Approaching the black box protruding from the pavement at Potsdammer Platz, I wonder where my destination is hidden. I take an escalator underground to find the bizarre venue of the U3 Bahnof & Tunnel which houses Karl Lagerfeld’s latest photography exhibition, “The Little Black Jacket.” The place screams “Chanel;” despite essentially being held in some sort of vast, concrete underground cavern, it is still painfully chic, from the glamorous lighting and black drapes to the beautiful models hired to work at the cloakroom and as security guards.
Inside there are three main rooms, all depicting Chanel’s little black jacket, an item of clothing which Lagerfeld believes is the female classic equivalent of a man’s two button suit. At first I do not even realize that the jacket features in each photograph, as each image is so distinct and different from the next. Featuring a whole host of superstars including Uma Thurman, Daphne Guinness and Kanye West, the exhibition presents the jacket in a unique way in every photograph, and whether worn as a top, skirt, hat, or indeed as a jacket, it always looks good.
Celebrity hall of fame – “The Little Black Jacket” exhibition in Berlin. Photo: Chris Phillips
All of the subjects chosen are beautiful, though this makes me wonder how hard is it to photograph them anyway; it is hard to make people that beautiful look ugly. It also causes me to think about where the real skill in this series of photographs lies, with the “photographer,” Mr. Lagerfeld, or with the stylist, who has transformed this piece of clothing umpteen times to create differing yet consistently visually stunning scenes.
Style Vs. Skill
Karl is not exactly noted for his photography skills. Despite dabbling in the medium for several years, many industry insiders have expressed their surprise at his minimal involvement with the actual practice of photography itself, leaving the setup and settings to his extensive hired team. Although the photographs on display at “The Little Black Jacket” contain exquisite subjects, the photography itself is short of remarkable, some of the inverted images even quite embarrassing, resembling more the work of a student’s bad photoshopping skills than the work of an international icon. The “Glass Sculpture” series also leaves something to be desired, the illuminated photographs reminding me of cheap-looking pop art posters.
Fashion photography has, of course, always been a contentious subject in relation to art. Despite this tension, I feel that “The Little Black Book” simply does not compare to the work of photographers such as Nick Knight or Richard Avedon. In contemporary society, people with celebrity status get away with doing questionable things, but Karl: keep your day job.
- U3 Bahnhof & Tunnel – Karl Lagerfeld “The Little Black Jacket” – Until December 14 2012 – Mon, Tues, Weds, Thurs, Fri 11am-7pm, Thurs 11am-10pm, Sat & Sun, 11am-8pm [Free]
Article by Marie J Burrows