PDN Photo of the Day

Going Backstage to Capture the Heart of Fashion

Every year, DGI City in Copenhagen, Denmark, hosts a photo exhibition that looks into the artistic and societal significance of popular cultural. This year, the show demonstrates how fashion photography is a trendsetting part of contemporary visual culture. “EXPOSURE – A Glimpse of Danish Fashion Photography” is not simply an exhibition about fashion, but an exhibition about how fashion is conveyed photographically, how the contemporary moment is reflected in fashion photography, and how fashion photography is inextricably linked to the fashion magazine. Danish photographer Lasse Bak Mejlvang, whose images are included in this group show, spoke to PDN about his work and going backstage to capture the heart of fashion.

PDN: How did your work in behind-the-scenes fashion show photography begin? How has it evolved?Lasse Bak Mejlvang: I used to work as the photoeditor at Vs. Magazine. Back 2008, we had the idea to put the backstage photography in the same position as the other fashion stories. We went to Paris and I shot 22 shows in ten days. The images were published as a 16-page backstage fashion story.

In my time working for Vs., I was introduced to editors at Elle magazine. We made a connection and I have been working with them ever since, mostly following top models and shooting fashion in Paris and New York.

PDN: What’s the most challenging aspect of this type of photography and how do you overcome that?LBM: When you come from a tiny place called Denmark, gaining access to the mighty world of Chanel seems almost impossible. Stir in a lot of smiling, drizzle with a little persuasive finesse, garnish with the right amount of cheeky behavior and then, if you’re lucky, you might end up with a very lucrative entry ticket. But, mind you, one should also be able to know when it’s time to retreat—even if it’s only for a little while

PDN: What is your favorite image in the series and why?
LBM: I think the girl from the the Balmain show is my favorite. It captures that feeling I would like to show: the silence and calm before the big storm and chaos. Normally the backstage areas are packed with people and you’d have so many things in your way making it hard to create a well-composed picture, so you have to search for the small details. I think this image is a good example of that.

PDN: The style of imagery in the series is very diverse. How did you curate this selection? What was the hardest part about culling images to be featured?
LBM: I wanted to keep the reportage style. That was the most important thing for me. I didn’t want to include any images of models posing, even though I have many of those.

I printed out my larger selection which had around 70 images in four different downscaled sizes (there are four different sizes of prints for the exhibition). Then I built a small model on my dining table and sorted the images. I have to amidt: it was the by far the hardest puzzle I have done so far.

PDN: Any advice for up-and-coming fashion or documentary photographers on breaking in to this field?LBM: Be a photographer. Don’t do this if the only thing you care about is the amount of followers and likes you’ll get. We see too many bloggers and Instagrammers (with equipment much heavier than mine), but they have no clue how to use them.

PDN: What’s next for you? Are you working on any new projects or plan to expand this one going forward?
LBM: I have an ongoing book project with a colleague of mine, Asger Mortensen. We have been traveling back and forth to India to create a book about street cricket. We have been to many cities, but the country is huge and we need a least three to four more trips. This project is being shot analog on point-and-shoot cameras, and there’s no doubt that we will have the pieces to build a bigger puzzle at the end of our journeys.

EXPOSURE – A Glimpse of Danish Fashion Photography
DGI  City, Copenhagen, Denmark
Through July 31, 2018

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