NEW YORK, United States — In hindsight, it seems remarkable that there was once a moment when combining digital technology and fashion photography was a radical move. But when Dutch photographers Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin first began to manipulate their images, they were among the first to see and seize the tremendous potential of these new digital tools in a fashion context.
“We saw a demonstration of what Paintbox could do,” van Lamsweerde recalled, referring to a Quantel-produced precursor to Adobe’s Photoshop. “At that point it was used to straighten lines and shine up the wheels of a car for advertising. It hadn’t really been used for fashion or for images of people. We were like ‘Oh my god’ – it was so unbelievably exciting. It just opened up the whole world for us.”
Working as a team, Lamsweerde and her husband, Vinoodh Matadin, have forged a unique personal and creative union which has given rise to a remarkable body of work that seamlessly spans global campaigns for advertising clients including Balenciaga, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, editorial assignments for magazines such as American Vogue, French Vogue and W, classic black and white portraiture for the New York Times’ annual Oscar portfolio, music videos for the likes of Björk and fine art pieces that have been exhibited in some of the world’s most influential galleries and museums.
This 25 year partnership has firmly establishing the duo, known simply as “Inez and Vinoodh,” among the most successful and powerful imagemakers in the fashion industry.
And while digital has long been central to their work, from high-gloss fashion images to the surreal, often disturbing, manipulated human forms that appear in their personal work, technology has always been a means to express a searching imagination and never the object of fascination itself. “For us, it’s about the emotion,” van Lamsweerde confirmed, more than creating something that’s “formal or technical.”
“With digital, finally you could also visualise internal things, you could show an emotional idea or a concept,” she added. “It was that whole thing of breaking through the surface, visually and figuratively speaking.”
Van Lamsweerde met Matadin in 1986 at the Vogue Academy of Fashion Design in their native Amsterdam and first worked together when van Lamsweerde, who went on to earn a masters in photography at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, was commissioned to shoot Matadin’s clothing line Lawina. The label folded in 1990, but by this time they had become a couple, with Matadin also working as van Lamsweerde’s part-time stylist.
After van Lamsweerde was awarded a yearlong residency at New York’s PS1 Contemporary Art Center in 1992, the couple decamped to New York, a move which allowed them the freedom to continue to aggressively experiment with digitally manipulated images, while also exposing their work to a broader international audience.
In the mid 1990s, when fashion magazines were full of grunge-inspired, documentary-style raw imagery, Inez and Vinoodh’s groundbreaking, highly manipulated and surreal editorial series “For Your Pleasure,” published in the April 1994 issue of The Face, broke the mold and put the pair on the map. Shortly after, major fashion titles came calling and Inez and Vinoodh were soon slipping effortlessly between fine art and fashion from their new home base in New York, to which the couple permanently returned in 1995.