We talk with the British artist Katerina Jebb about her photos for the catalogue of the Ephemeral Museum of Fashion at Palazzo Pitti.
What kind of approach did you use to photograph the pieces for the exhibition?
I scanned some of the objects and dresses, and others I photographed. The scanning process requires time and labour as the final image is actually a composition of many scans montaged together.
Comme des Garçons, coat, spring-summer 2015. Collection Palais Galliera
Did you treat them as artworks, simple clothes, portraits or as something else?
Some of the pieces can be considered as works of art, as the thought and artistry invested in their existence is significant. My job is to document each thing as truthfully as I can.
They are all inanimate objects which will never be worn again, but sometimes the energy of a certain piece has a strong presence which fills your head with ideas and that's the magic and allure of the subject.
Grès haute couture_SS 1960_Wedding dress by Dorothy McGowan in Who are you Polly Maggoo by William Klein (1966) Palais Galliera
Do you think photographing and documenting all the pieces can make them less ephemeral?
No. The word ephemeral is a concept which inspires reflection and liberation from fixed materialism. The fact of documenting a body of objects leaves a material trace of personal possessions used during a period of time. The very idea of this is a fleeting and impermanent process; one day all will be dust. People want to love and respect their ancestors' possessions because they are imbued with history and sentimental attachment. Imposing a concept of impermanence is counter to this principal which is exactly what makes the subject compelling: it's a subject in conflict.
Robert Piguet haute couture 1937 ca Evening bag Ph. Katerina Jebb
What is the most evocative piece from everything that you've worked with in the exhibition?
There is an oriental robe which belonged to Schiaparelli and now belongs to me and it's in a state of abandon and opulence, and without any particular reason I'm touched by its presence.