A new cof­fee ta­ble book col­lects the work of two of fash­ion's most in­flu­en­tial pho­tog­ra­phers - and the women they've im­mor­talised

Esquire (UK) - - Contents -

A new cof­feee ta­ble book col­lects the best work of pho­tog­ra­phers Mert and Mar­cus

If by chance you saw last month’s edi­tion of Esquire, with a smoul­der­ing Pené­lope Cruz on the cover, then you will al­ready be fa­mil­iar with the work of the pho­tog­ra­phers Mert Alas and Mar­cus Pig­gott. Or Mert and Mar­cus as they are known by their fel­low in­hab­i­tants of the fash­ion fir­ma­ment, across which they have blazed a starry trail since the turn of the cen­tury. (Once you com­mand the at­ten­tion and ad­mi­ra­tion — and bud­gets — of the big­gest de­sign­ers, stylists and cre­ative di­rec­tors, you can safely drop the sur­names.)

But who are we try­ing to kid? You were well aware of the work of fash­ion’s favourite pho­to­graphic duo long be­fore Esquire showed up — fashionably late to the party as ever. Even if you didn’t know their names you’d seen their pho­tos.

Mert and Mar­cus don’t merely shoot cam­paigns for the most fa­mous names in fash­ion: Gior­gio Ar­mani, Fendi, Miu Miu, Gucci, Saint Lau­rent, Ver­sace, Givenchy. They are a brand in their own right, with their own dis­tinc­tive style — glossy but hard-edged — and a sub­ject to which they con­stantly re­turn: the fe­male form. Mert and Mar­cus’s women are beau­ti­ful and pow­er­ful, of­ten nude or semi-nude, their skin glis­ten­ing, eyes flash­ing, and they project a kind of cos­mic sex­ual con­fi­dence. Madonna, J Lo, Gaga, Ri­hanna, Naomi, Cara, Kate, Linda, An­gelina, Gisele, Björk: Mert and Mar­cus have shot them all, of­ten as well as they’ve ever been shot. It’s quite a feat, that, to take the most pho­tographed women in the world and see them anew, make them look even more glam­orous, even more se­duc­tive.

Of course, their rise co­in­cided al­most ex­actly with photography’s switch from film to dig­i­tal, and the opening of the Pan­dora’s box of Pho­to­shop, but that’s hardly the only rea­son for their suc­cess. Many fash­ion pho­tog­ra­phers have be­come slaves to the air­brush and the re­touch, and their sub­jects,

as a re­sult, have ceased to look at­trac­tive, largely be­cause they have ceased to look recog­nis­ably hu­man. Mert and Mar­cus are masters of the tech­nol­ogy; their women are im­prob­a­bly gor­geous, but not im­pos­si­bly so.

Mert Alas, from Turkey, and Mar­cus Pig­gott, from Wales, met in 1994, at a party on a pier in Hast­ings, Sus­sex. The story goes that Mar­cus asked Mert for a light, and the rest is very shiny his­tory: three years later they had con­verted a derelict loft in east London into a stu­dio, and were shoot­ing for Nineties London style bi­ble Dazed & Con­fused. Fu­ture work ap­peared in Bri­tish bian­nu­als Pop and Love (the Bri­tish stylist Katie Grand, who founded both those magazines, was a key col­lab­o­ra­tor) and by now they’ve pho­tographed cov­ers for ev­ery sig­nif­i­cant fash­ion mag­a­zine you’ve ever heard of, and Play­boy.

The pho­tos on th­ese pages are from their new book, a gi­ant ret­ro­spec­tive of their work called sim­ply Mert Alas Mar­cus Pig­gott. (Maybe sur­names are mak­ing a come­back?) Pub­lished by Taschen in a lim­ited edi­tion of 1,000 copies, priced at £450 each, the book is a hefty in­vest­ment (weight-wise and price-wise) but well worth the ef­fort. This sea­son, no cof­fee ta­ble will be able to call it­self stylish un­less it’s hold­ing them up. Alex Bilmes

Mert Alas and Mar­cus Pig­gott Pub­lished by Taschen, £450, out now

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