Friday, December 10, 2010

Natural High Fashion

German photographer Hans Silvester has documented the Surma and Mursi people of southern Ethiopia and their creative DIY/haute couture tradition of body decoration. "Natural Fashion," a book of the photos was published in 2008 and there is a small show of these works in New York through January 8, at Marlborough Graphics, 40 W. 57th St.

The exuberance with which the tribe members employ animal, vegetable and mineral for mark-making and other adornment is stunning in its inventiveness and sophistication. The images, which celebrate the art and physicality of people who wear nothing but fingerpaint, flowers, and seedpods, are utterly enchanting. You might very well find yourself inspired to frolic in nature and take up crafting.

Or, alternatively (since you are probably dressed entirely in black), you’ll be mentally placing Silvester’s photographs within the universe of ethnographic images made by Irving Penn and Leni Reifenstal, or those we’ve seen in Vogue, National Geographic and modern advertising. Before you know it, you’ll be pondering post-structuralist anthropology, the Western gaze, and the entire artistic/fashionistic industrial complex.

Perhaps we simply are what we wear.

Much thanks to Vito Zarkovic for posting about "Natural Fashion" on his FB page. The images here and many more can be seen here.

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