by Lara Arbid
I was first introduced to Travis’ work with an image from his tribe series. Kamen is pictured in a blue background with stars on his cheekbones, sprinkled with glitter, touched with clouds and lightning on his collarbones. It was an image that spoke beauty and fantasy. In Travis’ words, has a hint of nostalgia and little bit of magic.
By Lara Arbid
There’s something about the color pink. Pop, creamy neutral, fuschia, baby pink. It’s bold and energetic yet calming, but also delivers a sense of happiness that’s hard to explain. It seems to be everywhere nowadays, and it’s what’s most appealing about Laurence Philomene’s work. Laurence is a photographer, curator and director based in Montreal. Her work is a representation of self-exploration of identity, but most importantly, creating what feels most natural to her as an artist.
If you’re familiar with Japanese Blythe dolls, that’s a start in understanding the development of Laurence’s aesthetic. At an early age she began collecting these dolls, posting their photos on Flickr to a growing community of collectors online. It was the freedom of playing with positions and poses of the dolls that yielded an attractive aesthetic for her. From then on, photography became an escape in high school. Laurence took photos of herself, of her friends, and moved on to study photography in college.
There’s a lasting power in beautiful images. A photo presents a moment in time that is a snapshot of the artist’s world through his or her lens. For Laurence, photography was very much an escape from reality in her early days. She began placing her inner world within the real world through her work. Over time Laurence managed to turn this fantasy world into real life with what she calls “a little universe that I’ve created for myself.” She was motivated to create dreamy scenarios as a way of escaping the dull world of high school. In contrast, Laurence feels her work now showcases a fantasy bubble she lives in, and less about creating a fake scenario. Her surroundings have changed, as has her motivation to create. Everyone around her is open-minded, queer and accepting, allowing her work to become a personal and safe space.
What’s most valuable about Laurence’s work is her apparent honesty. Her aesthetic is extremely cohesive, and though it seems like there’s a continuous narrative, Laurence explains she’s never been good at telling stories. “They’re overwhelming to me,” she says. It shows me another dimension of her honesty as an artist when she explains she’s not good at making up stories either. For Laurence, it’s about showing what’s there and the beauty of it.
There’s certainly a link between all of her photos: her use of color and very simple composition. Laurence doesn’t have any rules or patterns, but simply creates what’s appealing to her visually. Her minimal approach is what presents such memorable imagery. “It’s my camera, myself and that’s it.”
For a long time, Laurence’s work was less about telling stories but largely about herself. Her past work projected her feelings on gender and identity. She explored this through a great deal of self-portraits, becoming obsessed with the idea of looking at herself. Fascinatingly, this transitioned into a series called Me versus Others, where she began to dress people as herself and photographed them. The motivation behind this series was to deal with this discomfort of photographing her body. “At first I felt uncomfortable, but I wanted to continue to take self-portraits. This felt like a way around it by using other peoples bodies,” Laurence explains. Through time it started to shift and become more about examining what objects and themes she associated with her identity. She also expresses that she has created a character of this false version of herself through this series. One powerful image from this series captures a Cheeto orange-haired figure against a millennial pink background. The fuzzy wrap adds textural play that is representative of Laurence’s style, and a coherent feature in her work.
Laurence’s work transitioned into collaborations with people who vocalized how they want to be represented. This was an interesting shift that started to tie in many of the themes explored in Laurence’s work, such as gender, identity, softness, friendship, and intimacy. When her subjects were asked how they wanted to be represented, some would dive deep into a fantasy self, wishing to be presented as a pop star for example. Others, in contrast, stayed grounded in their reality. Her work as a young artist brings value to relationships and strengthening communities. Laurence shows us the worth of presenting intimacy and communicating friendship in photos, while also pushing individuals to dream and self-build.
Philomene calls herself lucky in the art community. She’s created friendships in a community of artists who share the same artistic goals and intentions; Laurence credits her friends as her main source of inspiration.
As a photographer, she hopes to provide others with a sense of comfort through her work. To her, what’s most important is to provide a sense of belonging, like photography has given her. When asked what she hopes to get out of her work, she declared staying inspired and providing for those she loves at the top of her list. There is a definite long-lasting impact to Laurence’s work and personality as a creative. Laurence shows us that for this generation and beyond, it is imperative to be creative, ambitious, and a dreamer.
All photos by Laurence Philomene
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Before you reference some of today’s best fashion photographers, before you mention some of the most iconic fashion images, you have to acknowledge Erwin Blumenfeld.
Erwin Blumenfeld was born in Berlin, Germany in 1897. Originally an artist, specifically with sketching, Blumenfeld began his photographic journey when he received his first camera in 1908. Though never formally trained, Blumenfeld developed his inspiration when working at women’s department stores after moving to Amsterdam. He eventually started a series of predominantly nude photos of his female clientele, created in the quirkiest, most unique style of the time. Said images proved influential enough to have his first published picture featured in French magazine Photographie, and shortly after, photographer Cecil Beaton helped him score a contract with French Vogue. Blumenfeld subsequently moved to Paris, where he stayed until relocating to New York in 1939.
Of Jewish descent, Blumenfeld was sent to Camp Vernet upon his return to France. He stayed in the concentration camp until 1941, when he reunited with his family and fled back to New York. Meanwhile, his experiences with anti-Semitism were reflected in his dadaism-influenced collages, showing his presence as a socio-political commentator and his captivation of another art form.
