Friday, July 1, 2016

Photo Book Review: Deborah Turbeville: The Fashion Pictures

The lavish volume Deborah Turbeville: The Fashion Pictures is best pored through on a rainy afternoon when one has the time to review the photographs at an unhurried pace and to enter into the timeless worlds they create and be seduced by their beauty.

When one looks at a Turbeville photo one feels he or she is rummaging through a long unopened trunk at an abandoned warehouse when suddenly he comes upon discarded photographs from another era.  The photos are rarely sharp and often appear distressed.  They seem snapshots from a forgotten world.  The scenes they depict are instantly intriguing and draw the viewer in as he attempts to determine what is happening in each even though he is conscious that what he sees is only a fragment and that he will never know the whole story.

The photos are mostly black & white; and even the color photographs' hues are muted as though faded by time.  The settings invariably appear Old World - Paris drawing rooms, Venetian palazzos and Saint Petersburg palaces - ornate and upper class.  One is reminded of Proust's descriptions of the Fauborg Saint-Germain.  Even the photos shot in New York City have a European flavor to them.  They are the perfect setting for the depictions of the haute couture contained within them.

As Franca Sozzani says of Turbeville in the book's Foreword:
"Every single photo could be a frame of a movie.  She is a storyteller, and even though the photo is a scene frozen in time, Deborah allows your imagination to fly into the past - in what could have happened before or may happen in the future, in what could happen after that specific moment.  She is a poet of photography."
Turbeville herself writes fascinating descriptions of the settings of her photos, locations such as Soviet occupied Krakow and the Ostankino Estate in Moscow.  Her greatest asset is her unbridled romanticism.

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