Rebecca Arnold and Heather Norris Nicholson
Focusing on the role of non-fiction film and documentary photography as a source for fashion, dress and body, we will seek to reevaluate the visual history of this key period. By starting from images of the ‘everyday,’ that show dress as it was actually worn, we can begin to consider the impact of developments in film and photography on fashion. This connects with fashion’s representation in magazines, including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and the work of designers and manufacturers, such as Claire McCardell and Jaeger. The course, based on a collaboration between a fashion historian and an expert on non-fiction film, comprises a unique analysis of American and European identity during the interwar and war period.
Non-fiction film, including home movies, documentary footage and newsreels, represents a rich and exciting resource for fashion history, especially when looked at alongside contemporary photography. It reveals the relationship between sight and touch and connects to memories and sensations beyond the visual. It also exposes movement, gesture and styling and enables us to question how the availability of such imagery impacts on fashion.
The film amateur confounds traditional notions of authorship, audience and agency. A growing interest in amateur filmmaking and photography, as historical record and aesthetic practice, is reflected in both new scholarship and the work of archives. Drawing on this material, the course will explore the ways in which new technologies have been used to document private and public experiences of daily life. We will consider how developments in equipment, film stock and the use of colour have all shaped filmmaking practice, in terms of access, mobility, and also notions of realism and spectacle.
We will use case studies to consider relationships between looking, seeing and being – as evidenced through the links between and developments in readymade clothes, photography and non-fiction film. We will discuss what these media forms tell us about people’s perceptions of themselves and others, and how clothing can construct and alter appearance.
The course will analyse how these images connect to body image, identity, ways of seeing, and modernity.
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation MAs are innovative Options in which a visiting scholar from another discipline enters into dialogue with a member of the faculty at The Courtauld Institute of Art. They are offered for only one year. This particular Mellon MA course will focus on America and Europe as sites of rapid developments in non-fiction film, documentary photography, picture-based magazines and readymade clothes during a period of flux – 1920-1945. Extensive online resources will be combined with visits to museums and archives, such as the V&A and BFI, to study key examples first hand.
Standard entry requirements.