Men as seen through women’s eyes
For this special 50th anniversary issue of L’Uomo Vogue, f ive women photographers have been commissioned to shoot f ive menswear stories, each one focusing on a major menswear genre and referencing one of the past f ive decades. Julia Hetta shoots eveningwear in a 1970s mood. Arielle Bobb-Willis, a rising star at only 24 years old, captures sportswear inf lected with 1980s pop energy. Collier Schorr photographs men in jeans and leather to invoke the gender politics of 1990s New York. Annemarieke van Drimmelen presents a new take on tailoring à la 2000s and Brigitte Lacombe photographs three men of music through the lens of the 2010s. These far-reaching fashion stories take stock of the past, but they do so to present us with a t otally contemporary vision: men seen through the eyes of women in 2018.
Fashion has been important for artist Collier Schorr from the beginnings. At her debut show in New York in 1987, she exhibited collages made using Xerox photocopies of Calvin Klein and Guess adverts. As a teenager growing up in a pre-digital world, her bedroom wall was covered with womenswear adverts torn from fashion magazines, because their attitude of female machismo was something she could identify with and desire. In the three decades since, Schorr has exhibited in the world’s most prestigious institutions and galleries including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pompidou Metz, the Consortium in Dijon, and the Istanbul Biennial. From the mid-90s, she’s made fashion editorials and campaigns. Fashion photography, with its educated and curious audience of millions, offers a platform from which Schorr conducts an enquiry (as she does with her artwork) into desire, selfhood and identity. She says: “making images has been the most important thing I could do, reproducing myself and my ideas and characters and desires… Every time I make a picture it’s for the general population rather than an elite group of art viewers. And I always wanted my pictures to roll through the city on buses and billboards saying what I wanted to say like the agit-prop I was so moved by.”
Shooting jeans and leather for this issue of L’Uomo Vogue has a particular resonance. Schorr experienced 1980s and 1990s New York first-hand, where, in the wake of the Aids epidemic, the sartorial codes of the gay community shifted. Choices about what to wear, and how, were no longer about signifying sexuality and desire (see, for example, Hal Fischer’s landmark photographic project Gay Semiotics: A Photographic Study of Visual Coding Among
Homosexual Men), but now took on a political dimension. Schorr says: “this was a very complex shoot. Firstly the premise - that it’s bodies and clothing that moves from the 80’s into the 90’s - is hard to prove... But I have very clear memories of going to the store All American Boy in Christopher Street in the 80’s and buying black Levi’s, and the salesperson said I was the first girl who looked good in them. I remember that store had rows and rows of coloured T-shirts and polo shirts in every shade of every colour and stacks and stacks of Levi’s. It was the outfitter of the clones and I was obsessed with these codes and the language that helped gay men identify their sexual preferences. Everything was mapped out. Lesbian identity was still in hiding.
This shoot was about taking that boy and watching him shut the door on some of those desires and invitations.The jeans became looser, less tight, no more bandannas, protest T-shirts, the whole thing morphed into survival clothing - and bodies became billboards. I wanted to go back to where I always go: hustlers and cowboy kids on the piers, but then go with them to Gay Center where the ones who were still alive were fighting to stay alive.
This is not the typical fashion shoot idea, but in actuality a fashion shoot is the only place where one could talk about this transformation. Stylist Jodie Barnes -beingc los e in age tome-un derstands that time, and being a gay man he understands the pain and the loss. Like a football team, all the boys played and stood together. It was kind of amazing - gay and straight boys dancing and sitting together in our studio - understanding their own relationship to a disease that is no longer a gay problem. It’s part of their life. It’s now and it was then.”