The exhibition focuses on the 1980s – the climax of Piel’s career – and highlights his innovative cinematic approach to fashion photography. Denis Piel was born in France in 1944 and brought up in Australia, where in 1966 he founded his first photography studio. During the 1970s he worked between Paris, London and Milan, making fashion shoots and advertising campaigns. In 1979, his work was noticed by the legendary editor of Condé Nast Alexander Liberman. Denis moved to New York and was offered an exclusive contract with Condé Nast, an agreement reserved for a select few such as Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. Over the next decade he shot more than 1000 editorial spreads and covers for leading fashion magazines in the USA, Germany, Italy, France, UK. Many of these images have become universally recognizable iconic fashion photographs of the 80s. A. Liberman pointed out: “Denis Piel is one of the great photographers working today... He has brought to fashion photography an extraordinary fresh eye and has been able to translate the life of the modern woman as no other photographer has been able to do before”.
Denis Piel’s camera captured models who in the 1980s would become real stars of the time. These include: Brooke Shields, Christy Turlington, Rachel Williams, Lara Naszinsky, Nancy Donahue, Gia Carangi, Kelly Le Brock, Joan Severance, Joanna Pacula, and many more. Piel’s woman is particularly sensual and emotional, often captured on film at a private, intimate moment. This makes her more real and attractive. However, Denis Piel has always been more interested in models who were or could become actresses at the fashion shoot, and did not just follow the photographer’s instructions. Exhibition will also feature sessions with Uma Thurman, Andie MacDowell, Goldie Hawn, Nastassja Kinski, Charlotte Rampling, Jamie Lee Curtis and many others. The series with a 16-year-old Uma Thurman is remarkable by the fact that it happened to be the first professional photo shoot of the young actress.
In his approach to fashion photography Denis Piel was influenced, not so much by photography masters such as Avedon, Penn and Newton, as much as filmmakers of his time, and especially from Stanley Kubrick. Fashion stylist John Vertin points out: “I’ve always said that Denis Piel was the Stanley Kubrick of fashion because I get the same feeling when I watch his movies that it is working with him, even looking at his pictures, a suspended frostiness of incredible elegance but a weird electricity that is never obvious, never cheap, never to the forefront. You’re not totally immediate by the story, not to quote someone else like Helmut Newton where right away upfront you know exactly what is going on... It’s leading to it… It creeps in and it creeps out”. And the photographer confirms his cinematic approach, which adds unusual mystery to the glamorous fashion shot, thereby expanding the boundaries of the genre. “With my photos, I really want to do is tell a story. I want to set up a mise-en-scène…A film still! What I’m always attempting to achieve with the essential emotion and the suspense and question of what is happening what happened or what will happen.”
In the late 1980s Denis Piel won the Leica Medal of Excellence for Commercial Photography, founded video agency Jupiter Films and left Condй Nast to focus on film-making. Denis Piel’s works are in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and many private collections around the world. Solo exhibitions of the photographer took place in the Rove Gallery in London (2013), the Musee du Textile a Labastide Rouairoux (2010), Musйe du Point de Vue in Brussels (2010), Theatre de Castres in the south of France (2009), The National Costume Museum in Lisbon (2008), Staley Wise Gallery in New York (1982). Denis Piel will take part at the opening reception in Moscow and will hold an artist’s talk for the audience.