AMONG FASHION'S MOST FREQUENT INSPIRATIONS, UNIFORM ATTRACTS, INTRIGUES AND HOLDS A PRIVILEGED POSITION IN MENSWEAR FASHION. THROUGH HIS ANALOGUE SHOTS, ENGLISH ENGLISH PHOTOGRAPHER ALASDAIR MCLELLAN TAKES A STEP BEYOND AND UNVEILS THE HUMANITY HIDING BEHIND MEDALS, HELMETS AND BRAIDING.
It is the man in uniform to have captured the attention of Alasdair McLellan, among fashion system’s most renowned photographers, to the point he became the main subject for his second photographic book. McLellan is famous for having shot a lot of magazine covers, celebrities’ portraits and fashion photo shoots, but also for having caught British adolescence and youth on film, through a series of honest and genuine portraits. His photography is harmonious and sharp, crossed by an intense and perfect light, and characterised by analogue’s spontaneity. If his first photographic book, “Ultimate Clothing Company”, published in 2013, he decided to focus on English youth, for his second the photographer was inspired by the proverbial ‘charm of the uniform’.
The result was “Ceremony”, published in January 2016, a photo book in which McLellan has portrayed the young British army. The project came to life in 2006, in the middle of Iraq War, when McLellan, along with by editor and fashion journalist Jo-Anne Furniss – who supervised the book’s introduction – began to get in contact with the young soldiers of the British Army and to capture them while engaged in their tasks and daily exercises, but also in more intimate moments where they could get rid of formalities and get ‘naked’ in front of his lens. What comes out is a collectable tome, art directed and designed by M / M team (Paris). Already a cult among photography connoisseurs, “Ceremony” portrays different regiments of the British Army, including King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, Coldstream Guards and the Household Cavalry, and for more than one reason it represents an extremely fascinating work.
“Ceremony” is, in fact, a wide and penetrating exploration of some of the most deeply rooted and distinctive British traditions, such as the Changing of the Guard, and is also relevant from a pure fashion perspective – just think of how often and uniforms and references to military iconography still have a comeback on the catwalks from time to time –, aided by McLellan’s background. But there’s more.
His pictures, brightened by the perfect light the British photographer is famous for, provides a window on young soldiers’ most intimate and human aspects. In “Ceremony”, McLellan’s lenses move their focus far beyond the uniform, which here ends representing a symbol that’s lost its true meaning, a mere wrap, and they dig deep, uncovering the soul of a youth that’s as complex as it is simple and comparable to any other. McLellan’s soldiers are more than just the mechanical rituals, more than the medals on their chest, more than their scintillating helmets and elaborate jackets embellished with braiding, more than just a series of gestures performed to perfection and rehearsed to exhaustion; they are, first of all, boys. “They’re just under orders. That’s the whole point of it. And what we really wanted to get across is that, they might all look the same in uniform, but they are people”, the photographer stated on more than one occasion while talking about the project.
In a sort of fascinating duality, we see them serious and composed while partaking at the ceremonies they have long practiced for, dazzling in their shiny armor and standing upright in camouflage, but also having fun and a little embarrassed while posing for the camera, relaxed while brushing the horses, friendly smiling with their comrades, and McLellan, while maintaining a detached and absolutely apolitical point of view, reminds us that the beauty of youth manages to shine even in the most precarious situations, from a Changing of the Guard in fur hat and red jacket to a sudden call to arms.