Venetia Scott’s Compelling Model Close-Ups

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Venetia Scott Fragile Face Lay Flat Matches Fashion
Fragile Face Lay Flat© Venetia Scott

Fragile Face Lay Flat is the photographer and stylist’s first solo exhibition, opening at Matches Fashion’s 5 Carlos Place next week

“I was looking for a candid moment,” says Venetia Scott, explaining the process of going through her archives in search of images to “re-contextualise” for a new project entitled Fragile Face Lay Flat. The result is a series of portraits: photographs from Scott’s extensive back-catalogue of fashion shoots which have been enlarged and cropped around the models’ faces. Uniquely captivating, these pictures will go on show at Matches Fashion’s Carlos Place townhouse next week in an exhibition created in collaboration with Sion and Moore.

Scott is both a photographer and a stylist: having established herself as a fashion editor in the 1980s and 90s,  she assisted Grace Coddington at British Vogue before collaborating with image-makers like Juergen Teller – the fruits of which altered the landscape of fashion photography in the 90s – and eventually picked up the camera herself in 2006. This decision came from wanting “a direct relationship with the model,” she tells AnOther. “I needed to cut out the middle man. Working as photographer and editor on a shoot brings all the elements together as a whole. It gives me a 360.” The fact that Scott would usually envision most elements of a picture anyway meant that stepping behind the camera too was a natural choice. (Though collaboration will never lose significance for her, she says: “Other times when I’m over obsessing about details it’s great to have someone, either editor or photographer, to bounce off and send ideas in unexpected directions.”)

Narrative has always been central to Scott’s photographs; the image-maker has said that coming up with a character, finding a location and casting the right model more often than not come before deciding on the clothes. The portraits in Fragile Face Lay Flat, however, are stripped of an overall story, offering a chance to see Scott’s model-characters anew. In her search for candour, Scott “started zooming in on the faces of the girls and saw that when the image was pared-back – with no narrative, context or location – I was left with the quintessence of the photo”. The result is a compelling series, whose subjects – models like Lindsey Wixson and Daphne Groeneveld, photographed for the pages of publications like AnOther, Dazed, Arena and Self Service – look out to the viewer with striking, engaged expressions. With the photographs’ headshot-like composition, and just the hint of a scene in the background, there is a quietly dramatic quality to the portraits.

“I enjoyed going back through the old photos. They were taken on film, hand-printed and are kept in archive boxes,” Scott continues. Shooting on film is a signature of hers, with favoured locations including picturesque landscapes, romantic gardens, retro interiors, striking architecture, and wide-open spaces. “It felt good to revisit them and see the work as a whole and see what had evolved and what had remained constant. The direct look to camera was the same throughout.” The title Fragile Face Lay Flat is taken from handling instructions on a packing crate, the image of which fronts a limited-edition book of the series with the same title. 

Sion and Moore, the gallery project helmed by creative consultant Kim Sion and Lucy Kumara Moore, a curator, writer (of, among other things, a column on and director of Claire de Rouen books, specialises in showcasing previously unseen photography. “Fragile Face Lay Flat will be Venetia’s first solo show and she was our first choice for this collaboration, a perfect match,” they say. “The photographs are unexpected, beautiful and intriguing and we hope you love them as much as we do.” The exhibition is a refresh of Scott’s archive, and a more intimate look at the cast of characters she has photographed over the last decade.

Fragile Face Lay Flat is at 5 Carlos Place from September 16 – 28, 2019. A limited-edition book of the same name will be available from Claire de Rouen