REVIEW: Hedi Slimane: Sonic, Fondation Pierre Bergé / Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

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A couple of years ago, when I was Art Director of Russian Vogue, I used to design the covers and fashion stories Hedi Slimane shot for us. Among other things, this involved trying to reason with his agent about how to leave a white border of exactly one centimetre around Hedi’s photographs without cropping the photographs, despite the fact that Hedi’s photographs were not the same shape as our pages. Hedi is (understandably) passionate about his pictures, and the way they are presented. Hedi likes to be in control. Which is why (a) this exhibition is gorgeous, and (b) it’s so fascinating: the subject matter – the music scene – after all, is pretty much the opposite of control.

Hedi has been photographing musicians and fans, in London and LA, for over 15 years. This exhibition presents black-and-white studio portraits – including prints exhibited here for the first time – of a fairly predictable set of rock icons: Lou Reed, Brian Wilson, Amy Winehouse,  and Keith Richards (among others). But just because we’ve seen these faces a thousand times doesn’t mean they don’t make great portraits. Hedi’s versions work just fine.

Peter Doherty by Hedi Slimane
Peter Doherty by Hedi Slimane

There’s also a video installation (again black-and-white), “juxtaposing the musical cycles of London (2003-2007) and California (2007-2014) in a documentary style, painting an alternative portrait of two generations of performers and their fans.” Again, pictures of bands and their fans are nothing new, but the Hedi’s love for the scene is touching, and his commitment to documenting it is impressive. The work really does hang together well – figuratively as well as literally – and I spent far more time enjoying the exhibition than I’d expected to. 

Hedi is such a control freak that if he ever saw his photos on my blog he’d kill me (not that he would know who I am these days). But you can go right over and see all the above, plus plenty more, on his website:

Hedi Slimane: Sonic, Fondation Pierre Bergé / Yves Saint Laurent, Paris (September 18, 2014 – January 11, 2015)

© Fiona Hayes 2014

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