Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival
Jonathan de Villiers, From the series ShangHigh, 2005
Jonathan de Villiers, From the series ShangHigh, 2005
2007 Public Installation

JONATHAN DE VILLIERS
SHANGHIGH, 2005

May 1–31, 2007
Brassaii Courtyard
461 King St. W

In ShangHigh, European fashion photographer
Jonathan de
Villiers plays the concept of “constructed couture”
to its literal
and conceptual limit, using Chinese labourers as
high-fashion
models for designer suits, shooting the resulting
Vogues
Hommes
International spread in dusty concrete-and-I-beam
work sites.
De Villiers' choice of site has been led by the
symbols of
modern
Shanghai’s excessiveness: the frantic
construction and
the enormous expansion of the urban area. Yet
these
elements,
thousands of miles away, also resonate in the
urban
landscape of Toronto’s King West area, dotted as it
is with
a mix of construction sites and high-end
boutiques.

Though he is unquestionably a fashion
photographer, de
Villiers
is certainly not typical within his realm. He is well
known for
subverting the codes of his genre. In a series shot
in Kenya,
he satirized the role of actress or model as UN
Special Envoy
and the neocolonial conventions of fashion shoots
in Africa. In
another piece, de Villiers photographed a couple of
prostitutes
in Amsterdam’s red-light district modelling new
Dutch fashion
in the windows and rooms where they usually ply
their trade.
As his admirers have pointed out, in a climate
where
just about everyone in fashion is “chasing the
campaign”
via conservative editorial photography, more critical
or challenging work is disappointingly rare.

Jonathan de Villiers, born in London in 1968,
currently lives in
Paris. After
working in a commercial photographic lab and
studying
philosophy at
King’s College, Cambridge, he became a fashion
photographer. He has
worked for British, Italian and French Vogue,
Wallpaper,
Numero, the New
York Times Magazine and the fashion houses of
Anne Klein
and Alessandro
Dell’Acqua, among many others. His work has
been shown at
the Victoria
and Albert Museum, London, the Institutes of
Contemporary
Art in London
and Boston, Festival International de Mode et de
Photographie, Hyères
and the Rencontres d’Arles, where he received
the No Limit
Award.

Michel Mallard was the artistic director for
ShangHigh.

Scotiabank CONTACT
Photography Festival

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Toronto ON M5V 2J4
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