Tim Walker- Story teller at Somerset House

Every once in a while you get the opportunity to view an exhibition that takes your breath away. Yesterday I had one of those moments. The exhibition is question? Tim Walker: Storyteller at Somerset house.
I’ve long since been a fan of  Tim Walkers work (I blogged about his work here). I think the image above was one of the first Walker shoots I saw in Vogue (ah the days when I had a Vogue subscription. Sigh). His work with its creative, quirky, playful and dreamlike nature has always appealed greatly to me.
Somehow the exhibition manages to be light and fun yet serious, dramatic and highly emotional. I found myself in tears at one point because Walkers photography seen blown up large scale is just sobeautiful.
In particular there is a photograph of Alexander McQueen with a skull from 2009, blown up large scale. I’m actually not going to share the image here, because I feel you need to see it to appreciate it. But the image, which must have been taken only a year or less before McQueen’s death has a poignancy and a realism and also seems to speak volumes about McQueen’s personality.
This exhibition also captures something of Walkers persona. From interviews I’ve read with him this exhibition simply feels like he must have had a lot of input.  It’s the play with scale that so captures Walkers sensibilities.
The length of the exhibition too was just right. It felt enough to satisfy a fan of Walkers work, yet in the same breath not too long to bore someone who had only a passing interest. I will say at this point the exhibition focuses on Walkers work from the past ten years (possibly less I’m not 100% sure what the earliest photo was) as the Design Museum has previously held an exhibition which focused on his earlier work (2008).
The setting of Somerset house is perfect for Walker’s work. There is some sense of homeliness in the rooms of the East Wing. You feel like you are entering into Walkers own personal space, into his sketch book (with the giant sketches) and into his mind.
Walker’s photography here is able to be viewed as art, as it deserves to be. Taking them away from fashion shoots, as many of these images started off life. Scale here is key and the different sizes of the images help to convey different meaning of each piece of work.
Unlike many other photography exhibitions where the photograph defines the exhibition, here the props are equally important and you feel like each  room is a work of instillation art within itself.
I’d go as far to say that the presentation here made me re-think other photography exhibitions I’ve seen  ahem *Cecil Beaton and the Queen *, because this was done so well.
So, ANY criticism? There was one picture of Kate Moss that I felt was out of place in one of the rooms. Honestly, that is my SOLE fault of the exhibition.
What else can I say? The exhibition is free, so realistically you have no excuse not to go. There is also a simply stunning book that accompanies the exhibition which will definitely be going on my Christmas list.

Fashion photographer obsessions: John Rawlings

During my degree I cam across a photographer whose work I simply have to share.

The photographer is John Rawlings.
Rawlings was a photographer for Conde Nast and in his heyday (between the late 30s and 60s) he was one of the top fashion photographers. His work featured in the pages of Vogue, Glamour and Life magazine (he worked primarily in America). His work was regularly seen on the covers of vogue in particular.
What I love about Rawlings work was the vibrancy and colour in his work. Many of the images I’ve picked for this post come from the 40s and the colour is simply amazing. I think most of these images would have been shot in Kodachrome, which gives the almost slightly eerie oversaturated colours. His work almost always has an underlying story line which allows you to look more deeply into his photography, his work wasn’t just about selling clothes, but creating a narrative too.
In my humble opinion Rawlings was one of the most talented phtographers of the 40s and 50s and I think is sometimes overlooked. The composition of his images are always so carefully thought out and turn women into sculptural objects, using the angles of the clothes and the womens bodies to create interest. 

There is a book about John Rawlings (currently out of print…seemingly like every book i want)
John Rawlings: 30 years in Vogue
Many of these images come from this FABULOUS blog post, do check it out:

Mrs Exeter: One hell of a stylish lady

Today I am going to introduce you tone of my favourite fictional characters, Mrs Exeter. Anyone who has read Vogue magazines from the 50s may recognise this name, but who was Mrs Exeter and what did she do for fashion?
Mrs Exeter helped bring the older woman to the forefront of fashion in the 1950s. The character first appeared in 1949  ‘Approaching 60, Mrs. Exeter doesn’t look a day younger, a fact she accepts with perfect good-humour and reasonableness’ she confesses to a 33-inch
waist, disappearing eyebrows, and a yellowing complexion as well as her rheumatism!”
 Initially the character was an illustration by Audrey Lewis, it wasn’t until 1952 that photographs of the character actually appeared. The original Mrs Exeter was played by a Mrs Eastley who was a similar age to the character of Mrs Exeter. Mrs Eastley had lived a similar late Victorian upbringing as the character, where values such as poise and elegance were key and a woman was nothing without good posture. It is interesting also how slim the character was in the first photographic representations (33in waist, no way, more like 23in). It wasn’t until 1954 that the person most associated with Mrs Exeter, Margot Smyly, began to play her. Interestingly Margot Smyly was only in her thirties when she began to represent her. Vogue still suggested that Mrs Exeter was in her sixties, despite the younger model being used. If I were a model I don’t know how happy I would feel about representing a character 30 years older than myself!
The 1950s were one of the few periods in fashion when an older woman could look chic and at the height of fashion without looking overdone. The styles of the 1950s (full skirts, etc) could be quite forgiving for the older woman, and it was a period where many young girls were dressing almost to look like their mothers. This had a lot to do with Dior’s own ideal image of a woman: his mother. Mrs Exter came to be the epitome of this older yet still impeccably stylish woman.
As a character Mrs Exter helped to show that fashion was appropriate for all ages, and featured regularly in “Clothes with no age-tag” It is interesting that in these features it is often Mrs Exeter who looks more comfortable in the clothes rather than the younger woman.
Mrs Exeter continued to appear in Vogue until the 1960s. Towards the end veering from a lady in her 60s to one who was only at middle age. It was mostly due to the changing fashions and an increasing focusing on youth fashions the character ceased to appear.
I wish that this idea of the older model was still seen in magazines and the like (I am a big fan of Twiggy in the now finished M&S adverts as cheesy as they were). Most representations of the older woman in fashion seem to be done in a “look how novel and politically correct we are being” manner, which simply isn’t necessary. Mrs Exeter was a very popular character and demonstrates why the 50s were such a great period of fashion, clothes to suit any age group. I think she is a great person to look to when more mature ladies now are thinking about wearing vintage clothing, the 50s styles definitely look great on women of any age!

(Mrs Exeter looking particularly youthful!)
I only wish I had more pictures to show, I only have a few copies of 50s Vogue and she does not feature in any of them!