by Jonathan Blaustein

I’m addicted to Project Runway. There, I said it. Since the beginning, I’ve been beguiled by the tangential relation to the fashion world. So close, and yet so far.

To make matters worse, a few years ago, my wife began subscribing to Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Which means I can now recognize Michael Kors style from Burberry. And as to the models? It’s pathetic that I can name drop Karlie Kloss, Lara Stone, Karmen Pedaru, and more. My good friend Melanie mocked when I correctly recognized Karen Elson in a photo she shared on FB.

The industry may be leagues away from my little horse pasture, but the fantasy and feast of consumerism still make sense. This is America, after all. Selling fancy clothes is not that much different than selling beer. Like everything else, it’s all about the Benjamins.

Lately, the worlds of art and fashion seem closer than ever before. Exhibitions laud both, and the upper class consumers that buy one luxury good often buy the other. What has that got to do with us?

Well, I just had a look at Viviane Sassen’s new book “Roxane.” (It took me three glances to realize it was spelled non-traditionally. Thereby depriving me of any jokes about putting on the Red Light.)

The book is cool, no doubt. And it doesn’t really make any sense, in a narrative sort of way. Which is not a problem to me. It just adds to the off-putting vibe that so many fashion mags court anyway. Feel bad about yourself for being too fat or poor, and then buy this Hermes scarf to feel better. (Ah, capitalism.)

The awkward poses are straight off the runway, as are the clothes and the strange-but-hot heroine. Throw in the natural landscape locations, and the obligatory Paris reference, and you’re good to go. Sarcasm aside, though, I do like the photographs very much.
The poses are sculptural, and the mood is almost surreal.

Ms. Sassen is in demand these days, from MoMA to the fashion houses. And the last-page-thank-you notes, which name drop Celine, Nina Ricci, Maison Martin Margiela and a few others, leave no doubt about that. No Marchesa, though. Pity. A few pictures of Georgina Chapman would have definitely put the book over the top.

Bottom Line: Fashiony photos of fashion as art

To Purchase Roxane Visit Photo-Eye

Full Disclosure: Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.

Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.


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  1. This is so wonderful. A fab review &, well, I am even more endeared to you now that you’ve shared your dirty lil’ project runway secret. ;)

  2. I have a life-long love-hate relationship with all things fashion (the magazines, the photographs, the clothes, the models, the messages – all of it)…and an unabiding love of Project Runway (the only reality show where the participants have talent, skills, and actually produce something!).

  3. I really love your book reviews however, I’m not with you on this one. I personally feel that the upper tier of fashion photographers are the best the craft has to offer. It’s the last bastion of art and commerce coming together and everyone involved realizes that you get what you pay for. These photos look to be what didn’t make the cut on a typical editorial (low paying) gig. Pick up any fashion magazine on the newsstand and you’ll find slightly better versions of these photos near the back of the book.

    • Yes.

  4. A much more succinct review: Looks like two hipsters got together one afternoon and tried to figure how to use a camera. Its really sincere since they used Kodak Gold 400.

    • Correct. Then review Nick Knight and see what fashion and art can do

  5. “I’m addicted to Project Runway…Since the beginning, I’ve been beguiled by the tangential relation to the fashion world. So close, and yet so far.”

    I don’t think there’s any shame in enjoying Project Runway. As Cynthia pointed out above, it’s a reality show where the contestants are actually showing some creative talent. But I don’t understand why you think it only has a tangential relation to the fashion world. It’s as legitimate a view of young designers entering the fashion world as any.

    • Oh, and these photographs are terrible.

  6. Sassen is certainly one of the most interesting fashion photographers working right now. For people who don’t know her work the new book “In and Out of Fashion” is probably better suited for an overview of what she does.

  7. I believe that there are enough sophisticated people who can appreciate and understand this type of photography but I never could.

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