The big picture: London Fashion Week, February 1998

With the 2018 event now in full swing, we revisit a telling Martin Parr shot from 20 years ago

British Fashion Week, February 1998






Photograph: Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Martin Parr is the kind of quick-witted photographer who catches life on the run, his shutter clicking faster than the human eye can blink. To coincide with London Fashion Week, which began last Friday, here is a deft act of espionage from backstage at the same event 20 years ago. Parr probably didn’t know what he’d snatched until he developed the film and saw that the flustered accidents of a moment had come to rest in a parable, showing how the beauty industry goes about its tortuous, tormenting work.

Makeup has already transformed the model into a doll: the waxen complexion, with a sickly jaundiced tone around the eyes, and the pursed, painted lips that are smaller and more infantile than her own. Now the hairdressers take over, knotting and coiling and pinning and teasing, with a can of eco-unfriendly aerosol spray ready to freeze her mane. They are technicians, busy on the assembly line; she is their manufactured product, as glassy-eyed as the lens of Parr’s camera.

What makes the photograph so piercing is the intrusion of that grasping, prehensile hand, ready to do some stern manipulating if the subject doesn’t consent to being reduced to an object. This detail makes the scene faintly scary: the bride of Frankenstein is being prepared for exposure to a battery of cameras on the catwalk, and at the end of all this cosmetic primping she will be a blank-faced, strutting mannequin. That’s what fashion does: it refashions our bodies, and turns human beings into dress dummies.

The big picture: London Fashion Week, February 1998

With the 2018 event now in full swing, we revisit a telling Martin Parr shot from 20 years ago

British Fashion Week, February 1998






Photograph: Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Martin Parr is the kind of quick-witted photographer who catches life on the run, his shutter clicking faster than the human eye can blink. To coincide with London Fashion Week, which began last Friday, here is a deft act of espionage from backstage at the same event 20 years ago. Parr probably didn’t know what he’d snatched until he developed the film and saw that the flustered accidents of a moment had come to rest in a parable, showing how the beauty industry goes about its tortuous, tormenting work.

Makeup has already transformed the model into a doll: the waxen complexion, with a sickly jaundiced tone around the eyes, and the pursed, painted lips that are smaller and more infantile than her own. Now the hairdressers take over, knotting and coiling and pinning and teasing, with a can of eco-unfriendly aerosol spray ready to freeze her mane. They are technicians, busy on the assembly line; she is their manufactured product, as glassy-eyed as the lens of Parr’s camera.

What makes the photograph so piercing is the intrusion of that grasping, prehensile hand, ready to do some stern manipulating if the subject doesn’t consent to being reduced to an object. This detail makes the scene faintly scary: the bride of Frankenstein is being prepared for exposure to a battery of cameras on the catwalk, and at the end of all this cosmetic primping she will be a blank-faced, strutting mannequin. That’s what fashion does: it refashions our bodies, and turns human beings into dress dummies.

World Press Photo Contest 2018 – the nominees in pictures

The most prestigious photojournalist prize in the world has unveiled the six finalists of its photo of the year contest. This is the first time in the competition’s history that a selection of finalists has been seen before the announcement of the winner in Amsterdam on 12 April
Warning: contains graphic images

SkyPixel aerial photography contest winners 2017 – in pictures

SkyPixel has announced the winners of its annual aerial photography competition and the results are breathtaking. The contest, which ran from October to December, received more than 44,000 submissions from people in 141 countries, across the categories of landscape, portrait and story. The grand prize was awarded to Florian Ledoux, a photographer from France, who captured a polar bear jumping across ice floes in Nunavut, Canada

50 years of circus photography – in pictures

The year 2018 is the 25oth anniversary of the creation of the circus, and Peter Lavery has been photographing behind the scenes across the UK for 50 years. His fascination is with the disparity between the glitz of the shows and the ordinariness backstage. His pictures are the subject of a new exhibition at the Harley Gallery in Welbeck, Nottinghamshire, which is the first to document his decades-long project. It opens on 3 February and runs until 15 April

The 20 photographs of the week

Romania’s Simona Halep returns to Angelique Kerber of Germany during the women’s semi-final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament. Top seed Halep edged out the former champion, Angelique Kerber, 6-3, 4-6, 9-7 in a match that had everything, match points saved on both sides, incredible athleticism and shot-making and stunning defence.

Beehives, bobs and blow-dries – in pictures

In Your Dreams, January 1955. Jean Rayner, 14, a ‘probationary’ Teddy girl, one of a series of photographs entitled
Last of the Teddy Girls, taken by the film director Ken Russell.