From Vera to Verushka – the unseen photographs of Johnny Moncada

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During the 1960s Veruschka von Lehndorff was considered one of the most startling, exotic and unusual models of her time.

An exhibition named From Vera to Verushka – the unseen photographs of Johnny Moncada at Somerset House in London is showing photographs of her  before she writhed around on the floor of Antonioni’s Blow Up! and after she retired from fashion in 1975 where she went on to create the iconically surreal but genius transformation body painting photographs of herself.

Before mutating into all 6ft3 of the Amazonian goddess supermodel which we all know of her, the photographs currently on show at Somerset House in London show her simply as Vera, a young German girl of extortionately effortless style and beauty shot by Johnny Moncada in 1963 and 1964 on the Amalfi Coast. The images project an overwhelmingly cool vision of 1960s Italian glamour and fashion.

After Moncada’s death in 2011, his daughter discovered three thousand of the unpublished photographs in a trunk that had been sealed for over forty years.  The images show Vera in both beautifully staged and informal poses, dressed in the best of Italian fashion including Valentino, Irene Galitzine, Sorelle Fontana, Antonelli, Trico, Biki, Forquet, and Lancetti.  Never previously exhibited, they capture a moment in fashion history and present a rare glimpse of the soon-to-be legendary model, transforming in front of Moncada’s camera into the icon of Amazonian perfection that we came to know simply as Veruschka.

By 1972 Richard Avedon decided that she was “the most beautiful woman in the world”,  during the Sixties and Seventies, she was the highest paid in her profession and appeared on 13 American Vogue covers.  But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Verushka’s career is her transformation photographs where she created herself into her own art, painting her body to camouflage herself into pebbles, trees and animals. Nonetheless these photographs are really quite fascinating as an insight into a character before their influence would become enormously important in terms of both fashion and photography history. Verushka is a true eccentric and original in terms of modelling and although these photographs may seem vaguely normal at first sight in their style for their time, Verushka’s individual personality and beauty radiates through the photographs.

Somerset House

2 April – 1 June 2014
Daily 10.00-18.00 (Last admission 17.30)
Until 21.00 (Last admission 20.30) on Thur 15 May

Courtyard Rooms, South Wing
Free admission

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