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Space, Intermediality, and the Visual Arts

Fashion Photography and Festival Culture: What Glastonbury’s Space Does to the Imagination

Photographie de mode et culture festivalière : incidence de l’espace de Glastonbury sur l’imagination
Julie Morère


Les photographes de mode ont souvent privilégié la configuration spatiale des festivals d’art et de musique comme lieu de campagnes publicitaires. Cet article cherchera à montrer comment ces artistes se sont approprié l’espace du festival de Glastonbury depuis sa création dans les années 70, jusqu’au succès mainstream remporté à ce jour. L’espace festivalier est source d’inspiration dans tous les champs artistiques-musique, sculpture, performance, body art, innovation vestimentaire, et photographie de mode. Glastonbury est un lieu récurrent dans les travaux de trois photographes contemporains, Tim Walker, Corinne Day et Venetia Dearden. Il appartient pleinement à l’expérience artistique et ne peut être réduit à une simple toile de fond utilisée dans le cadre d’une séance photographique. À travers les premiers clichés de Tim Walker en 1998, les images hippie-chic de Corinne Day pour Vogue en 2005, ou les photographies réalisées avec un studio portatif en 2010 par Venetia Dearden pour isoler les personnages incongrus ou les célébrités présentes sur le lieu du festival, le spectateur découvre un portrait unique d’une communauté temporaire et de la culture festivalière. Glastonbury est un espace certes associé à l’expression de ce qui relèverait de la contre-culture, mais c’est aussi un espace qui est de plus en plus rationalisé. Il est ré-imaginé dans la photographie de mode, qui est elle-même un art codifié, et cette confrontation participe de la construction de la culture et de l’imagination britanniques.

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1Glastonbury, the famous Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts that takes places in Somerset every summer, not only offers space for artists to express their musical, theatrical or any other performing skills, but also for people attending the festival to experiment extravagant sartorial extremes when the whole space of the festival itself becomes everyman’s stage. It has often been chosen as a site for fashion photo shoots because of the vast possibilities offered by its space as appropriated and framed by photographers with its muddy fields, its hilly landscape covered with multicoloured tents, the light effects at night on stage during concerts, the stages and scaffolds built up and down, an army of vertical colourful flags flapping in the wind, or installations and other art works providing incongruous settings.

  • 1 The notion of place is here taken as concrete and geographical while space is more abstract and pro (...)

2Glastonbury is a recurrent topos in the work of three contemporary British photographers, Tim Walker, Corinne Day, and Venetia Dearden. Walker is a British fashion photographer who regularly shoots for Vogue and other fashion magazines, often resorting to extravagant staging and storytelling. Corinne Day’s influence on fashion photography in the 90s was known for the documentary leaning that she gave to her pictures, challenging fashion concepts of beauty, and capturing intimate moments during the Grunge period. Venetia Dearden’s contemporary work is praised for its outdoors use of light and her ability to seize the spontaneity of kinship ties against the backdrop of the British landscape. From Tim Walker’s 1998 buoyant pictures to Corinne Day’s 2005 hippie-chic photographs and Venetia Dearden’s 2010 singling out shots of freaks and fashionistas with a portable photographic studio, the viewer gets a unique view of an ephemeral community and festival culture. What makes Glastonbury such a special place?1 From hippieland to mainstream ‘festi(val)scape’, how do the artists’ imaginary worlds appropriate Glastonbury’s codified space to recreate it in the photographic process challenging the codes of fashion photography? Su argues that the imagination works out as ‘a social practice’ conceptualized in ‘intersubjective terms’ (Su 153). How does it engage the artists with the experiences and worldviews of others within the Glastonburian space, questioning and shaping British identity within the broader context of the global culture industry and the hybridization of cultural practices? These questions will be discussed in the light of Augé’s critical sense of place, Goodrum’s nuanced insight into the culture of contemporary fashion seemingly going global, or Arjun Appadurai’s paradigm of ‘glocality’, which is trying to reconcile the global and the local, and which could be used here to measure the impact of festival culture on the imagination of the three artists under scrutiny, as well as on the British imagination at large.

  • 2 See George McKay 1996 and 2000 in which McKay discusses Glastonbury’s power as a leading event in B (...)

