[Photographer] Gavin Fernandes: Empire Line + Monarchs Of The East End

January 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Gavin Fernandes’s 2007 exhibition: ‘Empire Line‘ and ‘Monarchs of the East End’.

It featured 22 large-scale Silver Gelatin Prints in the windows and cinema foyer of Rich Mix Cultural Foundation (Bethnal Green, the East End of London).

In ‘Empire Line’,  Gavin explores the politics of clothing and its relationship with class and caste in 19th century India ruled by the British Raj.

For ‘Monarchs of the East End’ the photographer, inspired by classic East End imagery, has created a series of characters which, although invented, are almost believable.

Beyond the beautifully-lit black and white portraits, what I really like about Fernandes’s prints is the detailed attention to costume. Guess it’s no surprise then that he’s a Senior Lecturer for Fashion Photography at London College of Fashion. His models have just the right 19th, early 20th century studio potrait expressions too.  On first glance, the photos could pass for a vintage shoot.. that is until you stop and stare to pick out the incongruities.

I wish there were more of these shoots around. The kind that fuses fashion with issues, and provokes you to think. Shoots that are more than just the pretty aesthetics. These two exhibitions made me question caste / religion / race / colonialism, stemming from the first thought of “Why?” Why did the photographer create such an image?

More photos of the two exhibitions are archived at fUK (Fashion UK) and there’s a youtube interview of him as well.


A bit of background:
Fernandes came to the UK in 1968; born in Nairobi, Kenya, his family origins lie in the former Portuguese Catholic colony of Goa, India. He studied graphic arts at Middlesex University, then at the Royal College of Art in London.

He also worked on a new series called Black President: “Change Has Come”, which portrayed fictitious characters wearing pro Barack Obama election campaigning ephemera in 2008.



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