Sepia soaked long summer days and Cindy Crawford in frayed faded cutoff denim and simple white t-shirts, white shirts or bodysuits, most probably Alaïa, on sandy beaches. I don’t think I am alone in saying this. That we find life to be the most covetable when exposed to the summer elements – a blast of wind laden with sand in the golden hour, a sun fade, and the taste of saltwater. Or that Cindy Crawford’s athletic, healthy, curvy body still is the epitome of natural beauty. Maybe it’s the very nature of summer – wistful, adventurous, brazen, free – that brings to mind a time pre-Instagram when models and actors had more mystery and grace, and everyone, the public, had their own lives to live. You could only imagine your favourite actor’s or supermodel’s glamorous life and getting to see, for example, Cindy’s famous workout routine, which she filmed in different locales, from the beach to a rooftop, was enough of a sneak peek into her private life. It was enough. You respected their privacy. Because they wanted to keep their privacy.
There is this line towards the end of Tonne Goodman’s book, Point of View, which explores for the first time her life and work, charting Goodman’s career from her modeling days, to her freelance fashion reportage, to her editorial and advertising work, through to her reign at Vogue. She says: “I took part in the evolution from models to celebrity covers.” And that is it. That’s what makes all the difference. Celebrity culture has replaced culture, has replaced fashion, has replaced everything.
So why not take an impetuous leap in the air and make this the summer of Cindy, and reclaim our sense of fashion and style? This only calls for further celebration, with five of my favourite fashion photography books* that cover the era of the supermodels, capturing the energy, the changes, the attitude of the times, the beauty, the freedom of fashion as it will never be again.
Herb Ritts: L.A. Style
He found success in the late 1970s after he published his photographs taken spontaneously of his long-time friend Richard Gere at a gas station in San Bernardino, California. The self-taught, Los-Angeles native Herb Ritts photographed everyone from Madonna to Cindy Crawford to Olympic champions to that Versace dress in El Mirage, California. The South Californian light and landscapes became an intrinsic part of his work, the ideal setting for his clean and minimalist aesthetic focused on the line and movement of the human body. During the 1980s and 1990s Ritts was sought out by leading fashion designers such as Armani, Gianfranco Ferré, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Valentino, and Versace, and together they helped shape the fashion and cultural world of those decades.
Peter Lindbergh: A Different Vision on Fashion Photography
He was the first fashion photographer to put models in nothing else but simple white shirts, no recognizable fashion, for a photo shoot. They were giggling on the beach, looking natural and casual, wearing hardly any make-up. It was 1988. This was never heard of before him. Peter Lindbergh offered a new interpretation of women post-1980s without paying too much attention to clothing. He loved the classics. His photography is timeless, you can not place it in a particular decade or another; it does not date. His truth- and true beauty-revealing black and white images are grainy and cinematic. One of his biggest influences was the cinema, after all. The subtle play of light and shadow, the smoky atmosphere of his sets, the movie studio equipment, the cinematic framing and lighting, the fine line between reality and fiction – he liked to make his own movies. The models were his actors, and he let them inhabit his movie sets.
The most pregnant impressions that this book left me are two: the incredible joy of life everybody seemed to feel in the 1980s, and in the 1990s, too (fashion does reflect society and the times we live), and the fact that the photographer, Michael Doster, seems to love his every subject. The shoulders of the clothes may have been too big, the hair too “done”, the make-up too much, but the energy of the 80s was infectious, the models looked like women, not like anorexic under-age girls, fashion was about attitude just as much as it was about clothes, it was more about creativity and less about money, fashion photography was done on film and not rampantly digitalised and airbrushed and you could really see the clothes and what the image was all about. And here you have this beautiful book to tell the story, no words necessary.
The man and the fashion designer Giorgio Armani, in his own words. The man is discrete, meticulous, honest, uncompromising, loyal, constant, determined, perfectionist, loathing exhibitionism and excesses, whose trust is hard to gain, who doesn’t have many friends and who needs the support of his family around him, who prefers intensive work and his work studio to parties and the limelight – everything resonates with me only too well. The designer is all of the above, too, but, ultimately, he is an innovator, a revolutionary, but one who loves the essentials, whose greatest satisfaction is seeing the clothes he’s designed on real people on the street – therein lies the uniqueness of the Giorgio Armani fashion and style. And photographer Aldo Fallai was often there to capture it all, especially those glorious 1980s and 1990s, when Armani changed fashion for good.
For the simple reason that it includes one of my favourite colour photographs of all time. I believe that everything looks better in black and white, but Hans Feurer’s photography always makes me second think that. Because of that incredible light and the richness of colours and textures in his photography. More than 45 years ago, Hans Feurer decided to shoot only in colour. “Life is colour, I see everything in colour. I live for the moment, the realness of it”, he said in an interview. It was Africa that was the crucial catalyst for his visual aesthetic and for his understanding of shadow and light. “These 2 years travelling around Africa marked me tremendously in many ways, but also visually, in terms of what I see and how I see things. I found myself in some pretty magical situations. I would see women go out to get water in the early morning light and they had a glow around them. I was awed and started to develop a feeling and understanding for the magic of light and shadow.”
* For an easily accessible, official synopsis of and look inside the books, I have linked to my reviews of the books or to the artist or publishing house. However, in these trying times, our intention is to support artists and small businesses of any kind, especially bookstores, therefore I will not link to global online book chains or corporations, leaving you to make the choice of helping your favourite independent bookshop and placing your order with them. If you don’t have a favourite indie bookstore, here is how to find one you can support.
** The book Hans Feurer is no longer available from the publishing house, but I have recently purchased my copy online from my favourite independent bookshop, so do check with yours for availability and updates.
Collage photos: Clockwise, from top right: Marco Glaviano for Vogue Italia, June 1990 / Antoine Verglas, 1989 / Classiq Journal Editions / Marco Glaviano for Vogue Italia, May 1991 / Herb Ritts for Vogue US, November, 1992 / Peter Lindbergh / Heidi Merrick / Cindy Crawford workout
More stories: Prairie Chic: Interview with Designer Kara Johnson / The Fashion Photography of Glen Derujinsky and an Interview with Andrea Derujinsky / When Art Meets Fashion: Interview with Marguerite Bartherotte