Jean-Marie Périer, the man behind some of the most iconic portraits from the sixties, now very much an icon himself, is exhibiting in London for the first time ever. And where else could that possibly be than with our friends at The Little Black Gallery. Timed perfectly to coincide with London Fashion Week, his exhibition titled Designers will be on show for a month from September 14.
Perhaps one of the most famous photographers to have emerged from France, Périer had an early creative start when, at just 16, he began working as an assistant to art collector and photographer, Daniel Filipacchi. Soon he was working for Jazz magazine, Paris-Match and Tele7Jours. Even in a time of war, when drafted to serve in Algeria, he worked in the Photographic Department for the French Army. This inherent talent and enthusiasm for photography set him on a trajectory that would take him deep into the realms of creativity, art and design.
In 1962, Périer became the official photographer for Salut Les Copains, then the world’s leading music magazine. It was here that he met and photographed the likes of Francoise Hardy, The Beatles, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, to name a few! Périer was now firmly on the map, having accumulated a giant repertoire of photography that chronicles the music world of its epoch in some of the most iconic scenes to date.
Set in an unassuming space off the Fulham Road, and considered one of the best boutique photography galleries in London, The Little Black Gallery is relentlessly controversial and intriguing. That’s why we love it. Home to an astounding archive collection of work by legendary fashion photographer, Bob Carlos Clarke, the space couldn’t be more perfect for Périer’s latest exhibition – portraits of some of the world’s top fashion designers. Saint-Laurent, Valentino, McCartney, Lagerfeld, Rykiel, Alaïa, Gaultier, Westwood and Galliano… they’re all there.
Given that the aforementioned ‘catwalk monarchy’ will actually be in London for Fashion Week from September 22-24, this tribute to them couldn’t be any more apropos. London Fashion Week is a GIANT, global celebration of the fashion industry, recognising its leaders directly and indirectly in a melange of mesh, models, martinis and mohair (note to self - check if mohair is IN this season). Périer’s exhibit however, moves the focus solely and directly back onto these founders of couture. It gives a pure, comprehensive look at each icon.
As always, Périer is a storyteller, and these images extend far beyond the realm of portrait for portrait’s sake. That’s hardly surprising considering the 10 years he spent directing big-name commercials in America. His experiences in cinematography appear to have manifested as an added dynamic to the way he approaches analogue film. Aside from the obvious still nature of photography, there is nothing compositionally stationary about any of the images from the Designers series. It’s almost as if each photo was a still from a movie.
Périer has really understood what the viewer wants from these portraits. When it comes to big personalities like Vivienne Westwood or Jean-Paul Gauthier, we’d like some narrative – a sense of (dare we say) style – to bring out the essence of the character. That’s exactly what Périer has done, delivering his subjects with such insight, sensitivity and at times, humour – you’d think he was best friends with each one. Perhaps he is!
We particularly enjoy Karl Lagerfeld in a huge black overcoat stood, statuesque as ever, under a black Chanel umbrella against a sad, snowy background. This is no doubt a hilariously macabre allusion to Lagerfeld’s signature monochromatic ‘funeral attire’; if you look closely enough, you can almost see a smirk emerging from under the stoic pout.
And there’s so much more to see – Gaultier in a white cassock, Galliano perched like a canary next to his canary-coloured creation and Saint-Laurent emerging from the folds of what is unmistakeably one of his signature frocks (cleverly disguised as a red curtain… or is it the other way around?). Truly, if you want to feel like a part of London Fashion Week, but can't face the frenzy, come and pore over these exquisite, fun prints at The Little Black Gallery.
The Little Black Gallery: thelittleblackgallery.com
Photography © Jean-Marie Périer / The Little Black Gallery