© Rosaline Shahnavaz

Rosaline Shahnavaz: Friendship through a Photograph

20.08.2017 | Culture , Fashion | BY:

The relationship of a photographer and a model has long been documented to live beyond the flash. Love affairs, marriages, betrayals and betrothals have long been mapped out, but what about the friendship of a photographer to her subject?

Rosaline Shahnavaz is a photographer whose work holds a unique elegance in its informality, often capturing her subjects in a limbo between self-reflection and personal expression.  Her clients range from Coca-Cola to Urban Outfitters, her youth-centric approach editorially gracing the pages of i-D to ES Magazine.

The women she has photographed appear aware of their own elements, basking in a modern innocence – not so much picnics on the lawn, but more playing with their environments through a decided void of limitations and playful potential. Toothy smiles, cowboy stances, sunlight squints and legs akimbo. The women Rosaline has photographed feel like they own the frame she has caught them in: their selves and spirit bigger than their own image.

Rosaline has just published her first photo-book: an out-of-hours report with the model Fern that steps Rosaline’s photographic approach further. The result is a publication that pulls into question the relationship between the vision and the voyeur, and what happens when a friendship is formed on both sides of the camera. A lesson in capturing a two-sided relationship when only one side is visible.

Fern is the first photography book that you have released, how did the project come about?

I first met Fern after I casted her for an ad campaign I was shooting. We had this spark immediately and I loved photographing her. I kept casting her for everything when I decided to step away from fashion and spend some time photographing just her. She was thrilled and so it began. I had initiated the project however there was a role reversal and Fern would get in touch with me to shoot whenever she was in my area too. We got to know each other a lot during the process, and as our friendship bloomed the photographs did too.

© Rosaline Shahnavaz

© Rosaline Shahnavaz

What sparked the idea to make this project into a book?

The photographs are really personal, and I think the tactile nature of the book suits perfectly. You physically look closer and the narrative woven into the sequencing reveals a lot about Fern and our relationship. I love the editing process, I always print out all of my images and plaster my studio with them before I start to make the book. It’s a laborious process and I’ll go away and come back to it numerous times until I’ve got it.

Why did you choose one year to document Fern?

I didn’t. I honestly think I could continue to shoot the project forever. I don’t think the book marks the end and I’d like to revisit Fern with my camera further down the line.

© Rosaline Shahnavaz

© Rosaline Shahnavaz

How would you describe the resulting book? A documentation, an exploration, a study?

All of the above! I’d say it’s also a celebration of femininity, friendship and coming of age.

What are your thoughts on the concept of muses? What does ‘muse’ mean to you?

I think the concept of the muse has shifted, and that’s happened with the emergence in female photographers. I am more drawn to the sensibility of a woman depicting another woman.

© Rosaline Shahnavaz

© Rosaline Shahnavaz

Would you consider Fern a muse to you?

She could be a muse, but I found that photographing Fern wasn’t just about her, but more about our relationship and the connection we shared as photographer and subject.

Fern was 17 when you started photographing her – do you feel the images capture Fern the young woman at a turning point in her life?

Fern was at a particularly pivotal time in her life. It doesn’t stop with age but I recall the extremity of it as a teenager. She’d described being in a limbo state between girlhood/ womanhood, her sense of home/place and the shift between education / career. Over the duration of the book we both went through changes and found solace in each other.

© Rosaline Shahnavaz

© Rosaline Shahnavaz

Do you feel it is important to gain a connection with the subjects you photograph?

Definitely. I first got into photography by documenting my friends like a ‘fly on the wall’. It was naive and I didn’t really have an intention. The intimacy and closeness of those relationships enabled me to photograph the way I did. This approach marked my interest and subject matter. I’d love to spend a sustained period of time getting to know and photographing all of my subjects. I never give much direction, I would rather share an experience with my subject and capture them candidly. I don’t want to take ‘perfect’ photographs, I am more compelled to the in-between moments.

Fern will be available in a selection of bookstores in New York and London from the end of August – check @rosaline_s for announcements. Fern is currently available online: http://rosalineshahnavaz.bigcartel.com/product/fern-by-rosaline-shahnavaz

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'Chipo, 1997' 
© Jackie Nickerson. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York'

Jackie Nickerson: On Portraiture

24.07.2017 | Art , Culture | BY:

Portraiture has the power to envelop a subject, and the ability to absorb the viewer through one mesmerising shot. The quiet poignancy of the work of Jackie Nickerson aligns these two traits, her photography exploring the spatial relationships of faces to places and expressing the interaction of identity with function and form. Speaking to Twin, Jackie discusses ownership, collaboration and female representation.

