by Robert Janjigian
Luntz gallery showcases Cathleen Naundorf’s ‘beautifully composed’ fashion works
German-born photographer Cathleen Naundorf had no real interest in fashion until a 1997 move to Paris.
Hired by magazines to shoot the backstage scene at fashion shows for a variety of publications, Naundorf, who worked principally as a travel photographer before her arrival in France, gradually became intrigued by the haute couture creations she saw on runways.
“They tell a story,” said Naundorf, whose photographs of haute couture designs taken between 2005 and 2012 are on view at Holden Luntz Gallery through Feb. 22.
”Haute couture presents the dreams of a designer. Ifs not a commercial statement, but an artistic statement.”
She came to appreciate the dramatic and sculptural quality of the clothes, the intricacy of their construction and the fact that many pieces in a haute couture collection are one-of-a-kind, produced only to express a designer’s quite singular vision at a particular time.
And Naundorf was able to gain the trust of several couture houses and designers and given full access to their archives. She has created images featuring couture designs by Jean Paul Gaultier, Emanuel Ungaro, Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Christian Lacroix, Giorgio Armani and Elie Saab.
The 25 color and black-and-white images in the Luntz gallery show were made by a process that starts with capturing a subject on 4×5 or 8×10 Polaroid instant film and creating a new negative that can be enlarged, printed and retouched by hand to suit the photographer’s aesthetic.
Naundorf doesn’t want her photographs to look perfect, so she eschews digital technology and such computer programs as Photoshop. To her, the Polaroid has inherent imperfections and is an unusual object that matches the concept of haute couture.
She characterizes her style as painterly, romantic, mysterious and often provocative.
“Cathleen’s photographs are contemporary but don^t look contemporary, with images that are ambiguous in terms of time and space,” said Luntz, who organized the first American exhibition of Naundorf’s work at his Worth Avenue gallery in 2006. He calls the photographers Polaroid images “beautifully composed and beautifully printed.”