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Fashion / Style File

Backstage With Supermodels

A Rare Look at the Unguarded Moments of Runway Giants From the Photographer Who Changed Everything

BY // 04.08.16

There will never be another model group quite like the high priestesses of the runway who launched into stardom during the early nineties. You know their names: Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, et al. It was a different time for fashion.

A model did not require tens of thousands of social media followers to be booked by a major agency. Bloggers did not exist. Photographs were taken with film cameras. There was no immediacy: No Instagram. No Style.com. No Snapchat. The act of publishing images from the runways was something left to print newspapers and glossy magazines — not to the Internet — and rarely was a photographer granted access backstage.

But in 1991, British Vogue and L’Officiel hired fashion photographer Donna DeMari to photograph The Supermodels backstage during the haute couture shows in Paris. “I had a basic camera and a few roles of film,” says DeMari. “It was a really rare moment; [back then] it wasn’t cool to be backstage.”

From Versace to Chanel to Lacroix, DeMari made her way backstage, working with available light and fleeting moments to capture images of the women who are now fashion legends in an environment seldom seen by the public. “I was totally free to walk around and shoot what was available,” says DeMari. “It was a way these models weren’t ever photographed.”

Naomi Campbell, Paris, 1991
Naomi Campbell, Paris, 1991

The result is a collection of photographs that capture a rare period of fashion, when the notion of the catwalk was seemingly untouchable by the masses in the way it is now. In stark contrast to the images on the magazine covers they graced, DeMari’s photographs depict the era’s top supermodels in ephemeral moments: having makeup done; being fitted in clothes; caught in a moment of laughter.

In DeMari’s photographs, there is the notion that behind the final, unarguably glamorous product — a model at the end of the runway, perfectly coiffed and posed — there is concentrated work, focus, madness and intensity.

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Christy Turlington, Paris, 1991
Christy Turlington, Paris, 1991 (Photo by Donna DeMari)

“There’s so much pressure in that moment,” says DeMari of being backstage. “It is this perfect situation in total chaos.” That calm in the storm is the magic of those photographs, and the woman behind them will be in Dallas on April 14 for an exhibition of those very works. The exhibition, presented by 1814 Magazine, runs through April 17 at 750 N. Saint Paul Street, and will include photographs for sale, as well as a limited-edition tome.

In addition, Grange Hall will exclusively stock a box set of prints from the images in the show. It is a rare-air collection worthy of the epic fashion era it depicts.

Information inquiries@1814mag.com; 214.403.8657

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