3Glastonbury in the 70s was a hippie dream of British freedom and rebellious spirit2 that fashion photographers have been willing to record in the following decades, amongst thousands of idealists, hippies, hedonists, pacifists, punks, ravers, or families, who were there to listen to good and bad music, celebrate life and art and embrace political or environmental causes like Nuclear Disarmament, or Greenpeace movements in the face of massive commercialization—which some say the festival has itself been a victim of (McKay 2000). Through amateur snapshots, what was called Glastonbury Fayre in 1970 painted a picture of ‘a spontaneous gathering of people who were seeking escape from the confines of mainstream society’ in a place where they could ‘re-connect with the land, channel the ancient vibrations of old Albion’ (Croose), listen to counterculture rock music and make love not war. The mythology of Glastonbury Fayre is one of communality, shared beliefs and shared space. Over time, as the Fayre has turned into a massive festival gathering over 200 000 people, the space of the festival has had to be organized and codified.

4The festival takes place in Somerset near the Glastonbury Tor in the Vale of Avalon. With its legends, spiritual traditions and visual landmarks, the area is a New Age site of interest: ley lines (supposed alignments of megaliths) are considered to converge on the Tor. The site sometimes experiences problems with flooding, with two small streams running through: when natural elements take over, space is submitted to chaotic changes. The Highbridge branch of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway ran through the farm on an embankment, but was dismantled in 1966 and now forms a main thoroughfare across the site leaving its imprint on space. Another prominent feature is the high-voltage electricity line which crosses the site East-West.

  • 3 Some theme areas of the festival can be discovered with 360° panoramas and virtual tours online whe (...)
  • 4 A similarity could be traced to the theme park in Julian Barnes’s novel England, England, which con (...)
  • 5 On camp as subversively and aesthetically inspirational, see Cleto 1999, and Mark Booth’s article ‘(...)

5Over the last 30 decades the site has been organised and controlled as can be seen on its guide map with its coded colours or icons corresponding to easily readable spatial features. The Pyramid Stage can be found on the North. To the South are the Green Fields, which include displays of traditional and environmentally friendly crafts. At the far South of the site, there is a small megalith sculpture made of rusty cars which, like Stonehenge Circle, is coordinated with the summer solstice. The whole space has been reinvented, old parts kept but moved, new ones created with new identities.3 Fields of Avalon calls to mind the legendary island featured in the Arthurian legend where King Arthur’s Excalibur was forged. It is linked with the History of the place and its genius loci. Some of the names of these spaces are still reminiscent of a bygone—never existing or possibly dreamt—Eden and they are given new resonances linked with modern political, environmental or spiritual issues and the revival of canonical forms (the pastoral, the return to nature, etc.). Glastonbury’s space is rewritten, recreated annually, a bit like a geographical palimpsest, with its backstage or onstage spaces, theatrical ‘fields’ or ‘areas’ with various themes and imaginary worlds.4 ‘Glastonburyscape’ is built and artificial. As it sets up camp every year (literally and figuratively, with shockingly campy costumes worn by some festival goers5), Glastonbury has become a regular shooting spot for fashion photographers.

6While fashion itself is constantly changing, the fashion images shot at Glastonbury are not and have a continuing identity woven within the narratives developed in the various scripted areas or spaces of the festival which has become a familiar locus for the artists’ imaginary productions or fantasies. If the imagination is the faculty of the mind which forms and manipulates images, in the case of fashion photography at Glastonbury, a narrative develops connecting other images by means of association: the hippie dream, a land of sartorial freedom and musical extremes. Glastonbury’s monumental stages, hilly lanes and countryscape remodelled by artistic installations are the central locus of this fiction.

7The settings generally chosen by fashion photographer Tim Walker for photo shoots are all topographically identifiable pieces of Britishness. They can be old mansions (calling to mind the remains of the British estate novel) in which inner and outer spaces have no clear limits: natural elements and giant animals enter houses and four-poster beds or dinner tables laid for a party hang in trees. They can also be extraordinary sci-fi photo shots from outer space with a flying saucer chased by a foxhunt. For Walker, Glastonbury is another highly identifiable British space. A team from Vogue was sent to the festival in 1998 to photograph the season’s looks. This photo shoot was particularly difficult to stage because of the mud, with suitcases and expensive dresses trailing in it, and shots taken from the top of the hill to get the full scope of the event just when Robbie Williams started singing, with hordes of people rushing past. As Tim Walker recalls the whole experience, he says:

The weather chart [was] not untypical. There [was] instead a sure certainty. Accordingly, the skies have opened over the Glastonbury festival and the sodden earth [was] a sea of mud. For . . . ‘Earth Girls’6 Kirsty Hume [was] wearing a Versace camisole and chain mail miniskirt, and a silver thermal blanket. As she recalled it, ‘we’d have to put on waterproof trousers and jackets over our clothes. For some shots we’d simply push the waterproofs down to our knees and stand there, while Tim shot from the knees up. Here, the passer-by is actually holding the blanket in place. You can feel the chaotic atmosphere. You can also get the sense that the cold, the mud and rain don’t really matter…’ (Walker 2008, 60)

  • 7 An image that is quasi-interchangeable with the idea of the British nation as observed in a 1991 bo (...)

