Bath in Fashion in focus with ground-breaking Norman Parkinson show

April 17, 2013

Top names in the fashion industry were out in force this week as Bath in Fashion got into full swing – with one of the high points so far the opening of a special exhibition highlighting the work of the ground-breaking fashion photographer Norman Parkinson.

Internationally-renowned fashion designer Roland Mouret curated the exhibition at the Octagon explained the reasons for his selection of over 40 photographs from the 1930s through the 40s and 50s, to the 70s.

The Octagon proves a perfect location for the show, which begins in the foyer with a selection of prints on canvas showing model Ann Chambers on location in Bath in 1948. And it was at the Octagon itself that, 40 years later, Parkinson chose as the venue for his 75th birthday party in 1988.

This year is a big one for the Norman Parkinson archive who has an amazing 400,000 negatives in their collection, partly down to Parkinson’s fantastic negotiating skills. Many of the shots were commissioned by American Vogue and, perhaps somewhat ahead of his time, Parkinson managed to retain all copyright.

Narrowing them down to come up with just a tiny selection for this week’s ‘Mouvements de Femmes: Norman Parkinson’ exhibition must have been quite a challenge for top fashion designer Roland Mouret, whose dresses have been worn by A-listers from Scarlett Johansson to Cameron Diaz.

Speaking at the Octagon, in the heart of what is now Milsom Place, Roland Mouret explained the Parkinson was known for the unstructured style and casual elegance of his work. “Norman said that other photographers showed women with their legs bolted. He only knew women who jumped and ran, so that’s how he showed them in his pictures.”

So, choosing the shots was not about opting for the best fashion photographs but rather capturing the moment, and the movement, of the women. Oh, and being French, he also does talk about the ‘romance’ and intimacy of some of the photographs.

One shows a couple running across a bridge. Another, stunning nude is of a woman on a sofa and, though taken in 1951 for the Vogue Beauty Book looks as if it could have been taken yesterday.

“I chose pictures that were like ‘snap shots’,” he said. Oh, and he also included a couple of photographs of the young Petula Clark, at age 12 when she modelled for Vogue.

“My father loved Petula Clark – so I had to include her,” said Mouret.

One of the more difficult photographs to stage must be the one of Parkinson’s wife, Wenda, sitting on an ostrich. The ostrich is so big, her feel are in mid-air, and the prospect of it running off at any time must have been worrying, to say the least.

Bath in Fashion runs until Sunday April 21 and Bath Business News is delighted to have been a media partner and supporter of Bath in Fashion for the past two years.

  • The Mouvements de Femmes: Norman Parkinson exhibition by Roland Mouret Marking the Centenary of Norman Parkinson’s birth is on at the Octagon, Milsom Place until Sunday. Entry is free.


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