Cathleen Naundorf, La fille en plâtre’ in Dior Couture 2007 © Cathleen Naundorf /Hamiltons Gallery London.
Following her photographic training in Munich, working for renowned publishing houses around the world, Cathleen Naundorf traveled to Siberia, Mongolia, the Gobi Desert, and the Amazon headwaters in Brazil to shoot native cultures; however, today she is better known for her fashion photography. Through her mentor Horst P. Horst’s tutelage and guidance, she began taking backstage photographs at Paris Fashion Week for Condé Nast in the late 90’s, and since 2005 has been working on her ‘Haute Couture’ series called “Un rêve de mode,” for which she has been granted access to the archives of Dior, Chanel, Gaultier, Lacroix, Elie Saab, and Valentino.
Because of her extensive knowledge and understanding of the garments, she has been able to personally select gowns from the couturiers’ archives, and with her team of models, assistants, make-up artists, and hairdressers, she constructs elaborate and almost cinematic settings for her photographs, capturing the grace, grandeur, and remarkable beauty of the clothes.
Cathleen Naundorf, My little darling, Dior Haute Couture Winter 2006 -n°30, 2009 © Cathleen Naundorf/ Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York & Zurich.
For nearly 15 years, Naundorf has been using large format cameras with Polaroid film. After shooting the image, she then transfers the film onto a special paper -often watercolor paper. Using various techniques and manipulations directly on the transfer, she creates unique surface particularities, visible on the final chromogenic prints -the bleeding and blurring of the images and the pooling of color. An alternative printing technique that works perfectly with her imagery. For the black and white photos, also shot on Polaroid film, each is reworked and retouched by hand.
Cathleen Naundorf, A Midnight Summer Dream I, Valentino Haute Couture 1993, 2012 © Cathleen Naundorf/ Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York & Zurich.
In all of her photos, the various marks, distortions, and reworkings give the effect of the passing of time to a long ago grand age of elegance and beauty. Timeless classic scenarios which have a day-dreamlike quality, in which models merge with moody and artistic, carefully curated landscapes and interiors. Naundorf’s style of photography combines a poetic sensibility and painterly approach with theatrical presentation of Haute Couture, taking into account the traditional lines of classic glamour photography. A highly individual pictorial language, unique in the world of fashion photography.
Naundorf has exhibited extensively in Europe and in America, and her work is frequently published in various fashion and lifestyle magazines including Harpers Bazaar and Elle. Since 2011 she has been working privately with Mr. Valentino Garavani on several projects such as “An Italian Story” and “The NY City Ballet.” The book Haute Couture: the Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf was published in 2012 in a limited edition by Prestel. Naundorf lives and works in Paris.
Haute Couture: The Polaroids of Cathleen Naundorf, by Ira Stehmann (Editor), Hardcover, 180 pgs, Prestel Publishing, 2012.
Featuring stunning couture images, this book presents renowned fashion photographer Cathleen Naundorf’s work with Polaroid photography from the past decade. Whether the incredible pieces of haute couture were designed by Chanel, Dior, Gaultier, Lacroix, Elie Saab, Philip Treacy, or Valentino, their beauty is preserved in the gorgeous images captured with a large-format camera using Polaroid material by Cathleen Naundorf and collected in this book. Her well-honed technique, inspired by her mentor Horst P. Horst, which combines instant film’s distinctive colors and shadow with the artist’s remarkable instinct, results in photographs that resemble paintings -haunting, muted, and raw. A testament to the talents of this artist who has forged a formidable reputation in the fashion world.