SARAH MOON, PHOTOGRAPHER: She Paints With Her Camera!

Calla Lily Profile, Calla Lily ArtArleen Solomon Rotchin1 Comment

She was born Marielle Warin.  Her Jewish family escaped occupied France for England where she studied drawing, became a model in the ‘Swinging London’ of the 1960’s and then found a home on the other side of the lens.

Her photographs are almost abstract in their painterly qualities.  Texture, seeing, believing , dreaming; it is difficult to summarize their content without feeling a melancholic mood that emanates from her work.  The dream world is quintessential to her work; her images lead us into a world bewitched.  The images appear bizarre and unusual and confront ordinary reality.

Moon who came to prominence in the 1970’s breaks from the tradition of ‘fashion photography’ choosing instead to investigate a world of her own invention without compromise.

‘When I shoot flowers or any still life or fashion, colour forces me to be more abstract, I have to make an effort to transpose it, in order to to get closer to what it was that first impressed me.  For me, black and white is closer to introspection, to memories, to loneliness and loss.  I don’t see the same in colour—it’s another language, a living language.’ 

Her pictures in soft focus black and white or pale colours lure the viewer into a realm of dreams, myths and fairytales.  Her still lifes and portraits are timeless and so mysterious.

Not surprising Moon always concentrated on fashion photography.  She appreciates commercial photography because as she says,’ it provides me with a purpose.  It submits me to discipline, which is something I need, because for me it is easier to do things when I find myself obliged to do them. To do them for just my pleasure would seems irrelevant.’

Her commercial work, whether it’s a fashion shoot or other photographic endeavor, generally doesn’t feel or look like commercial work.  It has the intimacy of fine arts photography.   

‘I believe that if I didn’t work in commercial photography, I would never work in colour,’ Moon has said.  ‘I don’t really like colour .’  

She believes that colour imagery contains too much unformation.  

Much of Moon’s early fashion work is presented in muted sepia tones, which she describes as ‘tones of memory’. 

She frequently relies on distressed negatives to give the images an aged feeling.

Her images were less about calling attention to a specific product than they were about generating a 'buzz'‘for a fashion line or the magazine publishing the spread.  Many of her fashion photographs could pass for portraiture.  

In 1972 she was asked to shoot photos for the famous Pirelli calendar.  She was an extraordinary choice, partly because no woman had ever been hired for that assignment before and partly because, as Pirelli acknowledged, Moon was ’….not well liked by journalists.’  She was considered cold and moody.  She chose petite models rather than the volumptuous women who had previously graced the calendar.  Pirelli calendar customers complained that the 1972 calendar had ‘lesbian’ qualities.

Her work was shown in an exhibition of fashion photographyat the Photographers Gallery on London in 1972 and at the Rochester Gallery in Paris on 1977.  She took part in a show of women photographers at the 1974 Photokina Exhibition in Germany, and a one-woman show at the Delpire Gallery in Paris in 1975.

She has made commercial films for Cacharel and for Peter Robinson in London and she has written a script with the intention of becoming more involved in film-making.

‘I am an applied fashion photographer and inside these limits I am just trying to express what I feel about a certain moment in a certain situation in which women are involved.’

NOW and THEN is a retrospective book of the oeuvre of Sarah Moon.