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Photographer Anders Edström; designer Martin Margiela
by Oliver Zahm (ArtForum, October 1996)
Rather than simply showcasing Martin Margiela’s Fall/Winter ‘96-’97 collection, Anders Edström’s dressed-down photographs capture those moments between show and studio: models sitting around sipping coffee, camping on standard catwalk poses, flashing toothy grins. As unstudied as they seem, these pictures mirror Margiela’s penchant for pure forms, for the disruptive energy that comes from busting up the conventions of slick, high-gloss glamour. Devoid of detailing, even zippers or fastenings, this latest collection, in which minimal garments are often held in back by nothing but elastics, initially seems monastic yet strategically reveals or hugs the body. Beige tunic-dresses with plunging necklines are accessorized by waist-cinching belts with oversized buckles and sheathlike gloves. The contrasts of Margiela’s latest line are playfully reflected in the photos shown opposite, from which the models stare out at us with a strangely divided visage: one part luscious-red-rimmed celebrity smile (teeth literally painted white), evocative of those toothpaste ads plastered all over the Paris metro with their promise of squeaky-clean eroticism; the other part, muddy-brown Zorro mask, mimicking the shadow cast by wide-brimmed hats and riffing on the artifice of “covering up” the grainy imperfections of real flesh. Just as this literally two-tone makeup cracks the placid surface of supermodel beauty and seamless couture, Edström’s photographs inhabit the faultline that runs between reality and illusion, between glamorized image and everyday life.
One of Margiela’s favorite photographers since arriving in Paris from Stockholm in 1990, Edström has been a constant presence at the designer’s shows, shooting numerous editorials on his work for magazines (including Marie Claire Bis Japon, Printemps/Ete ‘93; Elle Japon ‘95; Visionnaire ‘95). Margiela, who has long demanded complete control over the presentation of his designs on the printed page, has collaborated closely with Edström not only during shoots but in constructing their signature layouts: juxtapositions of images drawn from old magazines, found photographs, and even photocopies usually reframed and often off-center.
Edström was one of the first young photographers to discard the sterile, steroid-fueled look of the ‘80s. Edström developed a deliberately informal approach to fashion spreads: no stagey back-drops or on-location shoots, no Helmut Newton-inspired Octopussy poses, no fussy retouching. Taken with small, discreet cameras, Edström’s fashion photographs evoke the earliest forms of the genre: those old gazettes featuring society ladies clothed in the latest styles as they shop along Paris’ turn-of-the-century boulevards, or trying on garments in a couturier’s atelier. To capture the frisson of the quotidian, Edström’s pictures explore the possibilities offered by family pics, vacation snapshots, and found photographs--their approximate compositions, errors in lighting and focus, and often startling chance effects--as if to suggest that amateur photography may be the best model for refashioning fashion’s image.