Styles change, style doesn’t. Such is the prevailing theme behind “Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography,” the new exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Boasting more than 200 images, “Icons” documents the vibrant journey of fashion photography’s growth from simple beginnings to what it is now: a cultural force and universally recognized art form.
First seen at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, “Icons” ranges from aristocratic, high society to gritty street style. There’s the glam of statuesque supermodels and the activism of the Black is Beautiful movement. A detailed walkthrough of style history, the exhibit takes viewers from the early pages (think 1920s) of fashion magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar to present day; changes and emergences of photography styles and techniques are on full display.
The MFAH’s iteration of “Icons” is a broader view of fashion photography than its predecessor, as the curators here felt the first run lacked Houston’s diversity. Thus, a generous amount of the exhibit looks more like Texas and the Bayou City, as evidenced by many of the selections.
Fans of fashion photography will no doubt spend hours traversing “Icons,” but here are five Houston-centric names that stylish locals should watch for during the trek.
No style study would be complete without Houston’s Queen Bey. What makes her entry — the unforgettable September 2018 cover of Vogue — even more notable, however, is her photographer. Tyler Mitchell was the first African-American photographer to shoot the cover in the magazine’s 125-year history. He was also one of the youngest.
Beyoncé's sister also makes an appearance with a somewhat controversial image. Solange was shot by Daria Kobayashi Ritch, and her hair was styled with a circle of braids to represent the Orion constellation for the cover of Britain’s ES Magazine. However, the publication nixed the striking photo, prompting Solange to call out the incident on social media, with a reference to her single “Don’t Touch My Hair.”
“Class, with a bit of dash, but never trash” is a favorite line of Houston’s society queen, art patron, and all-over social force. Wyatt was inducted into the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1977 — the youngest inductee ever at the time. Her gown, handmade by Dior in Paris and designed by Marc Bohan, was donated to the museum in 1997 and makes for a must-stop viewing.
The Houston Rockets MVP and NBA superstar is a fashion plate, as evidenced by his post-game attire. Turning the alpha male status on its head, photographer Erik Madigan Heck skips the basketball court or gym and instead depicts Harden in a dazzling floral background.
Forever associated with Texas and Houston, the Latina performer is immortalized in her beaded bustier and a biker cap by photographer John Dyer. He recalls the Queen of Tejano Music pulling up to the shoot in a Porsche full of costumes and outfits that she designed herself.
“Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography,” is on view through September 22 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's Law Building at 1001 Bissonnet St. For tickets and more information, visit the MFAH online. $23.