Shift through a common fashion magazine – mine has a cover with big ruby letters saying: “Your NEW LOOK starts here”, “BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL” and then it’s just “ALL WOMAN” in the top corner. A few pages into it you’re bombarded with perfected poses, make-up, logos, nail polish, intimate finger tip biting, forest camping in chic underwear, loafers and a new luxurious car on sylphlike palm while a dashing face gently breezes into its rear end. Rear-wheel drive I guess.
But let’s drop the irony for a moment. Your everyday fashion photography might get glittery and boring, unexciting and over-the-top. It wears you. I suppose it plays on mechanisms of self-image, a kind of painful jouissance that drives people to constantly overdo and over-express every bit of enjoyment they are able to obtain. I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with the industry though. It’s just like any other. Yet my general worry has always been that all the pressure from publishers, advertising agencies, producers and whatnot can make it photographically generic and vacant.
But it’s not the whole story after all. I feel Quentin De Wispelaere has found an ingenious way to turn the tables. He took the veiled process behind it all and made it into a photographic object. He has managed to rip the façade open, turn the order inside out and give us the RAW coverage of fashion machinery. The focus is always adrift – when we want the cat-walk, he gives us the audience; when we look for a model, he throws us at a reception line; when we are trying to discern a face, he directs our sight at a screening display. The subjectivity and objectivity, the means and the ends that dominate our understanding are inversed and suddenly we are in the hidden workings of the industry as well as our own perceptual apparatus. Quentin’s work displays a kind of photographic honesty – all pictures are real and shot as they are while retouching is nearly non-existing. The pictures reflect a strong emotional bearing of being-within-environment.
In short, our attention is not guided at the subjects or events but at the process of representation itself. It’s not what we see but how we see it and how we are presented with it. Some might describe this kind of work as cerebral and cold. But it’s exactly Quentin’s ambition – to provide a surgical, intrusive, paradoxical and deferred vision of our all-too-common and unreflective perception. It’s on to spark a doubt and invite us to dig into the grey matter. So in the end it is fashion and investigation. And that is what I want to see.
All of the pictures were taken in 2011-2014 during the major shows of world’s most recognized designers and brands. Quentin De Wispelaere has advanced his studies of perception and representation in his other works concerning desert mirages (Mirage Study, link) and jungle hallucinations (in process).