8The atmosphere may have been chaotic, but the whole legacy of the British landscape is anchored in this particular picture built on what is called ‘sémiophores’ by Pomian (Pomian 167), a concept developed in François Walter’s 3rd chapter of Les Figures paysagères de la nation, territoire et paysage en Europe entitled ‘Voir le Paysage’: there is mud in the foreground and colourful tents in the middle and background, the model is wearing typical wellies, and the green hills contrast with various shades of grey clouds in the top third of the picture. In his book, Walter explains how landscape is constructed, with a system of signs and how ‘[n]owhere else [than in England] is landscape so freighted with legacy, nowhere else does the very term suggest not simply scenery and genres de vie, but quintessential national virtues’ (Walter 229). The island is seen as an enclosed garden, a beautiful landscape that has to be used and useful. A bit like a giant English garden, Glastonbury seems to give free rein to fantasy while controlling it carefully. Territorially speaking, it is part of the village greens, and hedgerows of an idyllic Southern England.7

9How is Glastonbury’s space, as photographed by fashionistas, a reflexion of British imaginings that are translated by Walker into cloudy daydreams? How is Glastonbury’s space turned into a fashion icon? Glastonbury’s space as a fashion stage has been ‘materially and symbolically constructed through a complex dynamic of economic circumstances, production systems, and cultural representations’ (Berry). Fashion has adopted Glastonbury’s mythologies of modernity, musical excitement and underground eccentricities. In many ways, photography has acted as a cultural intermediary between fashion and Glastonbury as a metonymy of the English space, playing a compelling role in the branding of Glastonbury as ‘a style site’ (Berry) highly readable through ‘sémiophores’ or visual signs like the Pyramid stage or other sculptural signals.

10Fashion operates what Barthes describes as a shock to the viewer’s consciousness: ‘cette sorte de choc conscientiel qui donne tout d’un coup au lecteur de signes le sentiment du mystère qu’il déchiffre ; . . . elle tente de substituer son artifice, c’est-à-dire sa culture, à la fausse nature des choses ; elle ne supprime pas le sens ; elle le montre du doigt’ (Barthes 339). In this way, the oppositions and ambiguities that characterize British fashion and the garments worn by festival goers are part of the festival’s unique national spirit, from punk to pageantry, anarchy versus monarchy, or when displaying or parodying Cool Britannia’s ostentatious signs of Britishness and the Britpop culture, as explained in Goodrum’s The National Fabric: Fashion, Britishness, Globalization (2005).

  • 8 ‘The one annual guarantee about Glastonbury Festival (notwithstanding anxieties about the weather) (...)

11As he thumbs through fashion pictures shot at Glastonbury, the viewer fully grasps the spirit of the place, seemingly hippilandish, yet not truly anymore—yet still reminiscent of the hippie culture.8 Tim Walker explains:

When I think about it, photographs, to me are really a kind of dream state. It’s not about a good dream, or a bad dream… It’s more that your day hazes and your mind drifts towards only being concerned by your imaginings… and as you tour your imagination you want to photograph what you are seeing… BUT… the only way you can do this is by BELIEF [capital letters in the text]… Really utterly really absolutely passionately firmly believing… you see, you are so [underlined twice in the original text] very keen to be able to show what you’ve seen that somehow it becomes true, and the picture you end up taking becomes a souvenir, a piece of proof brought back all the way [crossed out in the text] from the daydream. (Walker 2008, 6)

12This seems to happen in a wonderfully lively shot with Kirsty Hume and Trish Goff where the two models become one four-legged creature with indistinct faces and hair and the sequined wool tunic and kilt by Moschino merge into the tartan wool dress by McQueen turning into a new sartorial creation.

