Cecil Beaton (1904 – 1980)
Fig. 1. Fashion Is indestructible (1941)
Initial thoughts:- How beautiful and elegant. The opulence of the hall with its strong verticals, the luxuriance of the photographed women, the soft pastels of their clothes, the surreal illumination of the lighting, and the movement created by the dresses that the woman are wearing, all combine to make this beautiful work of art. A photograph which looks like a painting.
The strengths are in the lines, flow/movement, lighting, composition creates interest around the whole photo, pastels work well with lighting, dresses compliment the hall.
I could be in the room and making this photo, I’m so drawn in, this is the first photo where I have felt that I belong in this scene, that I am in the hall as a viewer. Powerful.
Reflecting upon a previous review, The Conversation by Buhler-Rose (see below) Buhler-Rose’s photo has a strong disconnect, a lack of feeling, the photo is a staged lie, whilst Beaton’s is dynamic, alive, natural and appears captured ‘as is’. His subjects are comfortable and relaxed.
Fig. 2. The Conversation (2006)
Fig. 3. Marlene Dietrich (1930)
Please excuse the resolution of the scan, I didn’t change the scan settings to photo, silly boy.
Initial thoughts:- Avant Garde, art, reminds me of the theatre comedy and tragedy masks which in this case is symbolic of Dietrich’s role as an actor. Subtle. No distractions, simple composition. 3 props – hair piece, choker and mannequin. Lack of foreground and the background which is immediately behind the subject, means that Dietrich, with the opposing pose of the dummy are immediately seen by the viewer because there is nothing else to see. She’s elegant and beautiful, but what I sense most of all is that she is looking out, she is the viewer instead of the actress who is been viewed on the screen. A creative change of roles.
Fig. 4. Miss Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star (1928)
Initial Thoughts:- Avant Garde, experimental, photography as art, a character from a fantasy novel, radiant. The light source in the background sets the scene for a surreal illustration of a fairy godmother, which is added to by a light in the foreground which brings out the texture of Nancy Beaton’s dress. The staff in her right hand adds poise to this portrait. The prop worn on the right of her head doesn’t look right, it detracts from this photo, although I do understand why he’s used it to reflect the shooting star of the title, sometimes you just have to simplify an idea Cecil (says me as if I am an expert – but I say as I see). Despite that god damn awful head-gear. I do not see a photo, I see a dramatic characterisation of a person from a fantasy novel or early film.
A whole load of props here, but only one is unneccessary. Staff, head-gear, stars, cellophane? fabric, dress, curtain. In fact I think that everything in this photo is a prop, including Dietrich, and this creates a set of a theatre production. This goes way beyond a formal portrait and is a work of art, and it could be a master piece without the head gear (get over it Richard).
Figure 1 Beaton, C;-1941; Fashion is indestructible; IN: Photography: The Whole Story; p 342; London; Thames and Hudson
Figure 2 Buhler-Rose, M; 2006; The Conversation; At: https://news.syr.edu/2014/03/new-geographics-features-photography-of-michael-buhler-rose-56929/ (accessed on 23/11/2017)
Figure 3 Beaton, 1930, Marlene Dietrich [Gelatin-silver-print]; IN: A History of Photography; p552; Cologne; Taschen GmbH;
Figure 4 Beaton, C; 1928; Miss Nancy Beaton as a Shooting Star [silver-print]; IN: photography: The Whole Story; p264; London; Thames and Hudson