What do Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett all have in common? All have featured in Vogue magazine, the centre of focus for the National Portrait Gallery’s latest exhibition.
This extraordinary exhibition based on the Vogue archives, housed in the West End of London is sharp, detailed – yet it feels clinical to look at.
There is no doubting the quality of the photographs on display or the hand drawn images created for the magazines, but the layout of the exhibition is confusing and difficult to understand, taking visitors from the 2016 all the way back to 1916 that doesn’t allow easy interpretation to see how the magazine developed.
However, despite this there is plenty for fans of the magazine and for anyone who enjoys fashion photography to enjoy. The quality and style of many of the photographs perfectly capture the decade that they were taken in, revealing many details about British society and attitudes towards fashion in each era.
This is particularly shown in the 1960’s and 1950’s sections – showcasing the style and glamour of these eras thanks to the designs of Patrick Kinmouth, who has helped to create an exhibition that allows the visitor to fully immerse themselves in each decade.
By looking at each decade of the magazine’s development, it also gives visitors a sense of the cultural background in Britain and attitudes towards fashion and other elements of society.
Looking and comparing photographs such as ‘A La Recherche Du Temps Bardot’ by Herb Ritts taken in 1989 with Cecil Beaton’s image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, visitors can get a real sense of how photography and its techniques have been developed and used to different effect.
Where perhaps the exhibition lets down slightly is if you haven’t got the inside knowledge of photography then you can feel slightly out of your depth in the way that information is delivered.
But one particular highlight of the exhibition is the number of different magazines from over the hundred years that the British Vogue has been publishing on display, revealing in detail how the magazine itself it developed over decades, which is fascinating to see up close.
It has to be said that many of the photographs on display have a confidence and confrontational vibe about them that is difficult to take your eyes away from. Images such as Nick Knight’s ‘Gemma 2004’ and ‘Lily 2009’ are filled with drama and confidence that attract the attention of the viewer to not only the clothes being showcased but the overall image.
Although the main purpose of the exhibition is to celebrate the high quality photography and the photographers who have helped Vogue magazine become what it is, it would have been great to have had even more depth by looking at how the magazine itself developed.
Overall, while it is a fitting celebration of Vogue’s photography, it feels as though it is slightly superficial, despite the constant eagerness to push boundaries as many of the photographs and portraits on display reveal.
Vogue 100: A Century of Style opens to the public on the 11th February and will be on display until the 22nd May 2016.