13Imagination in fashion photography is perceived as an intensification of the real, through various artistic media that pile up upon the real. Although ‘[p]hotographic images are a driving force behind the fashion system, and they play a key role in defining global fashion culture’ (Shinkle, back cover), imagination is fully engaged in the world and no longer has an ethereal metaphorical function. Glastonbury is not a mere backcloth but it is fully part of the aesthetic experience, as bits and pieces are put together in the artistic process that Walker generously unveils in his scrapbooks. There, he captures the timelessness of the festival goers’ paraphernalia in the still life genre, capturing a slice of life of the festival, as he arranges in a skilful composition commonplace objects such as tents, stoves, rain boots, sleeping bags, blue boxes of eggs, smiling faces and hand-drawn sketches of people in love, seemingly thrown on the page helter-skelter (Walker 2008, 64–65).

  • 9 ‘Ce dont la photographie de mode est le manifeste, c’est certes d’un art qui s’inscrit dans, et par (...)
  • 10 I wish to thank Susan Babchick at Gimpel Fils Gallery for kindly letting me use one of Corinne Day’ (...)

14Corinne Day’s 2005 shoots within the pages of Vogue were known for their originality and documentary style, sometimes shot with a dream-like quality. They strongly anchored festival fashion on the sartorial agenda. Known for her ‘heroin chic’ pictures in which she chose waifish models with androgynous silhouettes in the 90s which were interpreted as a nihilistic vision of beauty, her Glastonbury later shots retain a ‘glamping’ (glamourous camping) atmosphere tainted with heroin chic style reflecting Glastonbury’s mood. Some shots are quite conventional as for the onstage picture she took of Gemma Ward wearing a white pleated chiffon dress by McQueen. The caption reads: ‘Facing the Music: Model Gemma Ward takes the stage in a dress that’s got rhythm’. The hippie glamour pervades nearly all the pictures sometimes set in unique sculptural settings. Some shots have a more puzzling aspect to them and are sprinkled with a tinge of tribal hints as on a picture of overdressed Gemma Ward posing next to a naked festival-goer toasting some unknown guest in the Teepee Field. The documentary dimension of her pictures challenges the way we look at them as fashion pictures, mixing the economical, artistic and social spheres within the creative process9, as she uses various backdrops from Glastonbury space in her shootings—the abandoned carcass of a plane, a fake chapel shot aslant with a cleaning lady vacuuming the mud in the middleground, and the iconic Hunter wellies worn by any initiated Glastonburian.10

Fig. 1: Gemma Ward photographed in the Lost Vagueness zone, Glastonbury Festival

Fig. 1: Gemma Ward photographed in the Lost Vagueness zone, Glastonbury Festival

Corinne Day for Vogue, 2005

15Through its repetition over time, Glastonbury has become ‘a constant object that the spectator identifies with and ultimately desires’ (Berry). From one photographer to the next at Glastonbury the spectator makes logical connections and associations to create his/her own version of the storyline. ‘The framing of fashion photography is often based on previous representations of the places where shoots took place’ (Prichard and Morgan 285), relying on the viewer’s recognition of previous iconic spatial images for the narrative to unfold. The fact that Glastonbury is often chosen as a setting, far away from the space of the photographer’s studio or that of the catwalk shows how the consecration of the ‘straight-up’ or real fashion portrait in 1980 (e. g. in i-D magazine) has redefined the place of fashion photography in the contemporary British media. The emergence of Glastonbury as a recurrent—to the risk of becoming institutionalized—dashingly original visual background for fashion shoots nearly makes it lose ‘its characteristic as a situated place to become a blank canvas ready to be filled by the imagination of the reader’ (Rocamora and O’Neill in Shinkle 185). In her pictures, Dearden ‘oscillates seamlessly between the realms of Documentary and Fine Art photography’ (see Dearden’s website), as she documents the people of Glastonbury Festival and the Glastonburian space sometimes in pictures that may seem ratées but where the nocturnal blur gives a unique mood and atmosphere. Party time is over for the time being, until the next day.

  • 11 A style pioneered by Terry Jones, founder of i-D in the 80s and calling to mind Steve Johnson’s wor (...)
  • 12 On the idea of fashionability as ‘performance’, see David Gilbert, ‘Urban Outfitting: The City and (...)

