Fashion Spreads: Word and Image in Fashion Photography since 1980

By Paul Jobling | Go to book overview

Introductionto Part 2

To write the body. Neither skin, nor the muscles, nor the bones, nor the nerves, but the rest: an awkward, fibrous, shaggy, raveled thing, a clown's coat.

Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes, 1977.

In the spring of 1997 a double-page advertisement produced by Richard Smith for the design consultancy Area, representing a Japanese pop singer called Miju, appeared in several style and women's magazines, heavily disguised as a fashion feature. 1 The right-hand page of the work consisted of a monochrome head-and-shoulders portrait of the singer herself along with her name printed in sans-serif capitals. On the opposite page, two sets of text composed of the same type in different weights and contrasting shades of grey were printed on a black background, one superimposed over the other. The smaller in scale of the two texts conveyed information concerning the name of the photographer, dress designer and record company, but was eclipsed by the larger text in light grey on to which it was grafted, which stated provocatively, ‘Images Travel Faster Than Words’. On one level we could regard such an act of textual mimicry as nothing more than a piece of harmless, postmodern simulation. While on another, I feel, the ad/fashion spread both raises and crystallises a number of interesting points concerning the relationship of words to images and vice versa in media texts such as the fashion magazine. In the image-saturated economy of Baudrillardean hyperreality, it is tempting to fall in line with the iconocentric sentiments that the piece enunciates, since the photograph of Miju is indeed quite straightforward to assimilate. 2 However, this ad in itself also implies a paradox. For in the way that the work is laid out, the image is absorbed so quickly as to become virtually redundant, whereas the verbal elements seem more complex and interesting, and it is over them we tend to deliberate. Consequently, if images really do travel faster than words, then we need to examine why they do so, and at what aesthetic and intellectual cost. Indeed, mutatis mutandis, we could just as easily ask what is at stake by either prioritizing words over images or arguing for their interdependence?

We have already encountered some of the ways in which the intertexuality between word and image can operate in our analysis of a selection of fashion

-65-

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Fashion Spreads: Word and Image in Fashion Photography since 1980
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • List of Figures xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes *
  • Part 1 - Back to the Future: Fashion Publishing since 1980 15
  • Introductionto Part 1 17
  • Notes *
  • 1 - Vogue 19
  • Notes *
  • 2 - The Face 35
  • Notes *
  • 3 - Arena 49
  • Notes *
  • Conclusion - To Part 1 59
  • Notes *
  • Part 2 - Written Clothing and Image- Clothing: Roland Barthes' ‘the Fashion System' in Perspective 63
  • Introductionto Part 2 65
  • Notes *
  • 4 - ‘the Fashion System’: a Synopsis 69
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Going beyond ‘the Fashion System’: a Critique 83
  • Notes *
  • Conclusion - To Part 2 101
  • Notes *
  • Part 3 - Bodylines: Identity and Othernessin Fashion Photography since 1980 105
  • Introductionto Part 3 107
  • Notes *
  • 6 - Who's That Girl? Alex and Kate: a Tale of Two Bodies in Contemporary Fashion Photography 111
  • Notes 136
  • 7 - ‘statue Men’: the Phallic Body, Identity and Ambiguity in Fashion Photography 143
  • Notes 180
  • Appendix 1 - Directoryof Fashion Photographers, Stylistsand Magazine Features 1980–1996 189
  • Appendix 2 - Photographersfor British ‘vogue’1980–1995 211
  • Bibliography 215
  • Index 235
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