Friday, 30 October 2009

The Future is Now - Images of Empowerment for Black Women

It's not often that I put my own work out there for public consumption these days, but I am extremely proud of this image I worked on recently. There were very few iconic black females in the media when I was growing up in post 1960's Britain, so Tina Turner always managed to grab my attention whenever her music was played on the radio or on the very few occasions I spotted her on TV. The energy she emitted was so startling it was hard to imagine that I could even partly emulate her in the way young girls admire their favourite musisican do. When discussing the project brief with my sitter, Judith Saunders, it was easy to recognise the already iconic status of Turner as international musician, however I chose to devise a look that was deemed to be most empowering in the memory of myself and Judith - that of the female warrior Aunty Entity in the futuristic 1985 film, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. I sometimes don't see the point in sticking too closely to the past, it is the future that is most exciting - certainly the future for black women.

Joined by the make up artist Lottie Davies and photographed by Chris Lee, the final look arose from a collaborative effort that says as much about the participants as the image. It isn't often that black females are visualised as iconic, and it is my hope that the various images created for Black History Month by myself and my colleagues will be another point of inspiration for many young black females growing up in Britain today.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

ShowStudio - Thoughts and Considerations of the Design Process


'The Bridegroom Stripped Bare shows Alexander McQueen at his exuberant best as he transforms a bridegroom into a bride in a frenzy of cutting, ripping, painting and gaffer-taping. McQueen is famous for his cutting and draping skills, often working directly on a garment while a model is wearing it. This film offers a rare glimpse of the designer at work, in what is usually an unseen, intense and private act. It is just one of sixteen performances in the Transformer series, filmed and broadcast live over a two-day period. Fascinated by the idea of transformation and the power of the transformative act, Nick Knight extended an invitation to friends and colleagues including Erin O’Connor, Juergen Teller, Katy England and Bobby Gillespie to devise and be filmed in an act of transformation that held personal significancefor them. While some performances were lighthearted, others provided meaningful insight into the different creative processes at play. This was the first fashion shoot to be broadcast live via webcam, revealing the working methodologies that underpin contemporary fashion image-making in real time.’s viewers were invited to e-mail live questions to ‘interview’ the team of creatives on set about their ideas, motivations and progress, creating a two-way dialogue between the event and its audience. Each performance was recorded in Polaroid stills, video footage and via webcam, allowing every aspect to be witnessed, during and after the event.'

Showstudio 2009



'Fash-Off witnessed controversial young designer Gareth Pugh using the live platform to stage a series of performances that capture his perspective on sensationalism, glamour and spectacle. At the heart of the project was the creation of a giant, improvisatory image and film using silver foil, balloons and twenty models, styled by Nicola Formichetti, filmed by Ruth Hogben and photographed by Nick Knight. Pugh also made a film or two each day over the period of five days, all representing his attitude towards his whirlwind fashion career thus far. The broadcasts focused on themes of boredom and repetition, artifice and easily-dealt acclaim, and were preoccupied with transformation. While make-up artist Alex Box encrusted Pugh with mirrored discs and transformed him into a human disco ball, hair stylist Eugene Souleiman metamorphised him into a big, black show poodle. Meanwhile, the designer filmed himself making up his own reflection in the mirror: trapped in never-ending face painting. On close inspection the short films, made in the low-fi aesthetic of the YouTube generation of filmmakers, expose darker themes of exploitation and the designer’s antipathetical relationship with the fashion system in which he works. The wider project also included a design_download paper pattern design, demonstrating the new, technologically-driven possibilities of reach for a young fashion designer with no financial backing, operating within a global market.'
ShowStudio 2009

On Friday I went to ShowStudio with the intention of observing renowned make up artist Pat McGrath at work with Nick Knight. While I could understand the public fascination of observing the process of collaboration within a fashion shoot, I could not help but be more drawn to the process of design and deliberation seen within the videos of McQueen and Pugh (links above). It is here that the level of engagement with process is at its most tangible. Design is arrived at through mistakes, repetition, happy accidents and reflection. What was seen in the McGrath/Knight photoshoot was the end result, the encore if you will, of the real performance which took place in the group discussions that were held beforehand.

Pugh's video was partculary exciting because it related directly to the process of make up. I have yet to see this intimated with make up artists, and so am surprised that it is a fashion designer who succeeded in unveiling the procedure of design in this specialist arena.



'Synaesthesia is one part of The Sound of Clothes, a larger project that embodies’s ongoing investigation into re-thinking conventional forms of communicating and describing fashion. The aim of The Sound of Clothes was to reimagine the possibilities of experiencing clothes by utilising the full range of senses, and specifically to explore and expand on the important relationship that music has always had with fashion. The project began as a photographic shoot destined for POP magazine, featuring designer Nicolas Ghesquière’s Spring Summer 2006 collection for Balenciaga. Composer Nick Ryan was invited to interpret one of Nick Knight’s images—of a jacke —as a soundscape. Ryan, a synaesthete who can sense objects as sounds and colours, asked also to see the jacket itself so that he could experience its form and textures first-hand. After working with an orchestra to capture exactly the right sound for each element of the jacket, Ryan passed the tracks on to digital artist Daniel Brown, whose interactive piece invites the viewer to drag the mouse across the photograph, causing the music to change in accordance with whichever section of the jacket it passes over. The project articulated Knight’s own curiosity into what senses photographers must employ in their pursuit of an image. The confidence to know when to release the shutter, to anticipate the right moment in time, comes from a perception that relies on senses beyond sight alone.'

ShowStudio 2009

Is it possible to replicate this sensation with make up? I also desire to articulate the experience of creation and application, and the materiality of the substances that the make up artist engages with. My own curiosity is of the senses makeup artists must engage in and utilise in the formation of the decorated face as well as its implications for the wearer. The soundscape of the 'made up' experience requires documentation, to address this now is appropriate within the current discourse of dress.

Pierced Portraits

Dutch artist Amie Dicke, born in 1978, makes these pieces of art through modifications. She uses techniques like piercing or cutting through images of fashion models to create a frayed effect and layered expression. In addition to the cutouts she’s most famous for, she likes to modify paintings and photographs by nailing and ripping the images.

This modification is part of a general desire to rediscover how the face is presented, and transgresses the interpretation of our understanding of beauty. Our notions of what is possible and what may be achievable are increasingly becoming blurred, and in terms of make up application we are now beginning to ask 'what if?' This ability to question our design sensibilities is one that underpins all design practice, but is rarely debated using make up as a central premise for discourse.