I spent the last afternoon of my 4 month sabbatical from work at the Vogue100 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I’d been saving it as a treat to keep my mind of returning to the real world, and whilst it definitely distracted me, it didn’t necessarily blow me away.
It’s a fascinating walk through time, starting back in the 1920s with hand-drawn illustrations, moving through decade by decade to the current day. It’s as much an exhibition on photography as it is on fashion, and interestingly Vogue was responsible for creating the whole specialism of fashion photography.
I’ll get my main bugbear out the way first… the concept of moving through decade by decade is brilliant, and really highlights how things have changed, however the way the exhibition has been laid out doe
sn’t make this easy. You have to retrace your steps and miss parts out to be able to follow in chronological order.
Having said that, if you do manage to follow the path, it is interesting to see how times have changed. In the 1920s, many of the pictures were hand-drawn illustrations. Where there were photos, they were of well-to-do ladies of society, showing of their latest gowns. As colour photos became more prevalent, Vogue really led the way, showcasing their first colour photographic cover in 1932.
In the war years, Vogue ran articles on how to make the most of the clothes that were available, as well as, surprisingly double page spreads on types of planes! They diversified the magazine and included much more in-depth reporting. This theme continued all the way through, with Charlie Chaplin, Matisse and Alfred Hitchcock appearing next to Twiggy, Yasmine LeBon and Naomi Campbell.
What most appealed to me was the procession of front covers from each year, all the way from 1892, through to the current edition. You could really see how not only the fashions changed through the years, but also how the photography styles and technologies progressed and matured.
What do you think the magazine might look like in another 100 years? Will it all be online by then, or will they continue to print for the retro feel? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you want to see the exhibition, it’s on at the National Portrait Gallery until 22nd May 2016.