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Nudity by ‘fashion war correspondents’

Fashion photographers Juergen Teller and Paolo Roversi showcase portraits of cut-throat fashion industry


What Anna Wintour’s assistants have to go through is only a fraction of the merciless battles in the uber-competitive world of fashion.

Two fashion photographers who managed to survive and even receive praise for their successful campaigns are to reveal the inside of the most glamorous and competitive man-made jungle ever. Insiders call them “fashion war correspondents.”

Juergen Teller and Paolo Roversi brought the best shots from their careers to Seoul, which are also considered as memorable photos by the fashion industry. Interestingly, both photographers put great emphasis on nude photos.
Teller, one of the most sought-after fashion photographers of today, is holding his show “Touch Me” at Daelim Contemporary Art Museum in Tongi-dong, central Seoul.

As can be guessed from the title, the majority of the exhibits deal with sex ― either in an explicit way through obvious nudity or in a clever way using ambiguous signs.

In one, Kate Moss is crumpled in a muddy wheelbarrow in deserted land somewhere in Gloucestershire, England. She could have been mistaken for a victim of war, perhaps, if she were not decked in a nude-colored mini dress and a gorgeous turquoise necklace. 
“Kate Moss, Gloucestershire, 2010” by Juergen Teller (Juergen Teller)
“Kate Moss, Gloucestershire, 2010” by Juergen Teller (Juergen Teller)

Sophisticated backdrops and fashion items are the only reminders in Teller’s photos that these are not documentary photos or pornography but fashion photographs. In fact, most were commercially used.

“The handbag itself doesn’t interest me that much but the person who is holding it and the way a story can be told through it is what interests me,” said Teller at a press conference this month.

Though some may disagree, there is no reason why his works would not qualify as art. The artistic twists given to the photos, which are not expected from usual commercial campaigns, take his works to another level.

His latest campaign for Celine, in which he cut off the heads of the famous models in the photos and used them only as “clothes hangers” so the clothes would stand out, or the 2008 Marc Jacobs ad in which Victoria Beckham’s legs are sticking out of a Marc Jacobs shopping bag to signify that she is a product herself, grabbed the attention of both fashion and art insiders.

“I get questions a lot everywhere I go, if I am an art photographer or a fashion photographer. Well, it doesn’t concern me whatsoever. I just work with different forms like exhibitions, magazines, books, and just enjoy them. I don’t put myself in an image of a box,” said Teller.

In Cheongdam-dong, Seoul, Roversi’s show is under way at 10 CORSO COMO.

The Italian photographer is a legendary figure in fashion photography who has worked with numerous top notch actresses and models. In Korea, he has worked with actresses Kim Hee-seon and Song Hye-kyo.

He opened his studio in 1974 and most actively worked in the mid 1980s, when fashion houses were really into making catalogues. It was up to the photographers to create the most artistic and original photos possible, and Roversi promoted himself well, working with some of the most open-minded brands ― Comme des Garons, Yohji Yamamoto and Romeo Gigli.

Nudity is also an important inspiration for Roversi. One third of the show here are nude photos of famous models, including Russian model Natalia Vodianova. 
“Audrey, Paris, 1996” by Paolo Roversi (Paolo Roversi)
“Audrey, Paris, 1996” by Paolo Roversi (Paolo Roversi)

“Women’s portraits, especially nude photos, are the way to access to the female beauty most intimately,” said Roversi in a recent press conference.

He named Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garons and Yohji Yamamoto and as some of the most impressive designers he had worked with.

“Both designers brought many novelties to Paris in the 1980s and 1990s. You will find a 1985 photo of a woman wearing a red hat, a work by Yamamoto, which means a lot to me,” said Roversi. The photo, featuring British model Sasha Robertson, was the first-ever color photo he took.

“Every six months, fashion constantly changes ― from new clothes, hairstyles, makeup and to models. Photos should flow with the fashion trend yet always show something creative and not seen before. A photo that was seen before somewhere can’t be considered great,” he said.

“Touch Me” runs through July 31 at Daelim Contemporary Art Museum in Tongi-dong, central Seoul. Tickets range from 2,000 won to 5,000 won. For more information, call (02) 720-0667 or visit www.daelimmuseum.org.

“Paolo Roversi” runs through May 8 at 10 CORSO COMO in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. Minors are not allowed. For more information, call (02) 3018-1010.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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