Explore the artistic genius of Australia’s most celebrated fashion photographer
The I've Got You video immersive presented in 'Creating the Look: Benini and Fashion Photography' at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse Museum), 31 July 2010 - 18 April 2011
Bruno Benini (1925-2001) was an Italian-born Melbourne-based Australian fashion photographer. He initially studied science (industrial chemistry) at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) but from the 1950s, went on to become a leading Australian fashion photographer.
1925: Born 17 February, 1925 in Massa Marittima, Tuscany, Italy
1935: Migrates to Australia
1940s: Studies science/chemistry at the Melbourne Technical College, and works as an Industrial Chemist at General Motors Holden.
1950: Travels to Italy, with a stop over in London, and decides to pursue a career in photography.
1953: Joins Peter Fox Studios in Collins Street, Melbourne working with Catherine Perkins and Henry Talbot.
1954: Sets up his own studio in Kew - occassionally moonlighting as a model for friends Helmut Newton, Henry Talbot and Athol Shmith to hone his own photographic skills.
From 1956: Benini was producing glamorous, high-end fashion photography.
Philippa Gowns dress
Glamorous Australian model Maggie Tabberer and Italian-born Melbourne fashion photographer Bruno Benini formed a lifelong working relationship and friendship, even travelling to Italy together with Hazel Benini in 1973. In this photograph, taken in 1958, Maggie wears an elegant knee length cocktail dress on the verandah of a mutual milliner friend's home in East Melbourne. Benini loved to photograph outdoors in natural daylight.
In this classic 1960s fashion shot by Bruno Benini, striking Australian model, Jan Stewart wears a Mondrian-inspired linen mini-dress designed by Inge Fonagy of Simona for Sportsgirl (Melbourne, 1966). The model wears her own bangles, but Hazel Benini introduced the large bauble earrings - to compliment the geometry of the dress and catch the light.
The evolution of fashion
'Creating the look' unpicked the ideas, props, backdrops, tricks and technical devices used by Bruno Benini and his wife stylist Hazel Benini from the 1950s through to 2000.
Together, the couple produced some of Australia’s most memorable and elegant fashion images by combining careful styling with elegant design.
The Beninis’ images provided a snapshot of the evolution of fashion and photography in Australia over forty years, as well as documenting Australian and international fashion and fashion accessories.
The exhibition also revealed how Benini’s traditional fashion photography techniques are being interpreted in innovative new ways by a contemporary generation of photographers and stylists.
Fashion photography and Benini's global influence
Fashion photographs are good indicators of social change. By their very nature and purpose, fashion photographs are created and designed to document and promote change by capturing or creating the total look, mood or attitudes of the moment. Within their frames (if they’re not shot in the studio which is the case for so many post-WWII photographs) they also frequently document (by capturing) natural, urban, rural, built and interior environments. These images then become highly evocative references to people, places, social, technological, environmental and industrial change at different points in time.
With many of Benini’s shots also taken overseas, change of another nature is also revealed - that of Australia’s complex, multicultural society, it’s global aspirations and it’s trade, manufacturing and cultural links with the rest of the world.
The Benini Archive at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, Sydney
Benini’s archive covers over five decades of Melbourne, Australian and international fashion, with strong representation of dress from the 1950s through to the 1970s. The earliest works highlight the coutured elegance of the fifties, but the collection quickly moves into the less restrictive, less tailored, mod and hippy styles of the sixties before confronting the raunchier funkier styles of the 1970s. It then also features sexier disco and club scene wear of the 1980s as well as nude male model portraiture and work done in association with the Nike-dominated 1990s.
While many Australian magazines and fashion studios regularly discarded all their old stock and references, the Benini archive provides an invaluable, uniquely comprehensive, reference point for Australian (and international) fashion over these decades.
The archive was acquired in 2009 with funding assistance from the Australian Government's National Cultural Heritage Account.
Curator: Anne-Marie Van de Ven
Senior Curator: Roger Leong
Exhibition view photographer: Marinco Kojdanovski
Digital Producer: Ryan Hernandez
Special thanks: Hazel Benini and Louise Rytter