Evelyn Waugh looks, frankly, like he’s just read a line from one of his own books in the silent section of the library, and is relying on his bracing hands on his knees to give him the strength necessary to resist the inevitable eruption of giggles from within. Waugh’s gaze seems past us, slightly over our shoulders, in Irving Penn’s square photograph from 1952. His thick wool suit is more creased than his forehead, near where the top of the photograph ends.
Snowdon’s verbose (can we use that word to describe an image?) photograph of Salman Rushdie in his London home shortly after he won the Booker Prize for Midnight’s Children shows Rushdie in a Windsor chair in the corner of the room, head turned towards us, chin in his hand, bathetic.
Dylan Thomas shot by John Deakin shows him up to his waist in a graveyard.
These are just some of literary figures that have graced the pages of Vogue magazine in the last 100 years and fill the National Portrait Gallery’s latest show ‘Vogue 100: A Century of Style’ celebrating Vogue’s centenary.
I went to the press day this morning to see the work of the world’s most famous photographers, actors in their earliest days of fame and even royalty, who have appeared in the magazine’s historic content.
(I was particularly taken with this miniature image of Nancy Cunard by Man Ray.)
(And this ^ energetically comic photograph by Cindy Sherman).
During the war Vogue played a crucial part as a marker of shifting mood.
At Britain’s darkest hour, the quality of its war coverage, both at home and abroad, was unprecedented. The photographer Cecil Beaton (whose wonderful work dominates the show) travelled the world for the Ministry of Information, but it was a pupil of Man Ray called Lee Miller who gave the magazine an unimaginable dimension at the outbreak of the conflict. She became its very own war correspondent in words and pictures.
After the war had finished in 1945, Vogue celebrated fashion’s ‘New Look’ – an extravagant response to the restrictions of wartime. From a front row seat at the 1947 collections, Vogue declared: ‘Christian Dior is new name in Paris. His house was newly decorated, his ideas were fresh and put over with great authority, his clothes were beautifully made, essentially Parisian, deeply feminine.’
Subjects from editions of Vogue in the 1950s include Queen Elizabeth from her coronation…
You can walk amongst Vogue archives and see past cover stories…
It’s wonderful to be able to drop into different magazine features, much like flicking through old newspapers and marvelling at stories belonging to years ago…
^ Those silhouettes!
Concerns of 1967: How To Stop Over Impressing Your Friends And Alienating Your Family(!)
We can also see what it used to be like in the planning rooms at Vogue: processed film would be cut manually into individual transparencies and then mounted on to slides to be projected on the art room wall for the editor and art director to select a final ‘edit’ for inclusion in the magazine.
An exhibition of photography is surely one of the best ways of tracking changes in attitudes and social climates and I can think of nowhere better to experience it. David Bailey, Bruce Weber and Patrick Demarchelier shine brilliantly.
One for fashion thinkers and photography fanatics.
I’m going to load up my old camera with film now.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style is on at the National Portrait Gallery from 11th February – 22nd May 2016. Information can be found on their website.