Legendary fashion model Carmen Dell’Orefice was in London this week to open her first major photographic retrospective at the Fashion Space Gallery.
Born in 1931 to a Hungarian mother and Italian father, Carmen began her career aged just thirteen, after she was discovered in New York by the wife of a staff photographer for Junior Bazaar. Soon afterwards Carmen’s father arranged an introduction at Vogue through a family friend. Her first shoot, with Clifford Coffin in 1945, launched a career which has since spanned over six decades.
Curated by fashion illustrator David Downton, with striking but sensitive exhibition design by Karen Morgan, Carmen: A Life in Fashion begins with childhood photographs from Carmen’s personal archive. The exhibition includes her early cover photographs for Vogue by Coffin, Erwin Blumenfeld, Cecil Beaton, Horst, and Irving Penn.
Later sections include Carmen’s advertising campaigns for Vanity Fair shot by Mark Shaw and Richard Avedon (1949-1959), and selected highlights from her many collaborations with Norman Parkinson. After her third marriage ended in the 1970s, Parkinson relaunched Carmen’s career. Their relationship so clearly demonstrates the unlimited creativity and loyalty that can be found between photographer and muse.
Now aged eighty, Carmen remains one of the world most sought after and admired supermodels. The exhibition is brought up to date with recent portraits by Cavit Erginsoy, Tim Peterson and Ruven Afanador, in addition to a series of photographs by Ali Mahdavi from July 2011, which were commissioned by the London College of Fashion. Carmen was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of the Arts, in recognition of her unique contribution to the fashion industry.
Carmen: A Life in Fashion continues until 14 January 2012; I’ll be returning soon, away from the crowds, to especially admire those early exquisite portraits for Vogue….