Deborah Turbeville: The Fashion Pictures

‘Perhaps the most interesting thing about my photographs is that they are a little bit of an enigma; they are hard to place,’ wrote Deborah Turbeville on her evocative photography.

To celebrate the work of this visionary American fashion photographer, The Wapping Project has organised an exhibition of her work in London that aims to blur the boundaries between commercial fashion and fine art photography.

Tainted beauty is at the core of Turbeville’s work – she had a taste for damaged goods. The haunted faces of street women getting by, of faded aristocrats in their opulent surroundings enable Turbeville to construct her dark narratives.

Turbeville seeks out and finds sullied, secret settings to stage her dramas. Her silhouette can be spotted sliding through the secluded woodlands, colossal bath houses, and the desolate streets that surround her three homes in Mexico, Russia and New York.

Post-production is an integral part of her photographic process tormenting her negatives with masking tape, scratches and sepia stains, and consciously destroys the original shot, transforming it into a grainy and seemingly worn out image and creating the highly prized and widely collected work.

Turbeville rose to prominence with her Bathhouse series, shot for American Vogue in 1975. These fashion photographs of languid, willowy, scantily clothed women were revolutionary at the time. Arresting and unsettling, Turbeville took the viewer into the core of a private chamber where the models seemed to be captives, aware of their photographer, and aware of us.

Her distinctive soft focus and pointillist style led to commissions by Jackie Onassis who asked her to photograph the unseen Versailles, photographic essays for Harper’s Bazaar and W Magazine and shoots for Italian, French, Russian, British and American Vogue. She continues to work full-time on personal projects and a wide number of commercial commissions.

Curated by The Wapping Project’s Jules Wright, the exhibition at Donna Karan’s Mayfair flagship store showcases Turbeville’s celebrated poetic grace and cinematic vision working with designers such as Karl Lagerfeld and Comme des Garçons. It also presents her photographic essays for Harper’s Bazaar,  W Magazine and shoots for Italian, French, Russian, British and American Vogue.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Deborah Turbeville: The Fashion Pictures is at Donna Karan in Conduit Street, London from 8 September 2011 for a six week. All the works featured in the exhibition will be for sale.

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