Next month Vogue will be taking over the entire ground floor of the National Portrait Gallery in central London to host an exhibition of photography to celebrate its' centenary.
The exhibition has been curated by former picture editor Robin Muir and is the result of 5 years of research. During this time he trawled through every issue of British Vogue ever produced as well as many US, French and some of the short-lived German and Argentenian issues too - around 1800 in total.
Photography has always been at the core of Vogue, and over the years it has employed the very best from Cecil Beaton and Irving Penn to Lee Miller, Man Ray and Mario Testino and Steven Meisel. Hunting down the perfect shots has taken the team across the globe and not been without its challenges. From 1946 the archive was mostly found to be intact, but prior to that it had been re-cycled as part of the war effort or thrown out with the rubbish as photography was not thought to be collectable or valuable at that time.
By good fortune a box was discovered at the London offices labelled "Atoms of the Past", with many early shots still inside.
Of course there were photos that had to be included such as the cover photo of the debut issue. EO Hoppe had shot a portrait of Lady Eileen Wellesley, but it couldn't be found. The earliest cover to be unearthed was the third edition which, incredibly, was found on Ebay by the NPG curator of photographs Terrence Pepper.
However, fashion photography didn't really take off until 1914 when Vogue hired Baron Adolph de Meyer on a salary of $100/wk. At the time the models were mainly taken from the theatre choruslines but the Baron's favourite, Delores, was a fit model for the couture label Lucille and from here the professional model and photographer were born.
British Vogue Editor-in-Chief, Alexandra Shulman, was very clear that she didn't want the exhibition to be "rows of black-framed photographs", so instead the "working photos" are being shown; marked-up, battered, original. Happy Birthday Vogue!
The exhibition runs from Feb 11th - May 22 at the National Portrait Gallery, London, WC2. Tickets are available here.