During the past 35 years I have dedicated myself to photographing fully accessorized 1920s vintage fashion and accessories for a two-volume book project that I hope will help to serve as a reference to the rapid evolution of fashion in the remarkable roaring decade of the 20s. The fashion I'm photographing for the project is focused on everyday retail-wear, as well as the haute couture houses of 1920s Paris. To my knowledge, for the first time ever, fashion and accessories that have previously been hand illustrated, will be shown in full photographic context and color. My intention behind the project was for it serve as a fashion reference for this extraordinary and lavish decade, which will be accomplished through the publication of a two-volume book set (published by M27 Editions and slated for release in 2014), a documentary film and a full exhibit and print collection.
The project's principal challenge has been to create "captured moments" through the use of mannequins that were styled to exhibit perfect, true-to-life anatomy. This often required the right selection of mannequin hand and head positioning, and appropriate foot stance, and in many cases an array of translucent threads were utilized to suspend the fashion in order to amplify the illusion of movement.
Much emphasis was placed on developing a series of mannequins to provide flexibility when showing a broad variety of expressions, gestures, moods, and attitudes. As an example, the mannequins were first modified by replacing all the heads with fiberglass copies of an original plaster head used for a hat display from the era. In turn, this afforded me a perfect fit for my substantial collection of cloche hats of the period. The original mannequin feet were honed down to accommodate the lower heels and smaller sizes of the period, and the upper and lower torsos were interchanged, following removal of the square torso connecting rod and replaced with a specially developed adjustable anchor and flat edge wooden balls, all to give the right body lean in reference to the lower torso. Articulated arms with interchangeable hands were used for the long sleeve garments to allow more natural movements.
This, and a bit more, are some of the project highlights I plan to share with you in my lecture at the Annenberg Space for Photography.
Neal Barr opened his photo studio in New York City in 1962, specializing in fashion and beauty assignments for magazines and advertising agencies. Between 1963-1965, Barr shot eight covers for Sports Illustrated, including boxer Cassius Clay’s first SI cover. From 1966-1974, he was a contributing photographer to Harper's Bazaar, frequently photographing the French couture collections. His Iris Nights lecture will take place on July 18, 2013. Learn more about Barr on his official website.