In my own time I study many things. I study film history, art history, fashion history, and the history of photography. If you cannot tell my passions in life have to deal with the arts yet I am not very artistic myself. I wish I was though. All of my favorite subjects to study all meld together, especially fashion and photography. I am in no way an expert on fashion or photography (or any of the other subjects for that matter) I just enjoy learning about those subjects immensely. I was never truly into fashion either wearing the latest things or looking at fashion magazines. That all changed when I saw an exhibit on Edward Steichen’s fashion photography at the International Center of Photography in New York City a few years ago. I was supposed to be there to see this weird exhibit on modern photography for a modern art class but that did not catch my attention at all. At the time I was just really getting into Classic Hollywood and I was always interested in old things. Steichen’s photography caught my attention because a handful of them famous actors and actresses from Old Hollywood. Some of them I knew and some of them I did not. I also liked his photography because it was gorgeous. The light and the composition of his work is so beautiful. After that I became passionate about the history of photography particularly fashion photography. I cannot get enough of fashion photography from the 1920s to the 1960s. I love how the focus was on clothes and the designers and not so much the models. (Two models I love learning about and see photographs of are Lee Miller and Marion Moorehouse. They were Steichen’s muses in the late 1920s/early1930s and were unbelievably beautiful yet they enhanced whatever they were modeling)
Since that exhibit I saw a few more exhibitions at the ICP including one on fashion photographer Richard Avedon. Avedon was a photographer from the 1950s and 1960s who photographed many famous models for Vogue. He also famously photographed Audrey Hepburn. One of the models Avedon repeatedly used was British born Jean Shrimpton. Shrimpton’s face graces the cover of the exhibition catalogue. I obsessed over Avedon’s photographs for weeks after the exhibition. Several of my favorite photographs from it were of Shrimpton.
|Jean Shrimpton by Richard Avedon|
My admiration for movies and fashion history collided when I became a fan of the lovely and awesomely talented Karen Gillan (Yes, I am DIE HARD Amy Pond fan. Eleven is the best Doctor!). Like any new fan gullibly lead into a new cult I had to see what else Gillan was in and go find every single movie or show she had made. One of her movies is called We’ll Take Manhattan where she plays Jean Shrimpton. My brain connected Shrimpton to Richard Avedon and then connected them both to photography and fashion. Of course I had to see We’ll Take Manhattan!
In 1962 David Bailey is working as a photographer’s assistant. He is fed up with his job and quits right on the spot telling the photographer he is going to open up his own studio and do his own thing. In another part of England a young woman named Jean Shrimpton (Gillan) is brought to a modeling agency by her parents where she will learn how to be a model and be sent out on jobs. One of her first modeling jobs does not go very well but she manages to catch the eye of David Bailey.
David soon gets a small contract to work for Vogue magazine. He wants to take the job but only if he can use Jean as his model for the photographs. David sees something in Jean that with some dedication and hard work he can make her well known as a model. The job he is assigned is sending them to New York City along with the magazine editor Lady Clare Rendlesham. Lady Clare and David clash like cats and dogs. She wants him to photograph Jean in the traditional way where the model and the clothes are the sole focus. She also thinks Jean is a terrible model and not very pretty. David sees more than just Jean and the clothes he sees the streets, the buildings, and people surrounding her. Lady Clare keeps on complaining to Vogue back in the UK that they need to fire him and that his photographs are terrible. Unfortunately for Lady Clare and very fortunately for David and Jean the editors back in the UK think David is a visionary and Jean is beautiful.
The real David Bailey is credited as having revolutionized modern fashion photography and the real Jean Shrimpton became one of the world’s first supermodels.
I liked We’ll Take Manhattan. I know Jean Shrimpton’s name, I know her images, but I never researched her to know her story. I am sure the story of her and David Bailey as told in the movie is not one hundred percent accurate but it did pique my interest in learning more about Shrimpton as a model and researching David Bailey. Karen Gillan was fabulous she is such a good actress. We’ll Take Manhattan is a little difficult to find but if you can find it on your own definitely give it a watch.