The stunning fashion feature, ‘L’homme Dior’, photographed by Sarah Moon, art directed by Kris van Assche and styled by Mauricio Nardi in the bumper 4th birthday issue of Metal magazine is one of the most perfectly realized fashion stories out on the newsstands at the moment.
The distinguished French photographer who first rose to prominence in the 1970’s after she crossed to the other side of the camera is noted for her impressionistic images that are rooted in the reality of capturing a specific moment in time. Through the realization of the images themselves, Sarah Moon makes the mechanisms of classic photography as prominent as the content of the images. Often using old-fashioned techniques or technologies, her images and their specific printing quality seemed to reassert the idea of the photograph as a unique and single work at a time when photography was heading towards the endless and exact replication of images. This archival and old-fashioned quality to the images made her particularly sought after as a photographer in the 1970’s, coinciding with various trends towards a dreamy nostalgic feeling in women’s fashion and the approaches to styling it; for example, a reappraisal of the Belle Époque, Pre-Raphaelites or Art Nouveau as sources of inspiration.
Though Moon’s style was well suited to such tendencies, it is perhaps ironic that her work becomes all the more powerful when not engaging with its nostalgic potential and, instead, she turns her gaze and techniques on the highly contemporary. In a lot of her fashion photos from the 1980’s onwards, she was praised for her approach to colour, movement and unusual cropping. The image tended towards a certain fragmentation, particularly of the model’s features. But the form of clothes themselves became lucid and sculptural. This, no doubt, is one of the reasons that so many designers want their clothes photographed by her and a quality that is beautifully evident in ‘L’homme Dior’. Van Assache’s designs remain somehow more legible than the models’ identities without ever divorcing them from the totality of a life lived in real clothing.
Art directed by the Dior Homme designer himself, this feature feels less like a fashion story and more like a statement of vision, or, at the more basic level, a look book meant for the general public and not only those in the industry. With little explication to guide us on the exact level of collaboration, it’s difficult to tell exactly how Van Assche and Moon worked together on this one. For one thing, Sarah Moon has a reputation for being very non-interventionist in the way she shoots; less directing the action and more waiting for that beautiful off guard moment to arrive. However, it’s certainly not their first collaboration and one can only assume from the outcome of this and earlier projects that there is some special rapport, some magic that goes into the process.
The haunting monochromatic images jar with a specific dissonance as the false sense of a keepsake photo or a faded memory is thrown off-centre by the very real evidence of clothes that are totally present and in the present.