16Having grown up next to the Glastonbury site, Venetia Dearden has been deeply involved in the festival since a young age. With the help of a professional portable photographic studio her aim was to single out individuals and groups to capture the motives and personas that make up the festival. The result is a unique portrait of a temporary community of fairies and elves or drenched coolies. Her straight-up or ‘tell it like it is’ documentary style11 captures the spirit and the vibrancy of Glastonbury. The result is a book entitled Glastonbury: Another Stage (Dearden 2010) which is an intimate and unique set of portraits that includes festival goers, stall holders, charity workers, organizers, and many of the celebrity performers. Whether they are real people or performing artists like Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Leonard Cohen or Jay-Z dressed in mud or tattoos or wearing corsets, crinolines and cartoon costumes, flip-flops, wellies, cowboy boots and stilettos, the portraits document and offer a glimpse of the diversity of the visitors who converge on the Glastonbury music festival and which are no longer simply occupied, in fashion images, by the glamorous figures of professional models (Dearden 2010). ‘Translated into sartorial fashions, the [space] is ‘organized and commodified’ into a spectacle that readers can partake in’ (Rocamora and O’Neill in Shinkle 191).12

17Fashion pictures may be seen as attempts to make sense of the festival, its anonymity, its chaotic and disorderly crowd, images that provide a vantage point from which festival culture can be apprehended and captured, a pleasurable experience of seeing the whole through seeing the particular as an instance and representative of a larger whole. How is it possible to make sense of such chaos? Is it only some sort of conventional chaos after all, a symptom of Glastonbury’s space as being solely under control of economic interests? Or is it still an inspiring space in British cultural and social life?

  • 13 ‘Parler de paysage sans évoquer le spectateur qui, par l’intermédiaire de sa sensibilité et plus gl (...)

18At Glastonbury, the dynamics of the space make sense because it is built on the spectators’ flanerie from one area to the other, making the fragmented spaces one whole unique venue, through the festival goers’ sensitivity and their own culture.13 Such process gives an idea of territoriality as a practice of spatial identity (‘[un] lieu pratiqué’, De Certeau 1990 in Walter 302) in Glastonbury with people’s unrestrained comings and goings. In François Walter’s book, national identity is described as an ‘interactive phenomenon’, a ‘strategy of cultural growth’ (Walter 312) which mass culture festival can enhance.

  • 14 For a deeper insight in the subject, see Getz’s article ‘The Nature and Scope of Festival Studies’ (...)

19A festival is an ephemeral cultural (annual) event that has a privileged place in cultural public policies supporting the access to culture of the greatest number of people in order to defend cultural identity, to reinforce cultural development and cultural attraction. Since the 90s, there have been more and more festivals (a proliferation termed ‘festivalomania’, Boogaarts 114) accompanying a growing territorialization of cultural policies. Festivals play a growing role in the creative process as spaces where artists’ works circulate. The value of culture on a territory depends on the way the population appropriates and participates in the festival, how the festival respects the specificities of the places, and how the space constructs its imaginary based on the iconic works created there (old plane, the Pyramid stage, Stonhenge cars sculpture, etc.).14 As economist Elizabeth Currid argues, ‘the clustering of cultural production in particular geographies allows a particular product to brand a place’ (Currid 155–156), and the link between geographic location and cultural production is integral to the success of both local and global economic markets.

20How does fashion photography rely on the space of a festival to feed on the festival’s imaginary drives, and on the imagination and creativity that it stimulates among its spectators? Is the space of the festival itself supposed to feed on the imaginary drives of photography? How do British space and the ‘spirit of the place’ participate in the construction of the British identity based on contemporary thinkers’ reappraisal of imagination as a way to reach and shape other forms of knowledge, not only circumscribing it to the realm of artistic creativity? Out of Glastonbury’s space and music comes creativity: the ‘spirit of the place’ inspires people to dress up in weird ways. Amateur photography records images for the collective unconscious, with a documentary dimension to them. Amateur images of the low-culture Glastonbury festival turn into signs of quintessential Englishness, just as fashion pictures do.

21It is as if in Glastonbury, no one were ordinary, as if the power of images were such that it created new identities in the imagination of the viewer, with some sort of (un)conscious commerce appearing between documentary and fashion pictures, each genre borrowing from the other in an interconnected way. The documentary quality of the pictures (Walker’s chronicling scrapbooks, Day’s background characters that seem to be there by chance, Dearden’s staged photo shoots) which are supposed to be fashion pictures is due to their immediacy and vitality in daring outdoors setting, or with subjects brought back into the studio for Venetia Dearden. She seems to capture multiple identities as well as question them on a global scale when choosing a blank background which could be anywhere in the world. In this sense, her work could be analysed in the light of Arjun Appadurai’s concept of ‘glocality’, since the collective and individual imagination of ordinary people is influenced by the globalized dimension of a festival which used to be a local event. Dearden’s pictures may be underlining the globalization of Britishness seemingly at work in hyper-fringe culture.

