Hamiltons presents Noah’s Ark an exhibition by renowned photographer Cathleen Naundorf, 14 May – 20 June 2015. Noah’s Ark, Naundorf’s latest body of work, is largely unseen and features a series of taxidermy animals alongside unique haute couture pieces by leading fashion designers including Dior, Chanel, Valentino, Gaultier, Elie Saab and Stephane Rolland. These elaborate sets embody a sense of extravagance - the dresses, headpieces and models posed against painted backdrops in a photo studio or on location - juxtaposed with the Biblical story and quest for a better life.
“I am telling the classic Bible story, Noah’s Ark. Saving the animals and mankind; leaving earth as we know it – in a boat – and believing there is something better for the future.”
Naundorf captures her scenes with analogue large-format cameras, which, since the 1990s, she has used in rare combination with Polaroid film. Combined with her distinctive approach, Naundorf’s personal claim to the uniqueness of these carefully orchestrated images lies in the characters of the great Parisian haute couture designer gowns - which became the epitome of fashion during the second half of the last century. Eschewing digital editing, the colours and contrasts within Naundorf’s work derives entirely from her technique. Inspired by her mentor Horst P. Horst, Naundorf conjures eloquent mystical images, marrying the characteristic colours of instant film with playful light and shade. Her work, woven with Horst’s influence on many levels, has been described as timeless, blending a harmonious overtone of fashion, art and photography. “Horst was an artist. His mastery of dramatic light is the difference between him and other photographers.”
“Sometimes something happens that I didn’t expect. I like this kind of imperfection. Digital may be more perfect but it has less soul. I want my pictures to keep the soul of humility.”
“I begin by creating the full picture in my mind. I see an object or a gown and a story starts to play. Then I build storyboards and drawings with all the details. Details are vital. Pulling everything together can be a real adventure. We might be running around Paris to gather all kinds of props – but I like this kind of stress.”
Of German descent, Naundorf lives and works in Paris and London. Throughout the early nineties she travelled the world, camera in hand, specialising in reportage of indigenous peoples. However, inspired by her longstanding friendship with Horst, Naundorf developed an early interest in fashion photography and in 1997 she refocused her career and started shooting, backstage, at the Parisian fashion shows for Condé Nast. The new millennium marked a new way of shooting – using large format Deardorff and Plaubel cameras loaded with Polaroid and negative films. Her seven-year series Un Rêve de Mode used gowns pulled from the haute couture archives of leading European fashion houses including Chanel, Dior, Gaultier, Valentino and Lacroix amongst others.
Naundorf has exhibited globally and her work is held in a number of private collections.