'Imagination will take you everywhere'
French German Photographer Cathleen Naundorf has recently caught my attention through her vivid and mesmerising contributions to British Harper’s Bazaar. Her fashion photographs exude an otherworldly, timeless elegance with an obvious nod to her mentor, Horst P. Horst, through dramatic lighting – ‘zwielichtin’ in German, which translates as ‘the play of light’.
Naundorf is unique from most of your average modern fashion photographers, as she favours using an old-fashioned Deardorff or Plaubel camera with negative or Polaroid films, to achieve a slightly sinister, ethereal, vintage style. I adore the way her photographs convey a sense of imperfection; the mottled effect and scratches are like the lines on a woman’s face; they tell a story, yet don’t mask the beauty of the overall image.
In June 2012, Naundorf published her first book, Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf, which contained images of models dressed head to toe in couture – Chanel, Dior, Valentino, Elie Saab and Lacroix – within the grandest setting of them all; Paris (which happens to be where Naundorf is based). The book established her prominence within both the fashion and art worlds; the boundary between the two industries is constantly blurred within Naundorf’s work. She actually started as a painter, which explains the incredibly artistic and authentic edge of her photographs.
My favourite fashion shoot of Naundorf’s is within the May 2013 edition of British Harper’s Bazaar, entitled ‘Garden Of Evening Mists’. The title itself hints at the dreamlike imagery which flows through the following pages, but nothing can prepare the reader for the enchanting yet mysterious world which Naundorf presents. The extravagant props (real doves, vines of blood-red berries, parasols) and elaborate headpieces, combine with painted backdrops and Naundorf’s trademark ghostly style to convey a juxtaposition between pretty innocence and dark decay. A sad fairy tale. An absolute genius.