Fashion is all about the face. The surface made beautiful is the absolute, and as an art that flourishes under flashing lights, it needs an audience. It is essentially performative. But Gavin Bond’s latest collection of photography ‘Being There’ shows another side of the coin and a rich interior world that may be just as captivating.
Exhibiting at Hamiltons Gallery, Bond’s show is awash with famous faces; a few on the guest list, many in the pictures themselves. It’s opening night. The Moët is flowing, chatter roots out every corner of the space, and the walls are plastered with images. In such profusion, they’re more like small windows than photographs; extending the space and its bubbling atmosphere into dozens of smaller rooms, and moments closer to the catwalk. Look closely and you’re back in the nineties. Kate Moss and cigarettes. Glance to the left and that was thirty years ago.
Most of the stills are in black and white. It adds to the mystique of the work; the sense of nostalgia knocking it out of reality, and turning the pretty faces into ghosts. They’re backstage moments in time comprised by jokes cut silent by the camera shutter, confetti that never falls, and rarely shards of discomfort from the models that you could only catch in a still image. It’s the latter which are the special ones. These are exceptionally delicate displays of vulnerability; wide eyes looking for instruction, stares looking far ahead for the next place to go, shuffling bodies drawn along by a series of assistants and otherwise exhaustively glaring up from tables. All the while a small tirade of men adjust them. The dresses don’t fit quite right, or maybe a hair-bun needs to be tighter. Just as one woman leaves for the catwalk, two of the suits fiddle with the ends of her dress, getting the folds right for how its weight will be dragged behind her. They are meticulous, and girls are a palimpsest of such corrections. Most of the looks are built like this anyway; piled with adornments and layers onto lithe bodies clutching cigarettes. When they’re not clothed, they look cold.
The logic of Bond’s work here isn’t dissimilar to peering into the cracks in a Fabergé egg. There’s the play of inner and outer, stuffy outfits and freezing rooms, but that isn’t to say that he’s judging the subjects in question. It’s not an expose. Leave that to the gossip columns. Neither is it wildlife photography, trying to place the eccentrics in frame against the broader nature of fashion and haute couture. Rather, it’s much more akin to conserving its people; assembling their joys and tediums for the purpose of collection and preserving something precious that perhaps only he has seen. Most of them seem to know this, and therein their responses to each shot do you get the subtlety of the art.
If the lens of a camera always reflects a prickling of desire for what resides before it, in beauty, tone and shape, then it’s the model’s expression replying to this interest that forms the basis of drama. It’s why, when I travel through Bond’s collection it becomes so easy to be mesmerised by the images. His work has become my eyes, my curiosity, and at once in the same interplay, the subjects of fashion seem to be responding to me. For an industry known for its exclusivity, it’s an eminently engaging process. So visit the show, drift between the scenes, and drink the champagne. It will be like you’re really there.
GAVIN BOND: BEING THERE – 29th October 2022, Hamiltons
About the artist
British Photographer Gavin Bond was one of the few photographers to be let into the exclusive world of backstage fashion in the early 90’s. Bond was able to document, with his own distinct reportage style, this remarkable period of pop culture, fashion history and what was the era of the Supermodels. His unique insight into the exclusive world of high fashion saw him to contribute to publications such as Vanity Fair, Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire & Rolling Stone. A regular contributor to British GQ for whom he has shot over 35 covers. Bond now finds himself in the world of entertainment photography, capturing marketing & publicity campaigns for all the major film studios worldwide.