Explores the work of Robert Nettarp, a tour de force in fashion photography despite his short but prolific career.
Robert Nettarp’s work reflects the transition towards a more subjective and equivocal fashion photography in the 1990s. At his sudden death at age 32, the Swedish fashion photographer was celebrated as a truly creative influence in the industry. Using digital means to distort, twist and subvert reality, Nettarp challenged ideas about perfection, as in ‘Åse Beautiful Pain’, probably his most renowned picture, where the model’s face is covered by fake bruises. He also raised questions about sexuality, violence and gender with imagery fueled by a disturbing, dark energy, or a camp, wicked attitude: heads wrapped in transparent plastic or close-fitting balaclavas, a model sticking her tongue out to the camera, naked or semi-naked bodies in surreal settings, often processed in the computer studio.
Above all, Nettarp didn’t want the surface to take over. Things had to be broken down, perverted, to reveal deeper layers, an emotional state. Or in his own words: ‘whipped up’, digitally reconfigured. Perhaps this is also his biggest legacy, the art of retouching as a way to visualize on the outside what takes place on the inside. If the mood is dark, that’s because he exposed the imperfections, what’s usually hidden, denied or repressed. By using fashion as a space for personal intervention and digital tools as means of communication, he made the invisible visible – a discomforting scratch on the perfect exterior.