Capturing Timeless Beauty

Conceiving the current “Timeless Beauty” exhibition at C/O Berlin as an artist’s quest to find the truth of beauty within the pages of Vogue, Leanne McClean, visits the exhibition which is set to be one of the last exhibitions before C/O Berlin leaves the large and wondrous former post office, Postfuhramt, and moves over to Monbijou Park. Displaying 150 prints – some of which have never been shown before – the curator Nathalie Herschdorfer has selected the essence of fashion photography with works from a range of photographers, from Edward Steichen, Peter Lindbergh, and George Hoyningen-Huene to Helmut Newton and Diane Arbus. Join Leanne on her journey to find beauty…

When Beauty is Almost too Much

Last night I was walking through Alexanderplatz at dusk, the light perfect, with the nostalgic remnants of a mid-summer heat, a busker playing the band Oasis’ hit “Wonderwall” in the distance, a soft scent in the air. And suddenly, the world became too beautiful for me to handle; tears formed in my eyes – the magic of the moment was just too much. So in my panic I ran into the nearest Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), smelt the greasy and heavy scent of salty fried chicken and sat on a hard, plastic seat, and I suddenly felt better again. Sometimes true beauty can be quite painful indeed, and as they say – it is most definitely fleeting!

But at other times, true beauty can be quite the opposite of painful and passive; it can be playful, joyful, enigmatic, and timeless. The exhibition “Timeless Beauty” is a testament to this – when visiting, I was taken through a journey of the history of beauty in the form of fashion photography. From the demure black and white prints taken from Vogue magazines of days gone by, to 21st century women, bikini-clad on sizzling beaches, the exhibition seemed to demand the question of what is the true essence of this thing called beauty. If beauty is timeless, then why do fashions change? If beauty is the goal, why can it be painful?

Looking at the 150 photos on display from so many eras, I kept thinking about the idea of “timeless beauty” – surely if beauty was timeless, then all of these pictures would look the same, nothing would ever change. But then I realized; beauty is timeless, but so is our need for constant motion. So we have to reinvent beauty, we have to alter our opinions to keep ourselves seeing the magic. To me, it suddenly became clear – beauty is timeless, only our perceptions change. And in some ways, this was also a bit settling as I realized that this could be the final exhibition filling the halls of C/O Berlin at the Postfuhramt – but the beauty of photography will surely move on to their next location.

  •  C/O Berlin Timeless Beauty: 100 years of fashion photography from Man Ray to Mario Testino.  August 18th – October 28th, 2012.  Open Daily 11am – 5pm (Price Range: Not for sale)