One thing I love about journalism – no, make that the thing I love most about journalism – is that you learn about new things all the time. At the moment I’m doing work experience at the British Journal of Photography and this past week I had the chance to write a review about a photography exhibition. (Going to a gallery during working hours – there’s just no end to the list of advantages of being a journalist
except for the part where you don’t get a job.) So I picked Ellen von Unwerth‘s exhibition Fräulein, which is currently on show at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London. And then I had a bit of an “OMG” moment when it turned out that she is the artist behind loads of photos I’ve come across and absolutely adored in the past.
Ellen von Unwerth’s story is a really cool one. She used to be a supermodel, but after about ten years it occurred to her that taking pictures is actually much more fun than posing for them. And in no time she became super-famous for getting pretty much much every female icon in fashion, music and film to take off their clothes
and pose naughty. The advertising world and all sorts of super-glossy magazines love her, too. And she’s living proof that you don’t need to be a trained photographer to take fantastic photos.
I love the kind of femininity captured in her work. All of her photos I’ve seen so far have one thing in common: The women seem to have a lot of fun with the identity they chose for the shoot. They’ve got this incredibly bold, in-your-face confidence, in a very playful way. Kind of like back in the days when you’d get all glammed up to take fancy snapshots with your girldriends. (Well that’s what her pix remind me of anyway.)
It took me three days to decide which of Ellen von Unwerth’s photos to choose. Even if you limit it down to the celebrities, there are just too many stunning ones. I decided to go for a more recent shoot with Emma Watson. Mostly because she’s been in magazines quite a lot lately, and editorial photos (and features) are somewhat annoyingly pushing the fact that she’s all grown up now. (Okay, so she is. But we got that the first time you told us, dear press. At some point that angle just gets old. And boring.) What I like about this shoot is how it plays with that media obsession with the little Harry Potter girl growing up.
One moment, she’s all innocent little girl, with barely-there make-up and cuddling her retro doll. Then we watch the little girl play dress-up in the bathroom, and she comes out of it as this untouchably confident young lady. And then again, she’s just a dreamy teenager, with tear-smeared mascara, her fragile body almost getting crushed under the load of feminine accessories.
IMHO the best attempt ever to capture Emma Watson’s transformation without annoying everybody with the oh-look-she’s-grown-up angle.
I also strongly recommend checking out more of Ellen von Unwerth’s work. There’s a new monograph, Fräulein, coming out later this month. But that’s 450 quid, so a Google image search might be the better option.
Also, my apologies for once again failing to keep it short.
But at least I didn’t mention Gillian Anderson.