AS a former fashion stylist, I am acutely aware of the power of photography. But it’s the unstaged “in-between” shots captured in the moment, that are perhaps my favourite images of all.
I remember, on some fashion shoots, asking my photographer to capture the model on and off set for those “in-between shots” — the quick aside engaging with others on set, the silent laugh behind a hand, or the studious face as the subject prepares to get “into character”. Generally, the snapper would have a second camera specifically for that purpose. The resulting images had an essence of voyeurism, a feeling that you were a fly on the wall or had access to a very privileged world — “in the moment” so to speak.
But it’s only in recent years that photography has been recognised as a collectible art form. The medium only gained widespread acceptance in the art world as photographers engaged with issues that were central to contemporary art. Some of my favourites include works by Norman Parkinson, Cecil Beaton, David Bailey, Richard Avedon and Mark Shaw, and in recent years, Peter Lindbergh and Mario Testino.
So when the invite to the opening night of the Mark Shaw: In the Moment photographic exhibition at Becker Minty arrived, I wasn’t going to miss it.
Mark Shaw was one of the foremost fashion and celebrity photographers of the 1950s and ’60s, perhaps best known for his “unofficial” family photographs of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy when there were in the White House.
Shaw, who began his career at Harper’s Bazaar in 1946, spent 16 years on LIFE magazine where he shot 27 covers, some of the biggest stars of the 1950s — Audrey Hepburn, Pablo Picasso, Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Yves Saint Laurent, Lee Radziwill and Coco Chanel — and the magazine’s annual review of the European fashion collections.
Working in the grand and privileged worlds of haute couture and society, he brought a sensibility and context to fashion photography that had not been seen before. His work also included behind-the-scenes in fitting rooms revealing the inner world of models, socialites and actresses.
He worked in both print and film until his untimely passing at the age of 47 in 1969. After his death, most of his work was moved to storage. All but a small number of photographs remained unseen for more than 40 years. However, in 1996 Shaw’s only child, David Shaw, and David’s wife, Juliet Cuming, re-released his father’s photographs which resulted in renewed interest from collectors.
“Although most of Mark’s images were directed specifically for magazine shoots, there are many that were a little more ‘in the moment’,” said Jason Minty, owner of Becker Minty and curator of this exhibition.
“These are the images that I favour most — Coco sorting through buttons with a cigarette hanging from her mouth being a personal favourite. There is something about his images that take me back to what I perceive as the ‘glamour days’ and make me want to be part of them.”
The exclusive exhibition of limited edition photographs at Becker Minty will continue until 30 September, 2016. The images are available in three sizes and with only 30 prints per picture available globally, they really are collectors’ items. But hurry, don’t get caught in the moment!
* All pictures courtesy of Mark Shaw Archives