3 posts tagged "Norman Parkinson"
The Pirelli Calendar turns 50 in 2014. To celebrate, the tire company execs have decided not to create a new edition. Rather, they’re releasing a previously unpublished version, originally slated for 1986, shot in Tuscany and Monte Carlo by none other than the prolific Helmut Newton.
First, some backstory: The calendar has become a mainstay marketing tool for a company that would otherwise have no real link to the überglam sphere of fashion photography (think: Herb Ritts’ 1991 edit, photographed in the Bahamas with the likes of Cindy Crawford and Kate Moss, or Norman Parkinson’s 1985 datebook with Iman in Edinburgh).
It’s with some irony, then, that Newton’s commission was the first to feature direct Pirelli product placement. Prior to 1986, the only connection to the company’s goods was vague (tire tracks seen in Uwe Ommer’s 1984 calendar, for example). When tasked to feature Pirelli’s wheels front and center, Newton eagerly embraced the challenge. The images are chock-full of horsepower.
Pirelli didn’t stop there. The brand commissioned former Pirelli sharpshooters Peter Lindbergh and Patrick Demarchelier to snap a “celebratory” lineup of such models as Karolina Kurkova and Alek Wek, and organized a retrospective, which will be held in the company’s HangarBicocca venue in Milan. The latter will showcase the work of the thirty-plus photographers who have contributed to the calendar over the years.
Roland Mouret was reflecting the other day on his motivation for curating a show of photographs to mark the centenary of the birth of the late Norman Parkinson. “I think it’s great at my moment in life to be able to talk about the people who influenced me when I was a young person,” the designer said. “You can see how much I was shaped by those images.” Yes indeedy, that’s true enough when you compare and contrast the precision and cut of a Mouret dress with the couture-esque elegance of a classic Parkinson photo. And yet, I suggested, there was something resolutely un-modern about such an image.
“They’re not modern at all,” Mouret agreed instantly. “They’re set in their time. But I don’t think modernity is the right word. What’s relevant is their legacy. It’s important that these pictures were set in the time they were done, against war and hard times. That’s what I loved when I was in my twenties. Now you have a laptop and you see the photos right away, and the emotions are so different.”
Given all that, it’s no wonder that Mouret’s curation focuses on Parkinson’s work in the forties and fifties, even though the photographer went on to produce peerless images in the sixties and seventies. (Jerry Hall in Communist Russia? Once seen, never forgotten.) Mouret has called the show Mouvements de Femme (it’s on exhibit till May 12, in The Octagon in Bath), and the reason why was made obvious when he talked about the first Parky shot that impacted him, a 1939 photo featuring models golfing at Le Touquet in the north of France. “I couldn’t understand the sense of movement,” Mouret mused. “It was so close to reality. Everything was a contradiction in that picture.” He was particularly mesmerized by the way the waistline of a model’s jacket lined up with the underside of the cumulus in the sky, a coincidental effect that today would be reliant on Photoshop.
The chiaroscuro of a classic Parkinson image also riveted Mouret. Granted full access to the Norman Parkinson Archive, he found an unpublished hat shoot the photographer did in 1948, appropriately in Bath (top). “It’s like Hitchcock, shadowy, never enough light.”
There may be a Parkinson moment kicking in right now. The Chris Beetles Gallery in London also has a show up and running. But Mouret and Parkinson’s mutual appreciation of the women in their world offers a bond more durably intimate than mere flavor of the month. “Think of his contemporaries—a photographer like Beaton, a designer like Dior. They were trying to control a woman’s movement and turn her into a trophy. Parkinson did the opposite. He and his models shared a life. And it was that life I wanted to celebrate in the photos I chose.” And now that he’s been bitten by the curatorial bug, Mouret can’t wait to tip his cap to another of his inspirations, the lost genius George Platt Lynes. Mouvements d’Homme, perhaps? Show spaces of the world, this man awaits your call.
Norman Parkinson was an instrumental force in taking fashion photography out of the studio and into the street in the 1950s. Visual proof: Coming and Going, a diptych featuring Nena von Schlebrügge (a.k.a. Uma Thurman’s mom), which will go on the auction block at Christie’s in London next month. (She’s wearing, for the record, Yves Saint Laurent’s first collection for Christian Dior [Coming] and Estrava [Going].) “Norman Parkinson revolutionized the world of British fashion photography in the 1950s with images such as these, where he brought his models from the staid studio environment into the more dynamic outdoor setting—in this case the streets of London,” Christie’s specialist Mark Wilkinson tells the Telegraph. “He paved the way for others who then developed this concept, most famously, David Bailey.” The diptych is expected to fetch £3,000 to £4,000 at the September 3 auction.