In the fashion world, Michelangelo Antonioni’s cult 1966 film, Blow-Up, is best known for the brief, titillating scene in which Veruschka writhes on the floor as a leering fashion photographer — played by David Hemmings — eagerly snaps away. It’s the scene that transformed the model, who was 27 at the time, from Vogue cover girl to household name. It’s also intended to be a realistic — and thoroughly researched — portrait of the fashion-photography boom of Swinging London.
Though he lived in Italy all his life, Antonioni was fascinated by London’s burgeoning fashion-photography scene. Blow-Up’s protagonist, Thomas, is based on British photographers David Bailey, Don McCullin, and, in particular, John Cowan, who allowed Antonioni to use his studio as a set. “The scene with Veruschka, when Thomas takes the camera off the tripod so that he can circle the model, snapping her more instinctively than with deliberation, bears all the hallmarks of a typical Cowan shoot,” writes Walter Moser in the introduction to Blow-Up: Antonioni’s Classic Film and Photography, a new book examining the film’s many references to and influences on the field of photography.
The book, and corresponding exhibition — currently on display at Switzerland’s Fotomuseum Winterthur and set to open at C/O Berlin this December — is the first to take a closer look at the film’s relationship to photography. A mix of film stills, photographs that appear in the film, and contextual work from the time (including work by Terence Donovan, Richard Hamilton, Ian Stephenson, Bailey, and McCullin), the book, out this month from Hatje Cantz, explores the film’s inspirations and influence on contemporary photographers like Mario Testino and Hans Feurer.
Click through the slideshow for a look at some of the photographic highlights from the book, including Veruschka, Jill Kennington, Jane Birkin, and more.