Silhouettes and Accessories

Having studied through my camera lens how the representation of the human body has evolved from Cycladic idols to Archaic kouroi, from the Calf-Bearer to Nike adjusting her sandal and Alexander’s melancholy curly head—an exercise central to the book project Metamorphoses on Greece—it was but a short walk to the catacombs of fashion shows. The aesthetic of this materialist decade was conducive to my endeavor, as it was all about silhouettes, including perms and big hairdos held in place by hairspray using VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that perhaps impair the atmosphere’s ozone layer. The struggle raging on the pavement was between Nike and Reebok (the former won), whereas what clashed in the hinterland of the Shatt al-Arab were Iranian and Iraqi tanks engaged in the largest land battles since World War II (the prelude to future wars involving Western powers). Urban survival was guaranteed by parachute trousers, turtle-neck sweaters, Ray Ban, and four-finger rings. Crocodiles and Keith Haring figures invaded the human body, and accessories appeared all over it, including the Swatch—a watch so cheap wearers could have worn two or more. Not at all silent, but deafened by the disco music of the preceding years, the zeitgeist missed the ever louder ticking beyond the Iron Curtain.

Needless to say that documenting the catwalk backstage did not result in fashion jobs; but that didn’t matter. My idea was to obtain access to places where I was not supposed to be and talk my way past security and the fuss made over small town VIPs. However, after a while, even the moments most difficult to capture, the moments when the models closed their eyes, lost their appeal. To fight boredom I produced some scattered still lifes. Self-indulgent as they were, the negatives of most did not survive. The objects chosen echoed my student preoccupation with Edward Weston’s work; but now I didn’t care about sharpness and objectivity. I had discovered Wols (pseudonym for A. O. Wolfgang Schulze), a painter and photographer in the Paris of the 1930s and 1940s. His compositions seemed to explode, and were deeply inspiring, speaking of a difficult and excessive life in art and of the price the author paid for it. That was when it dawned on me that I would have to look for things outside myself and outside a particular habitat en vogue.