This summer, the BMA is celebrating the phenomenon that is fashion through Ways of Seeing: Fashion presented by Style Yourself Chic with Megan LaRussa. This exhibition explores fashion as an art form by taking a look at how different cultures and trends have evolved and influenced style trends over time. As the latest in a series of six consecutive exhibitions in the Bohorfoush Gallery, it draws from all areas of the Museum’s expansive collection to give visitors an inside look at global fashion.
Fashion is not only a form of self expression. It’s a way to tell a story, to connect with others, or to start a conversation. Whether we realize it or not, everyone has their own style that represents who they are and how they hope the world will see them. This is why the BMA wanted to offer visitors an opportunity to share what fashion means to them. Inspired by Irving Penn’s photo of Mrs. William Rhinelander Stewart ( Janet Newbold) featured in the exhibition, we created our own portrait studio space that prompts visitors to take a photo and share it with us on social media.
Irving Penn started working as a fashion photographer for Vogue Magazine in 1943, where he was celebrated as a top photographer for over 60 years. Penn developed a unique process for his photography, and preferred a studio environment rather than shooting on location. This allowed the subject to collaborate without letting them take over completely, giving a sense of shared control between artist and sitter. In 1948, he built a makeshift corner in his studio and directed his subjects to interact with it as a way to capture their distinct personalities. Penn hosted a wide range of subjects, many of which were famous celebrities. Among those who found their way to Penn’s corner were Noel Coward, Louis Armstrong, Joe Louis, and Truman Capote.
Using vinyl to recreate what the walls would have looked like in Penn’s studio, we transformed our Smartlab space into an interactive experience where visitors can strike a pose. Photos posted on Instagram using the hashtag #fashionbma appear on a nearby screen.
Ways of Seeing: Fashion closes on August 11, so make time to step into our studio for your own Irving Penn-inspired portrait before it’s gone!
Ways of Seeing is presented by Style Yourself Chic with Megan LaRussa and made possible by the City of Birmingham.