Working primarily with large-format Polaroid film and Plaubel and Deardorff cameras, and using her own unique development process, Cathleen Naundorf endows her fashion photographs with the distressed patina of antiques. Set in lush gardens or against painted backdrops, and featuring gowns by Chanel, Dior, Valentino and others, Naundorf’s carefully constructed images turn on the odd balance she creates between the beauty she pictures and the rough borders and peeling surfaces of her images.
Before she began photographing haute couture, her subjects were the people and cultures of Siberia, the Amazon and beyond. Photographing backstage during fashion shows in Paris in 1997, she became fascinated by observing the production of beauty up close, and found that the models she met there were not so different from her Yanomami and Mongolian subjects. They were “the same girls I met in places in Russia, Brazil and Norway on my travels. I knew their real lives,” she said in an interview last year. Aided by a longstanding mentorship with Horst P. Horst, with whom she shares a rarified glamor, Naundorf has gone on to a career as a fashion photographer that has included work for Condé Nast and assignments for Valentino, including documenting his collaboration with the New York City Ballet. In 2012, Prestel published a collect of her images in Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf. Her work is now on view at Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York City until February 27.
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