“The world in which a man lives shapes itself chiefly by the way in which he looks at it.” Schopenhauer. “And this is how I look at this period of my life.” Denis Piel, 2020.
FILMSCAPES is a wonderful retrospective by DENIS PIEL, one of the most influential fashion photographers of the 20th century. It features models and actresses such as Andie MacDowell, with and without couture, or waiting on set, alongside tear sheets from his VOGUE and VOGUE ITALIA years, spanning a period from the late 1970s through the late 80s. These photos tell the stories behind his cinematic editorials as well as give readers a glimpse at the artistic creative process.
Denis tells GoSee : “In FILMSCAPES, I explore my storytelling process. I have selected specific VOGUE shoots from 1979-1989 that were particularly seductive. The book juxtaposes my personal selections against tear sheets showing the initial images used for editorial publication. Many images from my personal edit have never been seen before. My way of looking at things came probably very early in my life. Storytelling has always been essential for me ever since I was a kid; it was my way of making the world the way I wanted it to be. So, of course, when I started taking pictures, it seemed like a pretty natural extension and one that gave me enormous pleasure.”
Born in France, Denis Piel moved to Australia with his family as a child where he started exploring the medium of photography. He worked in Brisbane, Melbourne, Paris, and finally, in New York in the 1970s. A spread in The New York Times Magazine in 1979 caught the attention of Vogue Art Director Alexander Liberman and marked the beginning of his international career. From then on, he worked for Condé Nast and shaped the glamorous look of the over-the-top 80s with his photography in the decades to come.
In the later part of his career, he focused increasingly on film, shot campaigns for clients such as Donna Karan and finally his film documentary ‘Love Is Blind’. In 1987, he was awarded the Leica Medal of Excellence for Commercial Photography. Following 9/11 and the Dot.Com crisis, he settled down with his family in France where he restored the Chateau de Padiès, a continuous source of inspiration for him henceforth and where he lives and works to this day. In 2012, Rizzoli published MOMENTS, his first monograph.
The Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography hosted FILM STILLS in 2017, his first exhibition in Moscow. In an interview, he talks about the concept of beauty : “I think the beauty in people is what they project from themselves, and how they are with themselves and with other people.” And about FILM STILLS : “The book shows the pictures as they were in a magazine, and then I show the pictures as I saw them, my choices within those shoots. I tell the story, and each story unfolds as complete. I’ve always worked very cinematographically – a bit like a film director, if you like: I am giving people a scenario, I am giving them directions, I am asking them to think certain ways and react in certain ways.”
About – FILMSCAPES explores Piel’s photographic process through his own eye. Specific photo shoots, selected by the photographer from his vast archive, are presented to highlight his method and distinctive cinematic style. Juxtaposed against tear sheets showing what was initially selected for editorial publication, each shoot contains Piel’s personal edit, many of which have never been seen before. Denis Piel examines his approach to the execution of his work and its selection. He conducted his photo shoots by shooting a complete storyline, using his models as actors. Piel sought to capture those intimate, private moments that occur in between pictures, giving the viewer a glimpse into a larger plot.
About – DENIS PIEL was one of the most prolific and influential commercial photographers of the late 20th century. While on contract with Condé Nast, he created some of the era’s most seminal fashion and portrait photographs for publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Self, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine. In 2011, renowned fashion stylist Polly Mellen said about working with Denis, “I was fascinated with his direction when shooting an image. He seemed to want to capture the off-moment… his pictures (were) cinematic… and, for me, captivating”.
DENIS PIEL 'FILMSCAPES' . Price: US$ 97, Size: 24X30 – 312 pages . Details: Limited Edition of 500 Books