Mert And Marcus To Receive The BFC's Isabella Blow Award For Fashion Creator
As the legendary photographic duo are announced as this year's recipients of the prestigious prize, Vogue speak to them about what the honour means – and explore why it is so well-deserved.
There are few people who have had the same visual impact within contemporary fashion as Mert and Marcus: two photographers who have, throughout their 25-year-career, acted as creative pioneers and opened up the realms of fantasy afforded by digital manipulation. “They came into the industry after we’d been through a period of grunge, and experienced a certain rawness, but they offered something entirely different: an idea of artifice and glamour that introduced a new aesthetic to fashion,” explains Edward Enninful. “Plus, there’s always something uneasy about their vision. A Mert and Marcus picture is never just about what you see at first: their girl might be beautiful, but she’ll have talons for nails. There’s something unsettling about that beauty.”
That glossy sense of subversion has, over the course of their career, been applied to everyone from Madonna to Oprah; Kate Moss to Rihanna – and now, in celebration of their achievements, they are being honoured with The Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator at The British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Awards. Held on December the 10th, they duo will join a pantheon that includes the likes of Enninful, Pat McGrath and Louise Wilson. “It’s a great honour to be given this award – particularly because of the name attached to it: someone who’s very important in our creative life,” explains Mert. “But also it’s very important to be recognised by the establishment; by all the people who comprise the British Fashion Council.”
What is uniquely exciting about Mert and Marcus’ work is not only their technical understanding of how to create and augment an image (although seeing them navigate Photoshop is mesmerising) but, of course, the creative freedom that such techniques afford. “We’ve never been journalists, we’ve never been documentary photographers: we’ve always come with a concept that we have crafted using our tools,” Mert continues. “We never saw digital manipulation as simply making a girl’s waist thinner or taking her freckles out; it’s about making whatever is in a photograph fit with the idea that we have in our minds. We’ve never cared whether it takes one click, or ten different tools, so long as we got what we wanted. I always see it like this: I love the sound of a gramophone; it sounds so beautiful to hear those nostalgic sounds. But would I listen to it every day; would I listen to Beyonce on a gramophone? I don’t think I would.”
Equally, explains Marcus, working in tandem with each other offers an amalgamation of two different perspectives, as well as capturing the behind-the-scenes frisson (“we fight!” laughs Mert) of creative collaboration. “Behind every photograph is a story: the trips that we’ve shared, the moments that we’ve had with people and the muses who are fearless in front of the camera. The bond, and the trust, that we share is in everything we do.”
The resulting impact, of women seen through a lens of transformative glamour and powerful provocation, is one that has earned them global renown (and their mononymous moniker). “Mert and Marcus have a unique way of portraying glamour, youth and fantasy, making them one of the forces of our industry,” explains BFC Chief Executive Caroline Rush. “[Their] unique blend of vision, energy and innovation has created some of the most iconic images of our time,” continues Nadja Swarovski, whose brand is one of The Fashion Awards’ principal partners. “It is our great pleasure to recognise [their] inspirational creativity.” December 10th is set to be an evening of well-deserved celebration – and you can rest assured that whoever is presenting their award will be suitably fabulous.