Friday, October 30, 2009

In High Fashion: Edward Steichen at the AGO

Catalogue Cover, Photograph of Actress Mary Heberden 1935 by Edward Steichen

The AGO is the one of the last stops of the exhibition "Edward Steichen: In High Fashion" which presents a collection of his black and white photographs from the Conde Nast archives 1923-1937. As the chief photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue during these years, Edward Steichen was instrumental in defining fashion photography and celebrity portraiture. Using light and shadow to delineate his subjects in striking backdrops, Steichen drew on his training as a painter to create arresting compositions of his subjects and is considered the "first truly modern fashion photographer".

I was entranced by the 200 Steichen photographs on display. Exquisite in their execution, the collection leaves no doubt as to Steichen's talent and sophisticated range. Although Steichen also made colour photographs, only black and white images are on display, giving the exhibition a clarity and elegance.

Given my own recent confusion as to the next steps in my artistic path, I found it interesting to learn that Steichen had been a painter before taking up photography. In spite of his successful shows at prestigious galleries as a painter, he had "serious misgivings about his talents with the brush" and was aware of "not having kept pace with the modern styles of painting." Walking away from a medium that he was comfortable with into the relatively new world of photography must have been a challenge to say the least.

The exhibition runs until January 3, 2010. Keep your AGO ticket and show it at the ROM to save 20% off general admission for the Vanity Fair Portraits exhibition.

317 Dundas Street West