Photography // Deborah Turbeville


In order to adeptly discuss Deborah Turbeville, I should probably set some background information on the photography scene of the seventies - 
There were the sleekly aestheticised provocations of the contemporaries; Guy Bourdin, Steven Meisel and Helmut Newton. 
Then there was Turbeville, who, along with the likes of Paolo Roversi and Sarah Moon, provided the stark contrast of soft focus styles which were unknowingly and desperately needed by the world, longed for by the sensual.


To me great fashion photography should not be focussed on the clothing, but on the feelings contained by an image and its subject. Every shot of Turbeville's striking spreads manage to capture shock, melancholy and sadness whilst forever alluding to the multitudes of Womanhood. Unlike other fashion photographers of her time Turbeville's work, ambiguously positioned between fashion and fine-art, is focussed beyond the 'beauty'. 
Comme des Garçons, Escalier dans Passage Viviennem Paris, November 1980 (veiled model in black descending staircase)

Finally, there became an intuitively rebellious photographer whose timeless imagery displayed women who were not trying to please the viewer. Through subdued romance and languid elegance is the revelation of their complicated and private lives; an authenticity rarely seen in front of the camera.

"I go into a woman's private world, where you never go" Deborah Turbeville to the New York Times, 1977

Her idiosyncrasy is revealed through the collages that often contained up to twenty photographs. There is no interest in the pristine print. Rough textures, blur, grain, flair and accidents are the small flecks of imperfection that create the true realism and innocence centred in her work.

Diana Vreeland, 1981
Mantova, Italy, 1977
Asser Levy Bathhouse, New York, 1975, for Vogue

"I wanted to take photographs that were outside time, of people in today's world with the atmosphere of the past reflected in their faces, of palaces and gardens abandoned and overgrown.
"Photographs that retain a history" Deborah Turbeville

Every quote on or from Turbeville is one that I have the upmost agreeance with. Every description of her style describes what I look for and innately link to in images. The settings and locations are not documented. They are hallucinated.
Even in today's photography the images are manipulated and even mutilated to be as 'clean' and 'crisp' as possible in order to sell the garments or story. Few show the honesty that Turbeville's does. It is the rarity of her work is what makes it forever timeless, classic and relevant.

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