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Ewa-Mari Johansson

Supermodels Backstage

Movie stars of their time

They lounge or swirl around backstage at Karl Lagerfeld and Donna Karan shows, among others. Their names shine in neon letters all over the world throughout the 1990s: Helena Christensen, Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista... movie stars of their time. In garments from Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, Enrico Coveri, Donna Karan DKNY, Badgley Mischka, Ellen Tracy, Anna Molinari for Bluemarine and more.

Ewa-Mari Johansson Claudia Schiffer Catwalk 1995


In Ewa-Mari Johansson's Supermodels Backstage, we see how the atmosphere backstage goes from the early morning's calm lull in the homely mess of coffee mugs, hair and make up, and trying on clothes - to hyper-focus once the show starts. All chaotic on the surface, but organized in the smallest detail with a military timing, so the right model wears the right clothes in the right order. Mission: To deliver a theater of fashion that exudes the idea of perfection on stage in front of a demanding front row audience ranging from celebrities and movie stars to the legendary Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington of Vogue.

This is the place where everything comes to a head.


Top model turned photographer

When Ewa-Mari Johansson went behind the scenes of haute couture shows in the early 1990s as a photographer with her Nikon, it was a familiar environment for her. With her own experience as a top model and mannequin in the fashion industry's metropolises of Paris, London, New York, Milan... Getting behind the camera instead has made her a successful fashion photographer for fashion magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Vogue, often inspired by surrealism, skilled at capturing the light and lighting. This is evident in these documentary black and white images where we follow the entire backstage process.
From the intimate conversations or small talk to the extremely intense and stressful time when the show starts and everything has to work out in a millisecond. Clothes and assessors are pulled off, hair and make-up are quickly fixed, running between the racks and the assistants struggle with the logistics so that new garments are quickly put on the right model.

"The fashion industry has many sides, some of them quite dark, which has finally been highlighted recently. Here I wanted to show the community between the models, the strength of their different expressions and personalities, how they worked together and helped each other", says Ewa-Mari Johansson.


Ewa-Mari's open mind

Ewa-Mari Johansson's ability to create trust so that the encounter occurs radiates from her pictures, whether they are portraying Masai women or supermodels. No one becomes an object - everyone becomes a subject in their own right. She captures them intimately at close range or discreetly from the side, the moment when Kate Moss, cheerfully unadorned, steps in and smiles at her, Claudia Schiffer pulls on her tights or Linda Evangelista, possibly slightly stressed, checks her schedule... 

"At that time, when supermodels were created as the 90s version of Hollywood movie stars, it was unusual for them to be photographed backstage. But they generously invited the community backstage, even if I myself became a little starry-eyed and somewhat inhibited with Linda Evangelista", says Ewa-Mari Johansson.

Surrealist inspiration

Growing up in Skåne, Sweden, she became a model as a teenager in the 1970s, which meant travel and adventure, but also experiences of misogynistic male chauvinism and body shaming. She was photographed by Guy Bourdin and others for many major brands and appeared in everything from Harper's Baazar to Vogue. 

The desire to create led to photography studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the documentary film school in New York. But his first contact with Surrealism was a dinner at the home of Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala Dalí.

In the 1980s, she took up still photography, gaining international success in fashion photography with her and her daughter based in Milan. All at a time when women were rarely given the opportunity to do just that. For example, it was impossible to start as an assistant, otherwise a classic career path for those with photography ambitions. 

"Patrick Demarchelier, who I worked with as a model, said he could never let a woman wear his stuff. But he absolutely wanted to support me, so he let me use his studio for free". 

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