Powerful, sexy and sensual. A book showcasing one of the great photography talents from this era
Michael Doster’s most famous photographs are still a benchmark for glamour in the age of excess. His photographs of the ‘supers’ of the era as they started their careers – from Gia & Iman to Linda & Claudia - are as much a snapshot of the era as the bold colours, unashamed prints and towering shoulder pads that they showcased. And what shoulder pads they were – Alaia, Ungaro, Versace, Armani – designers arguably at their zenith at that period. ‘The Eighties (were) my time’ he says. Indeed, by the mid ‘90s, Doster had started working on art rather than fashion photography. ‘All of sudden, there was this grunge look,’ he explains. ‘The glamour was gone and they wanted us to shoot girls sitting on a toilet’. And that perhaps neatly encapsulates Doster’s women: powerful, sexy, and sensual, they exuded wealth and sophistication. Not for them the gritty tenements of Terry, Tillmans and Teller.
Doster began as a fashion photographer in Munich, before finally settling in New York in 1974. His work for publications like VOGUE revered the human form as an artistic object, much like the couture or staged sets he shot. ‘Its all about image today. When I started, the material and shape of the clothes were important. It’s totally different’. For him, what made the ‘80s his decade was the particular attitude of the times: ‘The hair and shoulder’s couldn’t be big enough!’, he exclaims. Yet, his ultimate drive was his quest for aesthetic perfection. ‘ I am an analogue photographer. For me, photography is what your eye sees through the camera and the result. I was addicted to details: lights and accessories that perfected the dress. I was obsessed with studio shootings, location and ‘ambiente’. And I like slightly overexposed films so the girls skin complexion glows. My philosophy was always to give the very best but it had to be fast. I don’t get the energy of concentration when its slow.’
80’s/90’s is not only a monograph of Doster’s favourite time in fashion photography. It also paints an insightful picture of the man himself, who is less famous than many of his contemporaries but perhaps unfairly so, given his talent and his charm (as is obvious in his interview with Katinka Omir). Doster’s vivid images to leap out of each page, and it is obvious that younger photographers today like Greg Kadel have been inspired by the sharp contrasts and shadow play that have captured high fashion at arguably its most unique period. If you ever come across a full Doster editorial, the impact is even greater – his was the finest of lines between fantasy and reality of the period (but you’d probably have to have lived in the eighties to know).
Indeed, Doster’s are a treasure trove of original ‘80s references – from the Serge Lutens–inspired beauty to killer clothes (Lanvin, Laurel, Lagerfeld) and accessories (hoops and pearls galore). Yet, there is a body of work in this fascinating retrospective that stands out as timelessly as a Bourke-White: his black and white images. Devoid of the ostentation and gilt, his monochromes of urban landscapes and the powerful, perfectly posed women who rule them are true works of art. And this will probably be this respected 71-year-old photographer’s greatest legacy to his art.
Michael Doster: 80s-90s Foreword by Regina Stahl. Text by Katinka Omir.
Publisher: Damiani List Price: US$ 69.00 / CAN $ 83.00 Format: Hardback, 9.75 x 13.25 in / 304 pages / 127 colour / 132 b&w ISBN: 9788862080910 / ISBN10: 8862080913 Publication Date: 31 October 2009