Monday, December 13, 2010

Contrived Realities in the European Fashion Editorial: An analysis of pictorial narratives in French and Italian Vogue

By Brittan Badenhop>

Often, images featured in fashion magazines are used as a facet to represent social norms of the global and national society in which the magazine is produced. The images in these fashion magazines are expected to be recreations of reality, but not of actual reality itself, because the overall function of the magazine is to provide an escapism that is both entertaining and enjoyable. This is often achieved through the editorial when fashion and the human body are placed in varied thematic contexts (Barthes). Existing in a realm independent of the fashion magazine are processes such as age and death that are biological and unavoidable shared human collective experiences. Yet, through the guise of the display of clothing, these socially constructed concepts related to both age and death are presented in the magazine mediums. Because of the fantastical imagined lens of fashion and the European perspective, the images contained in the editorials are indicative of more than what is visible on their surfaces, they are representative of multifaceted meanings and implications as presented by photographers Patrick Dermanchier, Dutch team Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, and Steven Meisel. The realities depicted in these European fashion editorials can be explained using various Roland Barthes theories and the concept of “hyperreality” as explained by Jean Baulrillard.


These magazines present a pictorial narrative where one is forced to question the malleability of the role of reality in our world, where the ‘definite’ and ‘truth’ are so often sought. Elements of the human experience are explored and commented on through the lens of the European, which is both visibly sensual and deeply emotional. French photographer Patrick Dermanchier presents a mythic and typically romantic view of Paris to the audiences of Vogue UK. Inez van Lamsweerde and Vindood Matadin portray a model instantly aging, which Vogue Paris presents under the fa├žade of attainable to French viewers. Steven Miesel recreates the funeral of Yves Saint Laurent in a way that contrasts how the event happened in actuality, presenting a tribute and idealized version of the funeral through intimate images of mourning. In each of these editorials, reality is imagined, presented, and influenced by the point of view of each photographer and Vogue publication.>

Barthes, Roland. "Fashion Photography." Fashion Theory: A Reader. New York, NY: Routledge, 2007. Print.

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