What does identity mean to you and how do you try to explore this in your imagery?

Identity is quite a dangerous word. It’s used to create an otherness but I don’t look for otherness – I just look at the person. I want to see the ‘personness’, not the box they fit into. In fact, I want to break them out of the box they’ve been put into. So you are not merely looking at the likeness of someone. I guess for me it’s about having a uniqueness, a selfhood, and a self-possession that transcends the intervention of the artist. In effect, it’s about making the artist invisible and having the sitter take ownership of their own image.

You discuss your work as portraiture: what do you believe a portrait should present to the viewer?

A great portrait should stop you in your tracks and have you spellbound – like a deer in headlights. It should ask all kinds of questions.

All photos © Jackie Nickerson. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

‘Ruth, 2012’ © Jackie Nickerson. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Do you have the same desires for the outcome of your personal and commissioned fashion-orientated work?

Fine art and fashion are two totally different applications of photography, so although you’re using the same medium you need to use an entirely different approach. In fashion you have an end use, a specific use and you’re collaborating with a team of people to create this. In fine art you’re working on your own and trying to ask questions.

In your conversation with Brendan Rooney for the UNIFORM exhibition catalogue, you discussed the issues of photographers in art today: they seek inspiration from the real world yet don’t feel comfortable using the real world itself. What role do you think reality has to play in commissioned fashion editorial?

I think we all look for inspiration from things outside our immediate practice so for example a designer might look at architecture or industrial design, painting, sculpture and other art forms. But often they’re not looking for a literal translation of one thing to another, but a kind of wider context of an aesthetic or opinion. So in collaborations we can build up an impression or atmosphere that will help the designer to portray his or her vision. So for me, each collaboration is a separate conversation and working out how we can make images that respect that, and although you need to use an entirely different approach, (we’re talking about two totally different applications of photography) it would be difficult to separate the artist because I think about imagery all the time. I’m obsessed. Its just part of my everyday life.

All photos © Jackie Nickerson. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

‘Catherine, 2013’ © Jackie Nickerson. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

What are your views on the representation of females in fashion photography today?

I recently bought a couple of vintage Vogues from the 1950s and apart from the clothes, and apart from a stylistic difference, I don’t think the imagery has, in essence, moved on because

you know we are looking at a commercial application and there’s obviously a formula that works. Saying that, in those old Vogues, there was only one way for a woman to be. Now there’s much wider representation of different types of women and lifestyles. I think the attitude and personality of the model is becoming more important and we are seeing a broader definition of beauty.

Do you hold a particular affinity to the women you photograph?

It depends on who I’m photographing and what I’m photographing them for.

Can the female gaze be reciprocal? Is that the most important link between the female photographer to her subject?

I don’t think of myself as a female photographer. I’m just me.

Communication is the key. When I photograph women I want to show the strength in them. I’m not interested in models flirting with the camera. I really hate that shit.

'Monica 1997' © Jackie Nickerson. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York'

‘Monica 1997’ © Jackie Nickerson. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

What photographers do you admire, and what traits do you admire about them?

Well there are loads of them but a couple would be Dorothea Lange, Lee Miller, Joseph Koudelka, Cindy Sherman, I love these photographers primarily because they are great photographers but I love them because they all had something to overcome – Lee Miller, Dorothea Lange, Cindy Sherman – women in a man’s world, Koudelka – Czechoslovakia in ’68.

