One of seven Vogue Italia cover options, a painting by Vanessa Beecroft, January 2020. Vanessa Beecroft uses painting as well as performance as her chosen medium to change our perception of the body in public spaces. This is her first artistico format into fashion, in her words.
When the news of the latest Vogue Italia issue came out, everybody shared it on social media or, at the minimum, read about it. It made that momentous splash due to the promise that no photography was employed in its making – and that was an added feature to make its production environmentally sustainable.
It is frankly the first time anyone has made the case of photography being an environmentally unfriendly medium. After all, it doesn’t employ harmful chemicals anymore, nor does it necessarily waste paper. If it does, that applies to art photography, not the commercial means of diffusion of information and persuasion. However, as director Emanuele Farneti explains in his editorial statement, a Vogue photoshoot implies hundreds of people traveling thousands of miles to make it happen. Painting, drawing and other tabletop artmaking only requires staying put. Continue reading
Lonneke Engel for Versus, 1996, gracefully shot by Bruce Weber
Bruce Weber, a noted fashion photographer with a long and distinguished career, is having a retrospective exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary. It is fascinating for many reasons, but first of all because an exhibition venue known mainly for installations and projections has dedicated almost its entire gigantic space to a solo show of this kind of “traditional” photography. But also – and especially – because it offers an unusual view of fashion photography as it is.
When I was a kid, we used to go on field trips to a local textile factory. There was one machine that sat separately in a large production hall. The manager proudly explained that it was an electronic loom and it could reproduce exactly and quickly any design you enter in its computer memory. We looked at it in awe and tried to imagine a future in which any image we come up with can become a flawless, exact reality.
20 years later, all looms are electronic. But when I was in Northern Italy this summer, the cradle of the famed textile and fashion industry we all admire, I was surprised to hear people speaking of mechanical looms with nostalgia. Something has changed in the last decades and it’s not just cheap Chinese competition. The machine as we know it is gone, quietly.
I had the chance to visit a small family-owned textile factory North of Milan and was allowed to take pictures. There was one single mechanical loom, the first one the owner had purchased when he opened his factory, which he keeps now set aside in a niche, as a good-luck charm.
There’s something touchy-feely about mechanical machines, with their levers, steering wheels and belts. They tell a story through the moving thread they help propel that actually makes us see how things are made.
I believe there’s something more important we lose when we replace machines with computers. We lose our personal connection to how things work as we’ve relegated that commanding task to a computer. We lose wonderment of how things work. Here is my visual argument.