I have a crush on Slim Aarons.
The man who gained access into exclusive precincts of the beau monde, essentially achieving the status as ‘court side photographer’. Where the glittering class and all their grandeur are captured and framed within each 35mm print, from starlets to princesses, moguls and mavens, aristocrats and arrivistes. He joined them on yearly Verbier ski getaways, and too quickly juxtaposed to their bougainvillea-festooned villas, speckled across the Riviera, the smells of the summers long ago still seeping through each photo.
It wasn’t until three days until an artwork was due, that I found myself staring at a blank drawing pad, my Tumblr archive open for inspiration, and pencil in hand. This artwork I thought would be snatched out of thin air, was proving more difficult, and as a fully-trained perfectionist I wasn’t settling with the bare minimum.
When it comes to originality, my younger sister knows what’s up- and once realising my creative juices were not flowing for this particular project I went to her for back up. Known as ‘Nasteh’ in the cyber world, her loyal followers watch as she chooses to post on a not-so-regular basis, claiming (what I think) is the most humble curation of Purienne-inspired posts to grace social media. While our creative style is often at odds with one another, she never fails to give me the tips and tricks to spark my own ideas- this time it was Sammy Slabbinck. An artist working with mixed media collages, superimposing mundane objects or landscapes, each in careful placement to suggest something almost surreal.
With her unique style in mind, I created my own by appropriating the infamous Slim Aarons photographs epitomising the LA pool-side culture of the 60s. The scale of architecture and the human energy within his photos have always informed Aarons’s works, noted for his socialites, jet-setters and celebrity subjects. He claimed his career was made by “photographing attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places” but somehow ridding each frame of the naff and over-indulgent, only revealing the subtle beauty of fame and fortune. Clipping photos from his book Slim Aarons: A Place in the Sun (2005), a new meaning was given to each photo as I deconstructed, rearranged and added in my own adaptations. While replacing the perfect pool water with overflowing popcorn didn’t do the photograph justice, there is something grotesquely beautiful about a fast-food symbol finding its way into the poolside serenity.
The ‘Rockpools’ were born from the idea of diamond clippings from glossy magazines, where every second page sported yet another big-name brand and their jewelry products, whether Cartier, Tiffany’s or the ‘perfect gift’ from Bvulgari- why does it matter? Once carefully removed from their context and stuck down amongst the rocks of the photo, even Aarons’s celebrity subjects couldn’t tell the difference. In another, the mundane European beach scene embedded within the pool, and a milkyway encrusted with beads painting the sky, the two ladies sit unaware of any change, subtlety depicting the reality of what Aaron’s captured almost 50 years ago.
In my eyes, Aaron’s works epitomise photographic perfection, being an artist in his own right, and in doing so, he constantly defined the image of the ‘Beautiful People’, the Hollywood jet setters and those who strode the world’s stage in the postwar decades like young gods.
Despite deconstructing Aaron’s best, or creating my own from scratch, an original print from this photography god has most definitely cemented itself at the top of my art lust list, dreaming about the day I can sit poolside with Slim Aaron’s himself in company.
“Poolside with Slim Aarons” series, 2014 1/3
“Poolside with Slim Aarons” series, 2014 2/3
“Poolside with Slim Aarons” series, 2014 3/3