Drawing inspiration from the solarization darkroom technique used by Man Ray, Erwin Blumenfeld made use of vibrant color in his photos as soon as it became available. He also mixed concepts from classical and modern paintings, while using mirrors, veils, double exposure and sandwich printing in his work to create his one-of-a-kind style. The photographer’s Picasso-like abilities immediately led to his foray into fashion photography, where his influence was most substantially noticeable. Carmel Snow of Harper’s Bazaar immediately put him under contract, leading to countless iconic images for the publication. Meanwhile, he started to work for Vogue, ultimately shooting more covers for the magazine than any other photographer before or since. By 1950, Blumenfeld became the highest-paid photographer in the world.
Once seeing Erwin Blumenfeld’s photographs, you’d naturally have an “aha” moment, recognizing the iconic shots. Who could forget socially relevant works like 1933’s “Hitler,” featuring a blood-stained skull with Adolf’s features, or “Do Your Part for the Red Cross,” the March 1945 American Vogue cover that captivated the nation? Another unforgettable Vogue shot, January 1950’s “Doe Eye” created what was referred to as a “visual haiku.” “Lisa Fonssagrives on the Eiffel Tower” showed an adequate representation of Blumenfeld’s daring creativity early in his career, as well.
Although the world lost a true genius when he passed away in 1969, Erwin Blumenfeld’s inspirational life and work could never be forgotten. His photographic mastery is the stuff of legends, and his influence still continues to this day.
From October 15, 2013 until January 26, 2014, Erwin Blumenfeld’s work was showcased through the exhibit, “Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969): Photographs, Drawings and Photomontages” at Paris’ Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume. All photos in this article via the exhibition Catalogue
Blumenfeld’s work under the same exhibition can currently be seen at the Multimedia Art Museum in Moscow.
After the flurry – and flurries – of New York Fashion Week, Fashion Month is moving forward. Next stop: London, the city known for harvesting some of the freshest and most captivating new talent. We have to start by addressing the pink elephant in the room, that being London’s slightly lower popularity level in comparison to New York, Milan and Paris in terms of big-name designers’ collections. But London’s fashion industry is definitely a force to be reckoned with, presenting work from established names like Tom Ford and Burberry Prorsum alongside underrated experts like Mary Katrantzou and Roksanda Ilincic.
While the continuation of this month-long fashion festival is sure to bring even more exciting trends and concepts, London’s skilled designers have the tendency to march to the beat of their own drummer, and we couldn’t be happier. British menswear is noted for the implementation and mastery of bespoke tailoring via Savile Row, but don’t think that’s limited to just the guys. With such an immense influence on the practice of creating garments, there’s a reason London is one of the “Big Four” fashion capitals of the world.
While the next few days are all about London’s best fall 2014 ready-to-wear collections, hosting a Fashion Week in one of the world’s most incredible cities opens the doors for limitless things to experience off the runway.
Left to Right: Courtesy Shoreditch House, Courtesy Scott’s Restaurant
A members-only lounge like Paris’ Silencio, The Shoreditch House is a perfect meeting place to gather with coworkers or friends. Though less clubby than its French counterpart, the upscale atmosphere provides a relaxing space for food and drinks in the midst of the Fashion Week madness. Meanwhile, Shoreditch is quickly becoming one of London’s hippest neighborhoods. But if you’re in the mood for a bigger meal, stop by Scott’s Restaurant over in the beautiful Mayfair district, where you can get a high-quality version of the classically English fish and chips. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with getting a little touristy.
Left to Right: Getty Images, Getty Images, Courtesy Hale Clinic
Why not compliment your touristy meal with some more sightseeing? Though it’s impossible to go into detail about every single artistic and cultural element that London has to offer, it never hurts to start with a couple great museum visits. Tate Modern is a great option for those who prefer contemporary art, located across the river in Southeast London. Meanwhile, the Victoria & Albert Museum in the coveted Kensington neighborhood provides everything from a David Bowie retrospective to archaeologic exhibitions. And if your inevitably extensive time at the V&A leaves you feeling a little exhausted, you can stay on the west side of London when visiting the Hale Clinic, a great place for any holistic healthcare from detox to acupuncture.
Left to Right: Getty Images, Courtesy Celestine Eleven
Despite all of these suggestions, let’s not forget that we’re still in one of the world’s fashion capitals. And what would a fashion capital be without shopping? Selfridges is always a good idea, while the department store’s personal shopping suite makes the process of navigating through the dreamlike selection of fashion goods exponentially less hectic. You can always stop by the Hale Clinic again afterwards, but it’s probably a better idea to reduce your stress as much as possible during Fashion Week. Though a bit on the pricey side, a two-hour consultation with Selfridges’ specially trained personal shoppers will have you feeling like the best dressed at London Fashion Week. If the big bad department store doesn’t do the trick for you, try Celestine Eleven, a boutique that’s more manageable without sacrificing an extensive inventory. Sorry, guys, but this place only features womenswear. However, this womenswear comes from some of the best luxury designers, while Celestine Eleven also carries home goods and more holistic products within a peaceful environment.
There’s much, much more to be seen during a trip to London, but when negotiating with the madness of Fashion Week, this will surely be a start. Of course, all of the endless excitement throughout London does nothing but help to inform the stunning and inspirational designs we’ll be seeing over the course of London Fashion Week. Enjoy!
All information courtesy of #TheList at Harper‘s Bazaar by Yasmin Sewell
Feature photo by me
Soyez animé! Exprimez-vous!
Here’s to over-the-top animation, fun, and freedom of expression!
All photos by Emilio Durand, taken at Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou
Style notes for this story:
Taylor wears sweater Rag & Bone. Dress vintage. Boots Jeffrey Campbell.
Scott wears sweater Sandro. Blazer Dior Homme. Jeans Dior Homme. Shoes Saint Laurent.