Of all the mythical exercises particular to the fashion industry – press days, call-ins, re-sees, walk-throughs – go-sees might be among the most obscure. And yet the process, in which emerging models visit established fashion photographers or magazines in the hopes that they might be recruited for a shoot, is as familiar now as it was in the mid-to-late 1990s when, over a 12-month period, photographer Juergen Teller set out to document those he himself experienced.
The result is a series of no fewer than 462 photographs, which, having previously been published in book-form, are now on display as part of a new exhibition at London’s Alison Jacques Gallery, entitled Juergen Teller: Go-Sees, Bubenreuth Kids and a Fairytale About a King. Many of them feature the front door or pavement outside Teller’s West London studio – models smile, or look down at the floor awkwardly, or crouch, or perform gymnastics with teenage enthusiasm, in a refreshingly candid and spontaneous portrait of the reality of model life. And while there are some superstars in the mix – don’t miss a young Shalom Harlow, for example – mostly what Teller documents so adeptly is that strange and slightly surreal rite of passage which places young women in front of the lens, passive and bemused.
In setting out on the project in the first place, Teller himself seems to acknowledge this, too. What starts out as a seemingly simple undertaking becomes a gentle interrogration of the fashion industry, and in turn of the photographer/subject relationship it perpetuates. “The models in Go-Sees become much more than bearers of externally directed aesthetic values,” writes Shannan Peckham in the book version of the series, published by Scalo in 1999. “While the photographic gaze is shaped by and reciprocally shapes the convention of the go-see, Teller suggests that even within these parameters it is possible to find new ways of seeing.”
Juergen Teller: Go-Sees, Bubenreuth Kids and a Fairytale About a King runs until January 13, 2018 at Alison Jacques Gallery, London.