Norman Parkinson, Life magazine, 1963
I must confess that I haven’t actually explored M Shed further than its bloomin’ tasty cafe – raspberry and white chocolate muffins, need I say more? – and 2nd floor gallery space, for a Martin Parr retrospective. I went to the later again this week, to see Mshed’s latest exhibition, An Eye For Fashion, featuring original vintage prints by the late, great Norman Parkinson.
Parkinson was a British fashion and portrait photographer who shot for Vogue, Queen and Life (among others) over a career spanning almost 60 years. He was truly a revolutionary in his field and is cited as an inspiration by many photographers, fashion editors and designers today, so it is wonderful to see his work, on loan from the Angela Williams Archive, here in Bristol. The exhibition features rare prints of Parkinson’s fashion stories, notably from the 1950s and 1960s, that feature the likes of Jean Shrimpton, Vicky Stevens and Enid Boulting.
To bring relevance to its local surroundings, An Eye For Fashion aslo features high street clothes from the 50s and 60s, as well as photos and descriptions of how Bristol’s shopping hub, Broadmead, was evolving during this period. It provides a stark contrast to the Broadmead that exists today, overshadowed by Cabot Circus and slowly wilting, drowning in shop closures and unsavory characters.
I was surprised to find the waist-cinching elasticated belts I wore in my late teens were actually copied from mid-century ‘waspie’ belts, and I found myself comparing more candid snaps, like the one above, an unused shot for Life magazine, to the kind of poses that crop up on my Facebook news feed. There were of course many glamourous photos, such the Vogue image of a model in an elegant evening gown from 1960, at the back of the exhibition. It was here that I overheard to older ladies recounting their own experiences of a ripped dress at a fashion function around the same time – it sounded like quite the scandal!
Norman Parkinson for Queen magazine, 1960
As well as the exhibition, which would delight photographers and fasionistas alike, I also took the time to wander around the harbourside and soak up the sunshine – a rare treat for Bristol at this time of year!
The harbourside comes alive in summer, and there was a hint of this on Wednesday, with an ice cream van parked outside M Shed, two school girls bunking off under the Balmoral to eat their lunch, and an accordionist playing by the bridge. It may only be March, but with the lighter evenings and (slightly) warmer weather, I feel like spring is just around the corner. I couldn’t resist taking a few photos on my phone, the results of which are below.
An Eye For Fashion runs at M Shed until 15th April, entry costs £5/4 bit is free on the last Wednesday of each month. For more info about visiting the exhibition click here. There is also the M Shed Vintage Weekend coming up, which looks awesome, and is happening 24th-25th March.
Norman Parkinson images sourced here.