Hedi Slimane needs no introduction as a fashion designer. His work for Yves Saint-Laurent that first gained him international recognition was followed by a glittering career at Dior. So, perhaps it’s only fitting that the most recent book of photography by Slimane, due to hit the shelves soon, should be entitled ‘Anthology of a Decade 2000-2011’. After all, there are many who would argue that Hedi Slimane was one of the most influential designers in defining fashion’s spirit in the first decade of the new millennium.
But, for those who might be expecting a coffee-table tome devoted entirely to images of high fashion, it might be worth remembering that Hedi Slimane’s work as a photographer has long been established. Slimane himself has spoken of how his interest in photography actually predates his interest in designing clothes and the quality of his work as a photographer is nothing new. ‘‘Anthology of a Decade 2000-2011’ will be the latest in a series of critically acclaimed books of photography and his exhibition credits already include such salubrious locations as FOAM, Amsterdam’s photographic museum, Musac Contemporary Art Museum of Castilla y León in Spain and top Parisian gallery, Gallery Almine Rech.
Of course fashion comes into it, but on the whole, the photographs that make up the vast ‘Anthology of a Decade 2000-2011’ have just as much to do with Slimane’s approach as a photographer to his other interests of music and street culture as to any notion of fashion. If anything, one might understand the book as a photoessay or elaborated mood board that focuses the viewer’s attention on his overarching sources of inspiration and fascination. There is no doubt that the way that Hedi Slimane uses the camera to capture his subjects –even when pointing it at the feral teenage cultures of his part-time home of Los Angeles- shares a certain sensibility with his pared down approach to fashion.
But, perhaps the most telling motifs are where he references the painterly tradition of the Vanitas painting, deftly combining rock ‘n roll’s fascination with dark and deathly subject matter with his eye as a trained art historian. Never entirely removing that certain camp devil-may-care attitude of rock subcultures, he nonetheless turns the image into something stark and uncluttered in which all of the high contrasts dominate. It doesn’t take anyone with a little culture to immediately connect these images with the iconic 16th and 17th century paintings that, not unlike dark teenage rebels, perceive death as both an inescapable threat yet also something to be approached in aesthetic terms.
Juxtaposing careful studio photography with shot-from-the-hip shots captured as a flaneur in L.A., the book creates a clear narrative of a particular time and place, much in the same way that we associate the painting traditions referenced here and there with their own specific age and cultures.
Hedi Slimane’s ‘Anthology of a Decade 2000-2011’ is published this spring by top Swiss publisher JRP|Ringier, internationally known for its top quality monographs and artist’s books.