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Huene_George_Hoyningen_1900-1968_029However, there were times, in the early twentieth century, when no-one was so certain about the aims, the methods or the results. This allowed for greater imagination on behalf of the photographers and at the same time permitted the more ingenious ones to serve fashion without pushing aside their aesthetic convictions. Such was the case of George Hoyningen-Huene and the photograph in question proves it.

Taking a logical approach, the starting point is the fact that unless this photograph advertises a swimming costume, it has no raison d’ être. And this is what it obviously does. A product can be advertised either by promoting the object itself (in which case we would have a presentation in a fashion catalogue), or by presenting its real use in the most plausible manner (swimming costume on the beach). Both have been used repeatedly in countless advertisements. Nowadays, the anxiety of people involved in the advertising business for innovation at any cost also leads to the use of images with subjects completely or mostly unrelated to the product and any chance of success lies in the potential challenge of the image itself.

As always, Huene respected the product. In order to strengthen its projection he resorted to the use of photography and art, at the same time remaining faithful to the aim of fashion. In other words, he used insinuation and dream. And truly, nothing is more persuasive than insinuation and nothing is more alluring than dream. This is why he did not depict the sea, the sky and the jetty, but only alluded to them, by making use of the depth and the lighting inside a studio. The viewer is convinced that the couple faces the sea, while knowing that this is not real. The heads are turned to infinity, intensifying the sense of mystery and escape, so as to reinforce the dream.

The elements composing the photograph are minimal, yet highly eloquent and complex. Two horizontal lines suffice to define the space and two perpendicular figures for this space to take on meaning. And one surface in the foreground, acting as a board, is enough to hint at the depth and the third dimension.

In recent years somebody pulled out this photograph from oblivion and used it to advertise perfumes. His intention is kind and his choice praiseworthy. It is just that, once more, the photograph is being used decoratively. In other words, a ‘nice’ photograph accompanying some – any – product.

With the quality of his photographs, Huene provokes our deliberation on the relationship between art and advert. And this is in itself an important contribution. Just as equally invaluable would be a world in which applied photography would reach such an aesthetic level. Nevertheless, despite my admiration for this particular photograph and for all the equally important photographs by this great photographer, I wonder what this photograph lacks for it to be included in one’s private imaginary art museum (because it is only there that these things matter). Perhaps the reason is that the transcendence of the real and its metamorphosis are never completed through aesthetic perfection alone if not counterbalanced by a personal charge. And in this case, Huene is manifestly present as a photographer but hermetically closed as a person. The dream the photograph depicts is like the ones we see in our sleep. On the contrary, the artist always dreams with his eyes open and his dreams become reality.