Unbound Agency

Unbound Agency

London’s Fashion and Textile Museum celebrates both old and new styles with a retrospective charting the career of one of the pioneers of modern fashion photography, Louise Dahl-Wolfe. The exhibit is a major survey of Dahl-Wolfe in the UK – a first for the American’s portfolio – with over 100 images spanning three decades (1931-1959), featuring portraits that shaped western tastes for decades to come.

Louise Dahl-Wolfe studies the inception of professional fashion photography, including the work of innovators like Coco Chanel, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Claire McCardell. The focal point of the show is Dahl-Wolfe’s time as the leading contributor to Harper’s Bazaar, during which she worked with well-known visionaries such as Carmel Snow, Alexey Brodovitch and Diana Vreeland. Dahl-Wolfe’s compositions are known for their vividness as much as they are for the assured attitudes of the women they feature. Bazaar Editor, Snow, comments: “From the moment I saw her first colour photographs, I knew Bazaar was at last going to look the way I had instinctively wanted.”

Her subjects are both poised and relaxed within clothes suited for independent lifestyles, their total sovereignty evident from their comfort within the framed spaces. Colours inspire liveliness with intention, conveying spontaneity without compromising artfulness. The agency of women within her art helped to shift their quotidian depictions in popular culture away from apprehensive quietude, even amidst times of heightened patriarchal repression. Meanwhile, a keen eye birthed the modern Hollywood starlet with the discovery of Lauren Bacall, which, arguably, prefaced the rise of the supermodel. This unique show also includes significant contributions made to Harper Bazaar from other notable photographers in years past, of which include Baron de Meyer and Cecil Beaton

Louise Dahl-Wolfe: A Style of Her Own is at The Fashion and Textile Museum from 20 October to 21 January. Find out more: www.ftmlondon.org

1. Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Twins at the Beach, Nassau, Bahamas, 1949.