Photographing fashion on a Council estate

I am sure that Jane Shepherdson thought an edgy photo shoot on a Council housing estate would make her clothes really stand out. Why not use a Council estate as a backdrop? Perhaps the sculptural beauty of the Municipal architecture would emphasise the structural lines of the frocks. The curve of the dippy hem against those rows and rows of concrete walk-ways might make a pleasing, yet challenging, contrast. Have a look at the collection from www.whistles.com/look-book

The entire collection is more or less made out of black jersey and is styled, accessory and colour-free, on a model without obvious make-up and slightly lank hair. The stark background may be appropriate. Do these estate shots look beautiful or threatening to you? They certainly look clean and tidy. No washing or satellite dishes. But no people either. I mean no tenants. No residents. No caretakers. No visitors. I guess the company paid the Council for the opportunity to take pictures of people’s homes without the humanising element. The model doesn’t look very comfortable, or at home here. The setting is ironic. She doesn’t live here. Does she convey some anxiety that a boy on a bike might nab her bag, or is she just really uncomfortable on the Council benches, bolted to the ground?

We are working with tenants on the Aylesbury estate in Southwark at the moment, on a long-term plan to regenerate the area. Their famous estate is the one used for the Channel Four “ident” – the short film that introduces the channel at the start of a programme. You can read about it here. Local residents were angry that C4 had made their estate look worse by hanging washing and putting rubbish out, in order that the programme makers got the image of Council housing that corresponded with their own stereotypes. In response they made a short film which, while recognising some of the architectural and maintenance failings of their estate, celebrates the people who live there.

And below we feature a Norman Parkinson photograph from 1950 of a model in a beautiful suit, backdropped by a Peabody estate in Fulham. The desolate pram – maybe she doesn’t want to hear her baby crying as she stands to the photographer’s attention. In her hat, gloves and bag she looks like she is about to leave. Is she running away from the baby and the estate? Or is she a doctor or social worker, perhaps, visiting the estate because she is just doing her job?

Model in smart suit at1950, Peabody Buildings, Fulham Road
1950, Peabody Buildings, Fulham Road

Finally here is photograph taken, not styled, of my beautiful daughter outside her home. She is wearing Vogue 9435, block printed and made by me for the early months of her pregnancy.

Pregnant woman in Vogue 9435
2014, Peabody Buildings, Camberwell
Vogue 9435
Vogue 9435

 

3 Responses

  1. I reckon that’s the Barbican estate – unlikely to be much council housing left there! Also, it’s rather empty during the day, maybe the residents are out working in the city. The architecture is very fashionable, not sure about the boring clothing collection!

  2. I think you are right now I look it! Rather ruins the argument doesn’t it?

  3. It’s someone’s creative vision, but I’m having a hard time understanding it. I see cement and bricks assembled, I’m guessing in the 60s (?) with the overlay of a woman dressed in plain clothing with some styling. When I go to the look book and see some of the images on a gray seamless I still can’t connect the dots. The clothing stand out more and I start to understand the textures.

    Your daughter, on the other hand, is adorable. She looks so joyful. She pops out from the industrial cityscape.

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