Fashion photographer Billy Kidd is used to the airbrushed, youthful aesthetic of editorial work, but his personal fine-art work isn’t what you might expect. In Transience, his upcoming solo show at Masters & Pelavin Gallery, he aims to challenge the way we think about beauty, womanhood, and age. He tells New York’s Julie Ma, "Life changes, beauty changes. That’s what I want to say here. Beauty isn’t always a constant. It’s not always one thing we define as youth.”
The body of work comprises images of dying flowers, beautifully saturated in color, juxtaposed against black and white portraits of nudes. It’s a risky move to combine black and white with color, but here it might just work. Kidd tells Ma that texture is key in each image, and he explains that with the nudes, the skin textures were more visible in black and white. With the flowers, the texture is expressed through deep hues. In his mind, it’s as simple as that, but I can’t help looking at the images and recognizing that an image of a fertile nude woman, tampon string exposed, looks faded and older in black and white that the colored flower in decline that rests beside it. Age and youth are side-by-side, and both are rich and beautiful.
The flowers are meant to symbolize the way society treats women and feminine beauty: like flowers, Kidd sees women plucked in their “prime,” “[loved] for a couple days [... and thrown] away” as they age. The images strive against modern photography’s “[tendency] to over-retouch,” and the markings in the flesh and the petals move to the forefront: “goosebumps and scratches [are] ‘flaws but they're still something beautiful on the body,'” Kidd explains.
His process isn’t complete; he’s also working on photographing older women and seedlings. I’m excited to see where the project goes. Right now, critics and commentators are unimpressed with the focus on “flowers and slender women:” “this is supposed to be a ‘rethinking’ of female beauty?” one asks incredulously. I think the project, as it expands, has great promise and potential, and I hope to see a wider breadth of female experience conveyed through Kidd’s stunning images.
Thanks to New York Magazine
Images via New York Magazine