Saturday, July 25, 2009

design aficionados

Funny Face (50th anniversary edition DVD package design)

Today, 07.25.09, a regular feature by Eric Baker for Design Observer displayed a series of mid-twentieth century graphic-design for “Today’s” images. The very first image, of a cover, for Harper’s Bazaar reminded me of a post I had waiting-in-the-wings and now it seems timely.

Per my request, Dordt’s library ordered the Funny Face, DVD, a 1957 vintage musical/visual film made in VistaVision Technicolor, which results in a strikingly vibrant, and art directed movie. Leonard Gershe was the writer and Stanley Donen directed the film, which starred Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. However, the main reason I thought it was important to have it in the library is because the lead character, a fashion photographer played by Astaire, is somewhat based on photographer Richard Avedon (1923–2004). The opening title sequence was composed, frame-by-frame, by Avedon who was a consultant for the film—he along with Bill Avery photographed all of the stills.

The film highlights Avedon’s affinity for photographing fashion models in action, full of energy, dexterity, movement, emotion, smiling, and laughing for the camera. A remarkable movie scene is when Hepburn’s character, a fashion model, descends an elegant staircase during a photo shoot. The scene seems to acknowledge, as homage, earlier artistic themes of painting the figure in motion of women descending a staircase. Perhaps this theme is best captured in twentieth-century cubist-futurist work of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), 1912. But, I was recently reminded of the theme again while at the Art Institute of Chicago—it reoccurs in Gerhard Richter’s painting, Woman Descending the Staircase (Frau die Treppe herabgehend), 1965.

The scene ends with a quick but insightful presentation of Avedon’s inventive color photography print process. Briefly working this sequence into the film is interesting.

Most Dordt art, design, and photo students are aware of Avedon’s very forthright black and white portraits photographed with a large-format 8x10 view camera on white backdrops (like those in the American West photo book). However, Avedon’s international acclaim came while working as chief photographer with Alexey Brodovitch, the art director for the fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar in the late 1940s to early 60s.

This is a fun movie for photo/design aficionados.

1 comment:

  1. i had no idea that i would end up an art director for magazines (Redbook, Parents, TV Guide, More, etc.), but as a child this was my favorite movie. Subliminal influence?


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