Ways of Seeing, Ways of Knowing
Fashion Promotion and Imaging
Jean Shrimpton at 91 Heigham Road
David Bailey 1961
The New Generation of Models in the 1960s
“Jean Shrimpton was the first iconic model of the 1960s. The photos she and Bailey took in New York broke the mould and still inspire fashion today.” (We’ll Take Manhattan, 2012) This essay will consider how the ‘supermodels’ of the 1960s, concentrating on Jean Shrimpton and Leslie Hornby (Twiggy) helped to change the style of fashion and photography at this time. The essay will discuss the intimacy in the photographs of Jean Shrimpton by David Bailey and how their relationship, very much in the public eye, helped to create intrigue around the photographs and made them celebrities. It will also discuss the wider themes of the decade, such as the effect ‘Youthquake’ had on the designs of the 60s and the change in photography because of this. It could be argued that ‘Youthquake’ had a direct impact on the style of fashion photography; the models were now shot on locations, in less static poses, sometimes undertaking activities, such as running or jumping. Also to be considered, is the way women were perceived in this time, gone were the 1950s ideals of the ‘sex bomb’ model, youth was the important factor, and with revolutionary ideas such as the contraceptive pill being widely available, women were much more liberated in the 60s.
‘Jean Shrimpton at 91 Heigham Road’ by David Bailey; this black and white photograph, taken in 1961 starts to show how fashion photography was becoming more sexualised at this time. Shrimpton is leaning seductively against the wall with one hand up, over her head and the other, suggestively pulling the neck of her cream jumper down. She is looking directly in to the camera lens and because of this it appears as if she is looking straight at you. At this point in time, Jean Shrimpton and David Bailey were in a relationship together and, as he is the photographer and the photograph was taken inside David Bailey’s parents’ house, it would be safe to assume that the oversized jumper was his and the look on her face and the directness of her gaze were aimed at him. According to Richard Lester, “Bailey had begun photographing Shrimpton standing, walking and sitting in direct poses ... The directness of the confrontation and the fascination of Shrimpton and Bailey’s ... [relationship] gave these pictures amazingly wide appeal.” (Lester, 2009:161) The jumper Shrimpton is wearing is very casual for a typical fashion shot of the era; it could be for either men or women, which shows the change going on around this time in society. Images of women in the 1950s had been, for the most part, very stereotypical; it showed women in two average roles; the sex bomb or the perfect housewife. The fashion industry had had a big part in revolutionising the way women and young people were portrayed by the media. “It was in the 1960s that there was a re-emphasis on the imperative of youth as an ideal for femininity.” (Buckley, 2002:40) This photograph is much more casual and intimate; it is like you are seeing the model as she is, as opposed to seeing someone’s, the photographer’s perceived view of how a model should be. Shrimpton could also be wearing jeans, which at the time were very much a symbol of youth. The fact that the photo is black and white, when there was colour photography available at this time, only makes it feel more personal. The picture is quite dark in the background which makes Jean Shrimpton, and especially the cream jumper she is wearing, really stand out. The focus of the lens is the front door in the background, which is the centre of the image. The model is to the right of the shot and appears diagonally top right to bottom left. This contrasts with the door, which is parallel to the edges of the shot. The interior of the location is greatly different to the typical in-studio...
Bibliography: Buckey, Cheryl (2002) Fashioning the Feminine. London: I.B. Taurus
Mendes, Valerie (1999) 20th Century Fashion. London: Thames and Hudson
Lester, Richard (2009) Photographing Fashion British Style in the Sixties. London: ACC Editions
Steele, Valerie. (1997) Fifty Years of Fashion: New Look to Now. New Haven, CT: Yale University.
We’ll Take Manhattan. (2012) BBC1: 26.01.12 21:00 hrs.
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