Sonic moments: a new exhibition of rock ’n’ roll photographs by Hedi Slimane opens at Paris’ Fondation Pierre Bergé
Hedi Slimane may have lunged back in the headlines for his role as creative director at luxury giant Saint Laurent, but his endearing fervor for photography is the subject of a new exhibition at Paris’ Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent.
Titled ’Sonic’, the black-and-white photographic essay delves into Slimane’s archive from the past 15 years. In the intimate portrait and reportage series, he’s captured the drama of life on the road and under the bright lights in intricate detail.
Raw and digitally unretouched, the exhibition - which Wallpaper* previewed in our current issue (see W*187) - extends a backstage pass to the gritty world of rock ’n’ roll, from Elvis’ Graceland mansion (though don’t expect those famed gates) to the ranch of Jerry Lee Lewis (whom he dubs ’the first punk rocker in history’). Along the way are intimate sittings with stage legends Lou Reed, Keith Richards and Amy Winehouse.
More than an exhibition, this is Slimane’s analogue approach to an industry that’s currently being manhandled by the digital world. ’Sonic’ examines how this genre has engaged the creative over the years, erstwhile profiling its key players.
As it turns out, Slimane’s interest in rock storytelling was originally ignited during his teens by a gifted copy of Bowie’s David Live album - the star peacocking on its record sleeve in a boxy, double-breasted blue Freddie Burretti suit. But more than the costumes, it was the creative synergy of this form of photography that drew in Slimane: the lighting, the composition, the energy. As a result, the polymath has been recording life (and, more specifically, the music scene) through his lens ever since.
At Dior Homme, Slimane the designer extended his gaze to tailoring the look of rock’s next generation. The Libertines, The Kills, Beck, Franz Ferdinand, Jack White and Mick Jagger all famously suited up in his slim-line threads. He was also behind the artwork for Phoenix’s Alphabetical album during this period.
The music world was similarly where Slimane spent much of his five-year sabbatical from fashion - quite happily snapping. Even today, designing for Saint Laurent, music remains his genesis - a single track often providing the season’s character, proportion and hair direction.
Spanning London, New York and Los Angeles, the exhibition places particular emphasis on Slimane’s California period, which began in 2007 and resulted in the 2011 exhibition ’California Song’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. On show until January 2015, ’Sonic’ is complemented by a video installation juxtaposing the musical cycles of London (2003-2007) and California (2007-2014). A documentary-style sequence, it poignantly contrasts two generations of performers and their fans.