Vogue 100: A Century of Style

Words by Alessandra Conti

For the 100 year birthday of British Vogue, the National Portrait Gallery is hosting a photographic exhibition: "Vogue 100: a century of style". The chronological itinerary starts from the '20s until the most recent shoots of the 2000s, with 280 prints from Vogue's archives and private collections, in some cases featuring images impossible to find online.

The beginning of the path of this ongoing magazine is documented in works by Cecil Beaton, Dorothy Wilding, Erwin Blumenfeld, Lee Miller, and Horst — author of the striking photo: 'Mainbocher Corset'. There are many artist portraits, including pictures of Henrie Matisse by Clifford Coffin (1949) while busy in "drawing with scissors".

Exhibited at the Portrait Gallery is a vast selection of the most important moments in fashion photography. Like when, during the 70s, British Vogue commissioned Norman Parkinson to go on a reportage to the Soviet Union. He travelled for more than two weeks with Jerry Hall from Moscow through Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Arzerbaijan and Armenia without any knowledge of the territory, discovering locations day by day: a series that it is impossible to not get hypnotised by. One of the photos taken during that journey is particularly spellbinding: Hall weaving a red towel on top of a monumental soviet sculpture surrounded by grey smoke. 

Strolling throughout the rooms there is always a face, a photo, a colour that captures your eyes: Patrick Demachelier, Naomi, Stella, Kate, Corinne Day, Tim Walker, Francis Bacon, Helmut Newton.

All the masters of fashion photography are here exhibited in an historical journey that brings you to discover the focal points of a magazine that definitely contributed to a change in the rules of fashion photography.