Vogue 100: A Century Of Style At The National Portrait Gallery, London

Vogue Exhibition at National Portrait Gallery

A gallant mind of an editor, the boundless vision of a photographer and a model posing dauntlessly, all reflecting a journey of 100 years of fashion, women and society under one roof. The National Portrait Gallery showcases an exciting and alluring exhibition of one of the most influential fashion magazine, British Vogue. With over 280 prints from the Conde Nast archive, this exhibition tells a story of the magazine since it was first published in 1916 through a remarkable range of beauty, fashion and meritorious photography.

The audience is welcomed by a film that promotes the idea about fashion photography not being just about still images any longer. Proceeding through a series of reverse-chronological layout, one room for each decade celebrates the designers, models and the photographers ruling the pages of Vogue who not only reflects the cultural history of British women and society but also builds it. The work of nearly 80 contributing photographers and illustrators adorn the walls of the gallery.

Since the first issue in September of 1916, British Vogue made a promise to its reader to lead them into a magnificent, flamboyant and romantically glamorous world of an opulent woman. The artificial image making somehow persuaded the readers to escape reality and immerse in the world of affluence. It was always aimed at the elite women that can afford an expensive lifestyle and showed them more ways to spend their money through eminent advertising which holds a pivotal role and this promise was accomplished by the historic names in portraiture- Cecil Beaton, Edward Steichen, Irving Penn, Charles Sheeler, Lee Miller, Erwin Blumenfeld, Man Ray and many more. But in 1942, the Vogue archive was recycled to help the war effort, losing some of the gems.

One of the most celebrated photographer of his day, Emil Otto Hoppe’s editorial and society photographs were some of the very first published photographs in British Vogue. But it was in 1914, when Baron de Meyer, known as Debussy of the camera, was hired by Conde Nast on a salary of $100 a week, fashion photography became a career. De Meyer photographed his subjects in artificial lights, aesthetic-looking somber shadows, that became dazzling, playing extraordinary tricks.

The captivating exhibition also incorporates works of Cecil Beaton, a proficient photographer and painter saw his photographs published in Vogue at the age of 20. He photographed unanticipated personalities instead of conventional subjects. Edward Steichen, a painter and photographer, propelled Vogue into the modern age, he was the first men to bring “Modern Art” from Paris. He gave up painting to devote his time to photography after the war and advanced the aesthetic quality of photography in magazine advertising.


If Vogue scores an opportunity to display their optimum works of art again, they could not skip Man Ray- an American in Paris, the artist who bought sex and drama to the birth of modernism. Charles Sheeler’s vivid display of his love for basic structure and form evidently showcased his American vision. ‘The Boxy Suit’ by Nick Knight, a frequent contributor to the American and British Vogue, was more than popular and well appreciated. His photos went beyond fashion, advancing the technical limits to give a bold alternative to the visuals.

Vogue, with the advocacy of photography, take viewers on an illuminating journey of developing technology from notable illustrations bearing the influence of war to the invasion of the digital age over the past century, giving vital attention to every detail. The curator of the exhibition, Robin Muir, is himself a photographic historian and contributing editor to the title. He claims Vogue to be about fashion, art, photography and literature solely influenced by people, society, culture and fashion.

Vogue 100: A Century of Style, until 22nd May 2016, at the National Portrait Gallery, St. Martin’s Pl, London

Images of the gallery –

– Pinanki Shah