Beyond Fashion: Women in Landscape

William Silano, Harper's Bazaar, May 1968, p. 136, gelatin silver print, 14 x 11''. Courtesy Deborah Bell Photographs.
William Silano, for Harper's Bazaar, May 1968, chromogenic color print, 21 x 30-1/2''. Copyright William Silano Estate/ Courtesy Deborah Bell Photographs.

A handful of the 19th century period pieces are sepia-toned, others are a colourful ode to surrealism which bloomed during the 1920’s. Neatly hanging in the apartment-like gallery at Deborah Bell Photographs, they serve as a charming testament to the ever-fascinating artistic genre of Women in Landscape. Whilst the motif of the female figure, especially in relation to fashion photography is hardly groundbreaking, the way the photographers exhibited at the gallery have manipulated the female body as a tool in creative expression – certainly was.
While some photographers had a discernibly lyrical approach towards the placing of the female figure within the canvas, the others had a more graphic vision. In the case of Deborah Turbeville and Henry Callahan’s work, the body framed suggests a lingering narrative, imbued in the sentiment of black and white photography, it resonates beyond the visual plane – inciting curiousness and delectable poignancy within the onlooker. The selected works thus seduce with a delectable torment as a pretence of the structural rigour and tenderness which they simultaneously exude ensuring their abiding place in beholders memory. 

In the case of the other photographers included in the exhibition the employment of architectural qualities of the female figure has been paramount to their oeuvre. The vivid composition of Harper’s Bazaar photographer William Silanos comes to mind, as his stupendous employment of the line within the architectural compositions make a compelling case for surrealistic photography. In similar style the reclining female form hints to the grandeur of the mythical sphinx, whilst in others the figures’ statuesque integrity resembles that of an obelisk, rising above the landscape – sovereign and mighty – unequivocally reaching towards the sky The aforementioned are without doubt the most alluring aspects of the exhibition and whilst all the works are absolutely marvellous pieces of photography, they are undoubtedly stronger for the women portrayed within them.