Featured image: ‘Chipo, 1997’ © Jackie Nickerson. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

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PAULA KNORR AW17_0001_Ebene 6

Paula Knorr: Painting Power

09.06.2017 | Fashion | BY:

Paula Knorr paints power. Through molten textures and engulfing energy, striking clashes and forthright form. The brush she paints with is of a modern sensibility, dappled by her emotive translations through evocative fabric and stylistic fluidity.
The womenswear designer, currently supported by the British Fashion Council’s support scheme NEWGEN, initiated her interest in design with a naturalised association of fashion as an art form: as her artistic explorations developed, so did her desire to place the female at the foreground of her inspiration, with the presentation of femininity and strength colouring her collections each season.
From her emphasis on movement and sway in the shapes she cuts, there is something quite mesmerising about a Paula Knorr piece in motion. For Paula, clothes create a synergy between the wearer and themselves – seen in how her garments appear to mould around the body’s lines and horizons. Through her methodology – draping first on the figure before sketching out her ideas – the woman is the leading instigator in her inspirations. Her February 2017 showcase at London Fashion Week, Collages of Herself, took shape from excerpts of conversations Paula conducted with inspiring women, the figure and the female psyche informing the results. Her premier collection, ‘Her Wet Skin’, injected the power of contrasts between fabric choice to react and cause an emotional response to the collection. Discussing the challenges and responsibilities of design and the role of reality, the emerging designer is creating more than collections, she is aiming to capture expressions.
Paula Knorr AW17

Paula Knorr AW17

 

As a young woman of the 21st Century, what influenced your decision to study fashion?

I knew that I wanted to create clothes from a really young age on. I was always sketching and sewing outfits for my little sister. Growing up in a very artistic household – my parents are both artists and illustrators – I naturally saw fashion as an art form and for a long time not the commercial side of it.

How did your design process and inspirations change from when you began your studies?

When I started to study it was hard for me to source inspiration in personal subjects. Especially during your studies you have to talk about concept and inspiration on a daily basis in front of various people – I was too self-conscious to really work through my inner heartstrings. It was during my MA in London at the RCA that I realised there is no time to hide behind fashionable subjects – that it’s more worth your time when you work on something that truly defines you.

Paula Knorr AW17

Paula Knorr AW17

What is your design process now?

My main intention in my design is to put the woman in the foreground, not the cloth. It´s all about her body, her movement and her personal beauty. This interaction and balance between the body and the garments is essential . Details, prints, etc. come second: that´s why I never start by drawing my ideas. I have to drape and preferably create them directly on a real body to explore how they interact.

How does the female voice shape your seasonal collections?

To support and illustrate female identity is the core of my designs. In fashion you sometimes get the feeling that the superficial vision of a girl and her clothes on the runway is getting more attention than the real woman that wears the garment later on. Every season, I try to define a method to reverse that and remind of the actual purpose of fashion.

What does being a designer mean to you? Are you a translator of femininity and power?

As a womenswear designer it is absolutely necessary to challenge yourself and what femininity means to you. Your sole field of work is to dress women, so you have the responsibility to be progressive, powerful and a fighter for their wishes. In your small area of reach you have the chance to contribute and absolutely change something for women.

PaulaKnorr_HWS_Look14-2

You describe your most recent collection as a complex collage of attributes – what are they and what lends to their complexities?

I wanted to showcase the diversity and complexity of the female psyche and appearance. Like in a collage all those emotions and characteristics don´t belong or fit together, they come from all sorts of places. Fashion tends to showcase this one dimensional, fictive girl as a muse. This makes the collection easy to understand, but also not relevant as an inspiration to reality.

How do you unite abstract emotion with material expression?

I wanted to transfer the interaction of sometimes conflicting emotions directly into garments by choosing fabrics which are not easy to understand and trigger your haptic impression. For example the AW17 silk and foil mix chiffon, which can look like glossy transparent latex in pictures, but moves like super thin chiffon, which creates a beautiful antithetic effect.

Your mission statement discusses creating an identity that allows a balance of strength and vulnerability – how do they feed into each other?

In reality a personality is never one dimensional. You can feel strong and vulnerable at the same time and tons of things more. To influence my design with reality, with a realistic female identity, is important in my process. What does femininity mean to you? My own picture of femininity is not the most unconventional one per se, but I have no problem with this. I think the main goal of feminism nowadays is to create room and acceptance for all concepts of feminine identity equally.

In an age of social anxiety, pressure and responsibility, where does your brand sit amidst the uncertainties surrounding women of our generation?

I want to connect to women of our generation which feel lost between gender neutral and over-sexual. I want to show that to be a feminine woman is equally important and needs the same attention than to be anything else. I was never the coolest kid and I always loved to feel really feminine. My main goal is to create a wardrobe for those women, which are not afraid to be strong and powerful but equally feminine.

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