the essence of photography

Photography by ©denis piel

When one thinks of fashion photography, glitzy images of untouchable lifestyles and models arise. These images often conjure fantasies of distant lands and beautiful people; and with photographers increasingly investing time and money in post-production techniques, our ideals and desires can become distorted and unrealistic. Before Photoshop and advanced technology, photographers produced beautiful images that were naturally lit and set, ensuring everything that was to be, was captured in that one moment in time. Notable fashion photographer, Denis Piel, still works this way, producing contemporary images that stand the test of time.

Photography by ©denis piel

Piel rose to prominence within the 80s, shooting for GQ, Self, Vanity Fair and the bible itself, Vogue. Known for his highly sexualised fashion portraits, Piel was hailed by his predecessor Guy Bourdin as ‘the most gifted photographer of his generation’.

After a visit to launch his Rizzoli-published book ‘Moments’ last year, France based Piel is returning to London to showcase a body of work in the city for the first time. His exhibition titled ‘Essence’ opens on the 11th April and hopes to explore Piel’s commercial and personal projects, offering an articulation of his search for the authentic qualities within each image he captures.

Among the photographs on display are those of a naked woman lying in a pool of water, man and woman with the contours of their bodies highlighted in grey scale colours and aged skin in all its detail. These images provoke viewers to question Piel’s choice of subjects: who are these people? And more importantly, why are they in his photographs?

‘What I’m always looking for is what I call a reality; a reality in so far as how the subject lives within the scenario that we construct together.’

Photography by ©denis piel

As observers we are immediately made conscious of the intimacy between Piel and his subjects, with the photographs revealing his human subjects in their purest form or essence. In that moment of capture, everything about the subject is laid bare, but the specificities of their desires still remain secrets.

‘Essence’ is open from 11th April – 9th May 2013 at The ROVE Gallery @ Lincoln House, 33 – 34 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NN.

To see more of Denis Piel’s work, visit

Words / Li Yin Soh
Follow her on Twitter @LiYinS

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