As the official photographer for the Bowes Museum and their exhibition with the Fondation Pierre Berge – Yves Saint Laurent, to take the portrait of Pierre Berge. The Fondation was created to conserve the couturier’s entire body of work, after the haute couture house closed its doors in at the end of 2002 and the exhibition, entitled Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal, was the first time the Fondation had showcased any of their items in the UK.
“Fashion fades, style is eternal” Yves Saint Laurent once said. Articulating this idea, the exhibition presented fifty garments with Pierre Bergé, who was Yves Saint Laurent’s business partner for 40 years, travelling to the museum for the exhibition. As per the schedule on the day of the opening Pierre was to hold a press briefing explaining his relationship with the designer, the Fondation and the aim of the exhibition after which I had a brief window of time to take his portrait.
At the time of taking I was a proponent of natural light for photography (this viewpoint has become more nuanced recently). While taking Pierre’s portrait in the rooms containing the exhibition was in keeping with his presence at the Bowes Museum, unfortunately these rooms were all artificially lit. Additionally this lighting was also directed towards the items on display and thus and images of Pierre would have required extra lighting to ensure he was lit stronger than the background. However there was also the consideration of age and mobility. When he visited the Bowes Museum Pierre was 84 (he sadly passed away two years later), had just given a press conference and was due to attend the opening of the exhibition later that evening. In consideration to his age and exhibition responsibilities I believed it prudent to be as efficient as possible in regards to time with Pierre and where to locate in, within the museum, for the portrait. As such I placed him not far from the room where the press briefing had been held, in front of one of the large windows, on part of the main staircase which offered compositional background elements.
Having planned the portrait, I ensured my time with Pierre was swift, taking nine frames in total with two lenses (five frames with a 24- 70mm and four with a 50mm). The close crop keeps the focus on Pierre and not lose him in the grandeur of the museum while the decision to have a black and white edit was due to the white/ green/ red carpet clashing with his purple corduroy jacket clash.