Essence, a solo show by photographer and film-maker, