ICP Kicks Off A Year of Fashion Photography, We Salivate

Susan Sontag wrote, in her critical work On Photography, that photos are at once, "the effort to embellish the world and the counter-effort to rip off its mask". The four new exhibits at ICP fulfill this maxim: showcasing both incredibly "embellished" photos as well as shots that present the world au naturel.
Above: Miles Aldridge, Spot the Fake #1 (Published: New York Times, T Magazine), 2006 © Miles Aldridge, Courtesy of the artist
"Weird Beauty" is a display of contemporary photo spreads from magazines (mostly European) that many of us love and read. All the modern luminaries make appearances: Steven Klein's snaps, Nicola Formichetti's styling, Carine Roitfeld's vision. The photos are presented in context, as magazine tear sheets. Kind of like when you rip out cool stuff from magazines and tape it to the wall, but crisply and without the ripped edges. Each shot can stand alone, but they gain momentum as a narrative sequence. "What we're really compelled by are the fantasies," the introduction states. Indeed.
"Edward Steichen High Fashion 1923-1937" Steichen, whose career spans many decades, was the chief photographer for Vogue and Vanity Fair between World Wars. His gorgeous black and white shots chronicle the birth of the modern woman. The presence of fashion classics such as Chanel, Vionnet, and Lanvin are in their first incarnations—and unbelievably glamorous. Impervious models of the past sport stunning evening gowns, sweeping Art Deco shawls, fur-trimmed coats, and sweet sweet hats in every form (cloche, turban, big n' floppy). Steichen also shot a who's who of the literati (H.L. Mencken, Anita Loos) and Hollywood icons (Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer) of the era. It's a veritable feast of retro glamour.
Above, from left: Paolo Roversi Blue Mask, Paris, 2007 © Paolo Roversi Courtesy Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York; Edward Steichen, Evening shoes by Vida Moore, 1927 Courtesy Condé Nast Archive, New York © Condé Nast Publications.
"This Is Not A Fashion Photograph" is the antithesis of "Weird Beauty". This exhibit focuses on "casual, spontaneous, unselfconscious expressions of personal style"—in other words, photos by renowned artists (i.e. Larry Clark, Francesca Woodman) whose amazing shots inadvertently reveal the awe-inspiring fashions of days past. In one photo, a young man sits on the fender of a car, bedecked in a pinstripe suit, hat sitting rakishly on his head, smoking coolly. A few frames over, a shot of three boys with slim black trousers, casually unbuttoned shirts and tousled hair stare challengingly at the camera. This is the stuff a certain Sartorialist would positively kill for.
"Munkasci's Lost Archive"
With an incredible back story (the negatives for this show, missing for years, were recuperated by the ICP on ebay, go figure), this Hungarian photographer's work is getting a second life. While its the least fashion-y, it presents a dreamy vision of the past and the elegance of everyday dressing.
Above, from left: Martin Munkacsi [Woman with umbrella], ca. 1936 © Joan Munkacsi, courtesy International Center of Photography; George Strock, [Satchel Paige waiting for pool hall adversary, Harlem, New York], 1941 © 1941 Time Inc. International Center of Photography, The LIFE Magazine Collection.
International Center of Photography, 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street, 212-857-0000. Exhibits run from January 16-May 3, 2009.

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