Russell James Photographs the World’s Most Famous Fashion Models—Minus the Fashion
In two Berlin exhibitions this spring, photographer Russell James explores the beauty of the female form in two very different ways.
Supermodels seem to exist in another dimension. Just the name alone places them somehow outside, above the everyday world. In his photographic series “Angels” and “Seminole Spirit,” James pays homage to these beautiful creatures, stripped bare. At Berlin gallery Camera Work, the Australian photographer presents more than 30 photographs of some of the world’s most famous women—in a more intimate, natural light than we usually see them.
Printed in luscious black and white, the images in Angels comprise 15 years of work, and feature top models including Abbey Lee Kershaw, Adriana Lima, and even newcomer Kendall Jenner—many of whom he met during his time as a photographer for Victoria’s Secret. James’s photographs of these women attempt to celebrate them without commodifying their beauty. There are no logos or fashion labels here.
In “Seminole Spirit,” James explores Florida’s Seminole tribe with a series of richly printed works on handmade Japanese Igarashi Kozo paper. In this series, James combines abstractions full of organic texture with images of the model Behati Prinsloo, her hair wild, the edges of the handmade paper they are printed on fraying. Here, the crisp black and white of the Angels series is replaced by a natural softness and a sense of mysticism and passing time.
In James’s work, the models are presented as works of living art, without the makeup, hair, and high fashion with which they are usually adorned. The images are erotically and sexually charged, but in a way that’s much softer than the ads and magazine spreads where we most often encounter these famous faces (and bodies). And in their contradictions, the two series currently on view in Berlin embody the very concept at the heart of James’s Nomad Two Worlds project: two extremely different concepts of beauty—the slick studio shot, and the raw, natural world—each striking in its own way.