lines between genres with grace, ease, and elegance.

Contrast this with the works of Carl Bengtsson, which use natural light to similar effect. The result are hauntingly beautiful, ethereal images that take us into another realm, capturing our spirit and our imagination in a state of pure sensory pleasure.

Each of the works presented in Strike a Pose are study of the dynamics between photographer and model in the creation of work. The dark intensity of Helmut Newton makes a beautiful counterpoint to the raw vibrancy of Ellen von Unwerth. Each image stands on its own, but when taken as a whole, reveals the ways in which fashion photograph shapes our ways seeing ourselves and looking at the world.

Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.