Fig. 2: Venetia Dearden, Glastonbury: Another Stage, 2010

Fig. 2: Venetia Dearden, Glastonbury: Another Stage, 2010
  • 15 Here again, I am honoured the artist granted permission to use this picture for the purpose of my a (...)

22The clinical quality of Dearden’s photographs seems to dislocate her subjects from their context. Is Glastonbury a ‘non-place’ (‘non-lieu’, Augé in Rocamora and O’Neill in Shinkle 196) that readers can appropriate and fill with meaning? Glastonbury’s space seems to turn into a ghostly setting in Dearden’s pictures, with ‘apparent uninterest in visually locating the production of fashion and style’ (Rocamora and O’Neill in Shinkle 197), with no geographical reference. And yet, the viewer used to Glastonbury’s unique and extravagant sartorial experiments (e. g. the stilled performance of a campy accordionist with a green wig and a sensually impertinent look on his face15 [Fig. 2]) might be able to know where these pictures were taken. In fact, Glastonbury is not one of Augé’s ‘non-lieux’ since the festival is strongly attached to the idea of a group identity, a sense of community in a defined space with its own rites (of passage), rituals, ceremonies, celebrations, pilgrimage, spectacle, and counter-culture. With a multiplicity of images of the same place, what we get seems to be images of images, what Augé calls ‘spatial overabundance’, a symptom of some sort of super/über-modernity” or ‘surmodernité’ i. e. qualified by excess, overabundant events and spaces, and fluctuating bearings of the collective identity. To Augé, identities are only understandable in a dynamic way, by referring to traces left on space along itineraries:

Comme chez Julien Gracq . . ., il ne saurait y avoir de compréhension des affaires humaines sans les rapporter à des sites et à des parcours, sans non plus prendre la mesure de ce qui est déposé depuis des générations dans des paysages et qui façonne les mémoires individuelles et collectives, les manières d’habiter et de se confronter aux voisins proches ou aux étrangers plus lointains’ (Colleyn and Dozon 23).

  • 16 ‘Au contraire des lieux où l’activité symbolique fabrique des identités relatives, c’est-à-dire en (...)

23Contrarily to globalized non-places generated by the capitalist consumer’s society, Glastonbury’s space has a symbolic aura to it that stimulates cultural activity and creates shifting identities. People interact and participate in creative acts, communicating with the past and the history of the place16. One may also wonder if the mass of images that we have to deal with is not detrimental to the construction of a collective imaginary (‘images déliées, bien peu propices à édifier ou à entretenir des univers de significations partagées’, Colleyn and Dozon 28). But all these images resonate with Glastonbury’s connection to the hippie counterculture and a bygone era much longed for by many of the fashion photographers who go there to look for an anachronical setting for their pictures.

24In Imagination and the Contemporary Novel, John J. Su points out that ‘the emergence of the imagination as an explicit topic of discourse in contemporary fiction comes as a response to epistemological crises opened up by the perceived consolidation of an imperialist form of capitalism as the dominant world-system’ (Su vii). ‘The imagination . . . is consistently conceptualized in intersubjective terms, . . . a social practice that engages people with the experiences and worldviews of others’ (Su 153). The photographic imagination of the three artists under study could be seen as a response to the capitalist threat at Glastonbury, although obviously in a paradoxical way since it is set in a festival that is more and more profit-oriented, and we are talking about fashion photography i.e. commissioned pictures. However, they all have a documentary dimension to them, escaping the constraints of the genre.

25At Glastonbury, spectators exist in multiplicity, as ‘social selves, as performed festive personalities’ (Croose), or as living symbols of British identity. They move in dynamic association with the space through which they travel and with the others they encounter, ‘as they too flux between these elements as a function of their festive engagement with the transitory alteration of the everyday, changing “place” into “space”, into “place” and back again’ (Croose). Glastonbury is in a way a carnivalesque and cathartic festive mode of chaos (yet under cultural control), ‘a potentiality into which participants choose to step, challenging their sense of themselves and their relations to the wider world’. It is an altered state, a community which functions ‘not as a symbolic unity but as a simultaneity of difference; as a shared space in which competing symbolic energies reference and perform each other and from which new associations and encounters are formed’ (Croose). In this way, Glastonbury festival can be described as ‘an alternative to usual space hierarchies’ (‘une alternative aux hiérarchies habituelles de l’espace’, Brennetot 30) as it contributes to the shaping of new living spaces that provide a sense of belonging and add cultural value to the territory.

