Framing Fashion through Fiction: Narrative and the Fashion Image
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Compelling stories of romance, drama, mystery and suspense have been constructed around clothing, providing the fashion object with its mythic and symbolic quotient. In particular, contemporary fashion photography and film have cast garments as characters - portraying these objects in roles that evoke identification and desire in the viewer. In comparing still fashion photography with the short fashion film this paper will consider how fashion fantasy is constructed through spatial and temporal narrative structures. Further, this paper will argue that the convergence of still and motion images in hybrid fashion media forms offer an alternate experience that subverts clothing as character and instead frames the garment as the unfolding action. With the narrative turn in fashion creating persuasive and desirable fashion scenarios, it is no surprise that the glamour and melodrama of the cinema has been taken up as an aesthetic device by contemporary fashion photography. Throughout the 1990s art photographers such as Glen Luchford, Larry Sultan and Jurgen Teller constructed fashion magazine editorials that designated dress as secondary characters to the stories of eroticism, death and psychological tension they constructed. These scenes demonstrate that fashion photography is able to convey a spatial narrative through serial images, a structure which relies on the spectator to project them self in the space between tableaux and fulfill the action. The desire for fashion narratives is even more pronounced in the recent new media phenomenon of the short fashion film, which has been made popular and accessible through on-line delivery. While Hollywood film and the fashion system have always shared a symbiotic relationship of commercial and cultural influence, in the last decade luxury fashion labels Chanel, Dior and Prada have emphasised this connection by employing acclaimed film directors such as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and Ridley Scott to develop extended advertisements for their products. Through cinematic convention and self-reflexive referencing, these short films create further cultural cache for the fashion object. While the temporality of film is inherently open to narrative development, this can be fractured when the fashion object is presented as a central protagonist with a commercial motivation. Through critique of fashion photography and film this paper will argue that the spectator's completion or circumvention of narrative structures is central to how still and moving images are perceived in their negotiation of the tension between commerce and art. In making this argument the paper will examine the media convergence between film and photography as a further space to imagine fashion narrative, where photographers including Nick Night and Steven Klein are exploiting the possibilities of hybrid film and photographic images. In these examples still fashion photography's enhancement of mood, tone and texture is coupled with the fashion film's movement and transience, revealing dress as a nuanced and enigmatic narrative in and of itself.
Contact: Art Association of Australia and New Zealand Annual Conference
© 2011 Art Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAAZN). The attached file is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the conference's website for access to the definitive, published version.