Sunday, January 3, 2010

Fraulein - Fashion Photography As an Art Form

Jean says: Happy 2010!

There's no time to lose! You've only got until January 30th to see Ellen von Unwerth's photo exhibition at Staley-Wise Gallery in Soho. An ex-model herself, Ellen has photographed just about every top fashion model in the last decade. Born in Munich, she was reportedly a knife-thrower's assistant before being discovered by a modeling company rep. (Don't worry, I checked -- she managed to survive that novel career choice with all her digits intact!) She photographed Claudia Schiffer's famous "Guess? Jeans" campaign. Her latest show features blow-ups of just a few of the photos in her latest book, "Fraulein." Published by Taschen, the 482-page book costs quite a pretty penny -- $700! Her work is known for its sexy femininity and fans of corsets and stilettos will not be disappointed. "Fraulein" features a veritable cavalcade of super models and celebrities such as Kate Moss, the above-mentioned Claudia Schiffer, Vanessa Paradis (that's Mrs. Johny Depp to you), Milla Jovovich (Ukrainian model, clothing designer and actress - you know, the action-hero vixen from the "Resident Evil" trilogy and the wonderfully shy wanderer in the futuristic "Fifth Element" with Bruce Willis), Monica Bellucci (Italian model and actress) and Carla Bruni (Italian singer, model and wife of Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France). [Valerie says: notice the order in which her credentials are named.]

Valerie and I attended the December 10th opening at Staley-Wise Gallery (on Broadway at Prince St.) where Ellen presided over a packed house. Among the attendees were fashion designers like Erin Featherstone (here and below) and Anna Sui (see below), hair stylists and colorists, video music artists, models and an assortment of students, writers and photographers. Staley-Wise specializes in fashion photography and features work by Deborah Turbeville, Chris von Wagenheim, Patrick Demarchelier, Arthur Elgort and Herb Ritts. We were delighted to run into our friends, artist Katherine Crone and photographer John Lamparski at the show (whom you may recall had also attended Valerie's 09/09/09 gathering at Tabla).

Ellen is a woman of a certain age who has not only aged beautifully physically but also professionally. Sleek as a greyhound, she has transitioned flawlessly from life in front of a camera to become a photographer with an "eye." Her photographs are iconic and recognizable. They continue to excite and delight. Like a choreographer who develops and refines a vocabulary of steps, she produces photographs with a distinctive "feel." They convey a certain frisson, a palpable tension between the observer and the observed. (Frisson - from the old French: a brief moment of intense excitement, a shudder, a thrill.") Here she is with Sarabeth Stroller (about whom, more later...)

Erin Featherstone, as tall and slim as any fashion model, wore a fabulous black tulle veil over her famous Dutch-boy platinum hair, a black long-sleeved sheath and black patent pumps with sky-scraping 6-inch heels!

Anna Sui wore a very interesting necklace of grey wool poufs. She was extremely approachable. Here she is, graciously posing with her young admirers. For a great shot of Anna's striking necklace and to get a professional photographer's take on the evening, go to

Wearing a "Road Warrior meets Ophelia" look, Sarabeth Stroller appeared at the opening with her friend Daniel K. Avid fans of von Unwerth's photography will recognize Sarabeth from Ellen's 2003 book "Revenge". Those photos, which traced the adventures of three young women romping at a baroness' country estate, are quite reminiscent of the late, great Helmut Newton in both style and subject matter.

Sarabeth posed with two guests, both named Marco! (Both of whom Valerie and I had the pleasure of speaking with that evening. Deja vu, Jane Austen?)

Here's one of the guests channeling his inner "Big Bird". His yellow faux fur coat was a big hit. Positioning himself near the bar, he was impossible to miss. He possessed a sense of humor every bit as sharp as his fashion sense.

A student and aspiring fashion writer, Shirin cut quite a figure with her architectural hair and clothing. Under her asymmetrical jacket, she wore a terrific pair of high-waisted grey flannel wide leg pants with a grey sleeveless turtleneck sweater. Tres chic. You can spy one of Ellen's atmospheric photograph's over Shirin's left shoulder. (Click on photos to enlarge!)

Here's Valerie and two of her new acquaintances: Marco and Robert. Marco does video and film. Robert's dog, Spartacus, has his own website: (I must confess that before I starting blogging, I had no idea how many canines were so internet-savvy!) Do check it out.

Marco photographed Valerie and me under the wreath in the lobby of 560 Broadway. After saying our farewells, Valerie and I departed for the ever so new and ever so trendy Crosby Street Hotel. Once ensconced in the Crosby Bar, we shamelessly indulged in even more people-watching amid beautiful surroundings -- comfortable cushioned seating in front of the pewter bar, grey oak floors and, my personal favorite -- a wall sconce comprised of black bakelite telephones! The menu was quite interesting - we had scallop sliders and peeky toe crab cakes and a glass of bubbly. IF regulars will no doubt recognize our hats and attire from our Dec. 13, 2009 "Twelve Hats of Christmas" posting for hats 7 and 8 (felt hats) -- which we shot later that very same evening in the Crosby's lobby and in the Spring Street IRT station.

We do hope that, if fashion photography is your thing, you'll make your way to Staley-Wise Gallery before Ellen's show closes at the end of the month. And if you do, please drop us a line and tell us what you think. And, if you're really "in the chips" and can afford to buy the book, please consider loaning it to your needy IFs! Til next time, dahlings, best of luck in keeping those pesky New Year's resolutions!


  1. Great commentary. Makes me want to go back again to see if I missed anything. I was too busy looking at the people attending the opening.
    Thanks for mentioning me in the post.

  2. thanks for sharing this awesome post I love fashion and long boots and every thing related to fashion its really very nice and informative