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Glastonbury’s website, last accessed on January 13, 2014.

Artists’ works

Day, Corinne, artist’s archive,, last accessed on January 10, 2014.

Dearden, Venetia, Another Stage, Heidelberg: Kehrer Verlag, 2010.

———, artist’s website,, last accessed on January 10, 2014.

Walker, Tim, Pictures, New York: Te Neues, 2008.

———, online resources,, last accessed on January 10, 2014.

Critical sources

Appadurai, Arjun, Globalization, London: Duke UP, 2001.

Augé, Marc, Non-lieux, introduction à une anthropologie de la surmodernité, Paris: Seuil, 1992.

Barthes, Roland, Système de la mode, Paris: Seuil, 1967.

Berry, Jess, ‘Modes of the Metropolis: The City as Photography’s Fashion Icon’, 3rd Global Conference Fashion: Exploring Critical Issues, eds. Jacque Lynn Foltyn and Rob Fischer,, last accessed on January 10, 2014.

Booth, Mark, ‘Campe-Toi! On the Origins and Definitions of Camp’, Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject–A Reader, ed. Fabio Cleto, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1999, 66–79.

Brennetot, Arnaud, Des festivals pour animer des territoires’, Annales de Géographie 635 (2004): 29–50,, last accessed on January 10, 2014.

Bruzzi, Stella, and Pamela Church Gibson, eds., Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations and Analysis, London: Routledge, 2000.

Cleto, Fabio, Camp: Queer Aesthetics and the Performing Subject–A Reader, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1999.

Colleyn, Jean-Paul, and Jean-Pierre Dozon, ‘Lieux et non-lieux de Marc Augé’, L’Homme 185-186 (2008): 7–32,, last accessed on January 10, 2014.

Croose, Jon, ‘First Steps Towards Writing the Carnivalesque—After Foucault’,, last accessed on January 10, 2014.

Currid, Elizabeth, The Warhol Economy: How Fashion Art and Music Drive New York City, Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2007.

Getz, Donald, ‘The Nature and Scope of Festival Studies’, International Journal of Event Management Research 5.1 (2010),, last accessed on January 10, 2014.

Gilbert, David, ‘Urban Outfitting: The City and the Spaces of Fashion Culture’, Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations and Analysis, eds. Stella Bruzzi and Pamela Church Gibson, London: Routledge, 2000, 7–24.

Goodrum, Alison, The National Fabric: Fashion, Britishness, Globalization, Oxford: Berg, 2005.

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———, Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance Since the Sixties, London: Verso, 1996.

Monneyron, Frédéric, La Photographie de mode, un art souverain, Paris : PUF, 2010.

Pomian, Krysztof, Sur l’histoire, Paris: Gallimard, 1999.

Prichard A., and N. Morgan, ‘On Location: Re(viewing) bodies of fashion and places of desire’, Tourist Studies 5.3 (2005): 283–302.

Rocamora, Agnès, and Alistair O’Neill, ‘Fashioning the Street: Images of the Street in the Fashion Media’, ed. Eugénie Shinkle, Fashion as Photograph: Viewing and Reviewing Images of Fashion, London: Tauris, 2008, 185–199.

Shinkle, Eugénie, ed. Fashion as Photograph: Viewing and Reviewing Images of Fashion, London: Tauris, 2008.

Short, J.R., Imagined Country. Environment, Culture and Society, London: Routledge, 1991.

Su, John J., Imagination and the Contemporary Novel, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011.

Walter, François, Les Figures paysagères de la nation. Territoire et paysage en Europe (xviexxe siècle), Paris: Editions de l’école des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2004.

Williams, Raymond, The Country and the City, Oxford: Oxford UP, 1973.

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1 The notion of place is here taken as concrete and geographical while space is more abstract and provides for consideration of social interaction in the way it (space) is constructed.

2 See George McKay 1996 and 2000 in which McKay discusses Glastonbury’s power as a leading event in Britain’s countercultural calendar. Using interviews, the underground media and music press, flyers and posters, this book tells the detailed story of the festival, tracing the history and tradition of festival culture. McKay explores the Somerset countryside, and the political campaigns of the festival, from CND to Greenpeace and Oxfam and discusses how Glastonbury Festival, in the face of massive expansion and commercialisation in the 1980s and 1990s, has kept an alternative ethos alive.

