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Despite the 21st century promise of gender equality, when it comes to culture there are still far more male artists succeeding and being showcased in galleries in the world today than female. Which is precisely why it was so powerful to see two female photography icons, Pamela Hanson and Elle von Unwerth, holding respective solo photography shows during Miami Art Basel (3rd – 6th Dec).

Both women are world-renowned fashion photographers and directors who are regularly featured on the covers of the likes of Vogue, Marie Claire, Vanity Fair, Elle and GQ. They are both European-born and have been in the business and remained relevant for decades, yet their styles couldn’t be more different. Their differences are perfectly epitomised in their recent exhibitions during Art Basel.

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“I was earning under minimum wage, I was so skinny because I’d just eat like a pear every day. But I started testing models, and then I went to visit a friend in Paris, fell in love with Arthur Elgort’s work and started assisting him.”

ICONS by Pamela Hanson

@ Shore Club, 1901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach

The exhibition featured some of Hanson’s most recognized and classic photographs, including Naomi Campbell and Billy Baldwin for Rolling Stone (1990), Kate Moss for Italian Glamour (1992) and Helena Christensen’s portrait for French Vogue (1994).

Strikingly, they were all portraits of women, all of whom looked powerful, confident and mesmerizingly beautiful against the dappled waters of pools and beaches that many of the photographs were taken in.

The purity, naked confidence and radiant happiness of the women, and their total comfort in being captured by Pamela, sent a really inspiring and beautiful message.

WILDEN by Ellen Von Unwerth

@ The Women’s Club of Miami, Omar’s Cabana Club, 2401 Pine Tree Drive

In classic Ellen style the photos are of what looks like a party-turned-orgy, a pile of limbs with the occasional leather/lace accessory,with bright flash in the darkness making skin look like milk. The opening of the exhibition also had a film projected onto the back wall of the group running from one escapade to the next, and the performance artist Millie Brown lying prostrate and completely still (and naked) on a podium balancing the jewels of a dripping chandeliers on her belly. The whole space was dark and debaucherous, with the group she had captured on film (all young cool boys and girls from the LA scene calling themselves the ‘Savage Family’) walking around dressed as they were in the images – the men in nothing but red fabric throngs and body paint, armed with whips. Seductive, provocative women in playful scenarios, erotic femininity, brash and totally unapologetic; the quintessential Ellen shoot.

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Images by Patrick McMullan

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Images: Ellen’s Instagram

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February 20, 2016