The World of Condé Nast – A Journey Through Fashion

From March 1st to May 25th, Palais Galliera is filled with beautiful fashion photography documenting the best fashion of our time in an exhibition named “Papier glacé, un siècle de photographie de mode chez Condé Nast (“Coming into Fashion, a Century of Photography at Condé Nast”).

Sure to take viewers on an unforgettable journey through fashion, the show is a creative collection of more than 150 original prints of 90 famous photographers, accompanied by 15 haute couture pieces. Photographs coming from Conde Nast archives were taken from 1918 to modern day, and divided into 7 themes: Décor, Fiction, Exterior Street, Figure, Still life, Praise of the Body, and Portraits.

Garments by Nicolas Ghesquiere

Let’s take an exclusive tour of photographs that were shocking for the readers at the time of their publication, accompanied with a brief history of fashion photography and our favorite pieces throughout the decades.

The Figure Section of the Exhibition

The first section features indoor photography divided into two parts.

The first indoor theme is the Décor section, located in the center of the exhibition. Here, portraits of society ladies posing in goddess-like glamorous poses for photographers such as Baron Adolph de Meyer (first exclusive photographer for Condé Nast) are exposed on big white walls, with spotlight framing them. The photo style is inspired by the pictorialism period, known as “straight photography”, which is framing real life situations in one shot.

The second indoor theme, located in the far right of the room is the Fiction section. This part represents the aim of photographers to capture unrealistic situations by tricking the viewers’ eyes and making them think they were shot outside. Inspired by the modernism movement; the photographers used geometric shapes and black & white contrast.

Image 1: Ci-dessous, Baron Adolf de Meyer, Vogue américain, juillet 1919; Image 2: Edward Steichen, Vogue US, December 1923
Image 1: Ci-dessous, Baron Adolf de Meyer, Vogue US, July 1919; Image 2: Edward Steichen, Vogue US, December 1923

In the Exterior Street section you will find freedom in the pictures with natural lighting with a more sporty and casual mood. This part includes, among others, photos by Henry Clark, the first photographer to travel to locations with the whole team.

Henry Clarke, American Vogue, May 1951 (non publiée). Henry Clarke/Galliera.

The theme Praise of the Body leaves little room for imagination. It documents how Condé Nast’s publications began to liberate women as its magazines showed controversial and revealing images. The modern era appears for the first time in the exhibition with the usage of digital retouching when images began to look fake. Take for example this Solve Sundsbo’s photograph that seems completely retouched.

Photograph by Solve Sundsbo

In the 1930’s, fashion photography experienced an unprecedented change. The era of graphic layouts and experimental colors had arrived.  Another section titled Figure features legendary photographers, such as Erwin Blumenfeld and Richard Avedon, some of the pioneers of this graphical movement. Intriguing usage of negative space and complimentary colors were some memorable elements from this photography style. One of our favorites was Erwin Blumenfeld’s most famous Vogue cover of all time, his red cross photograph advocating for women to donate blood to World War II efforts.

Erwin Blumenfeld, Vogue US, March 1945 © 1945 Condé Nast

The Still life theme was deeply inspired by Surrealism, an art movement that sent waves around the world. Surrealists are most notable for putting people and objects in abstract and fantasy-like situations.

Influenced by masters like Man Ray and Salvador Dali, photographers Miles Aldridge and Guy Bourdin created their own vision in fashion photography that aimed at shocking the world. One of the most memorable images from this section is Guy Bourdin’s work for French Vogue in 1928, where the model is standing in front of a meat market, dangling above her are cow heads with tongues hanging in the air. The image provoked much controversy at the time.

Guy Bourdin, Vogue France, February 1955 © Estate of Guy Bourdin, reproduced with the permission of Art + Commerce

The Portraits section of the show takes a look back at the evolution of portrait photography through history, from Edward Steichen’s 1879 classic glamour portraits, to the gritty and intimate shots of Kate Moss. Most notorious was Peter Lindbergh’s androgyny portrait of famous supermodels dressed in men’s suits. This collection of images reveals further how fashion has liberated the traditional stereotype of women.

The Portraits Section of the Exhibition

After visiting the 7 main sections, in the right and left wings of the museum, you can see two rooms filled with paper magazines in glass cases with the most outstanding pages from the Condé Nast archive, and “flip through” virtual magazine pages powered by touch screen technology.

Finishing the tour, the exhibition ends in a dark room with a contemporary fashion film. The short film is a mash of two-minute clips from 7 photographers, experimenting new techniques to give viewers a glimpse into the future of fashion photography and its influence from the digital world.

Papier Glacé is a fantastic exhibition, an absolute must see for anyone interested in gaining knowledge about the world of fashion photography. We definitely recommend you to discover all the treasures that Condé Nast holds in their archive. For the aspiring artists, photographers, models, and fashion students, the show is a wealth of knowledge you can use to enrich your learning experience, and we promise you will not be disappointed.

Practical Info:

Palais Galliera, 10, av. Pierre Ier de Serbie 75116 Paris


Opening times:

Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 – 18:00

Open until 21:00 on Thursdays

Closed on Monday and bank holidays


Admission Price :

Full € 8, Concessions € 6

Age 14-26 € 4, Free up to age 13


by Kim Pham

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