3 Some theme areas of the festival can be discovered with 360° panoramas and virtual tours online where space is dematerialized at The festival guide map can be found here:, last accessed on June 30, 2014).

4 A similarity could be traced to the theme park in Julian Barnes’s novel England, England, which contains replicas of sites and monuments considered to be quintessentially English. The park, like space at the Glastonbury festival, epitomizes modern changes from a mythical past to globalized culture.

5 On camp as subversively and aesthetically inspirational, see Cleto 1999, and Mark Booth’s article ‘Campe-Toi! On the Origins and Definitions of Camp’ in Cleto, based on the French verb se camper i.e. to pose in an exaggerated fashion.

6 The picture is available at:, last accessed on January 15, 2014. The whole editorial can be seen here: last accessed on January 15, 2014.

7 An image that is quasi-interchangeable with the idea of the British nation as observed in a 1991 book by J.R. Short, Imagined Country. Environment, Culture and Society (Short 75). It could also be linked to Raymond Williams’s analysis of the mutations of English rural culture in The Country and the City (1973).

8 ‘The one annual guarantee about Glastonbury Festival (notwithstanding anxieties about the weather) is the fact that people will always say “it is not what it used to be”’ (Croose) but others still believe that the festival has kept some of its authenticity.

9 ‘Ce dont la photographie de mode est le manifeste, c’est certes d’un art qui s’inscrit dans, et participe à, la réalité économique et commerciale, qui agit avec elle et est agi par elle. . . . La photographie de mode se définit alors comme un art qui se moque des cloisonnements établis entre l’économique, l’artistique, le social, les mélange et les transforme dans un processus de création qui les dynamise tous’ (Monneyron 211).

10 I wish to thank Susan Babchick at Gimpel Fils Gallery for kindly letting me use one of Corinne Day’s Glastonbury pictures for academic purposes.

11 A style pioneered by Terry Jones, founder of i-D in the 80s and calling to mind Steve Johnson’s work with his shots of London punks against a plain white wall.

12 On the idea of fashionability as ‘performance’, see David Gilbert, ‘Urban Outfitting: The City and the Spaces of Fashion Culture’ (Bruzzi and Church Gibson 12).

13 ‘Parler de paysage sans évoquer le spectateur qui, par l’intermédiaire de sa sensibilité et plus globalement de sa culture, l’objective comme tel et lui donne du sens, c’est renoncer à la spécificité même de la notion de paysage’ (Walter 301).

14 For a deeper insight in the subject, see Getz’s article ‘The Nature and Scope of Festival Studies’ (2010) in which the roles, meanings, interdisciplinarity and impacts of festivals in society and culture are explored.

15 Here again, I am honoured the artist granted permission to use this picture for the purpose of my article.

16 ‘Au contraire des lieux où l’activité symbolique fabrique des identités relatives, c’est-à-dire en relation organique aussi bien avec d’autres espaces et d’autres identités qu’avec leur propre passé, les non-lieux sont voués à la mise en scène d’un éternel présent et à l’assemblage de mondes sociaux qui ont bien du mal à faire œuvre et signification communes’ (Colleyn and Dozon 28). People are not ‘désoeuvrés’ as Jean-Luc Nancy would say (Colleyn and Dozon 21), or unconnected, at Glastonbury, but part of a community for a few days, as artificial as it may be.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Gemma Ward photographed in the Lost Vagueness zone, Glastonbury Festival
Crédits Corinne Day for Vogue, 2005
Fichier image/jpeg, 580k
Titre Fig. 2: Venetia Dearden, Glastonbury: Another Stage, 2010
Fichier image/jpeg, 159k
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Référence électronique

Julie Morère, « Fashion Photography and Festival Culture: What Glastonbury’s Space Does to the Imagination »Études britanniques contemporaines [En ligne], 47 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2014, consulté le 23 juillet 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Julie Morère

Julie Morère is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nantes. She is a member of the CRINI team (Centre de Recherche sur les Identités Nationales et l’Interculturalité) and a regular contributor to Ebc. Her research field has recently extended to contemporary British fashion photographers’ works, focusing on the way the images they create rely on and reinvent traditional elements of the British culture and identity to express their own aesthetic concerns in a globalized world.

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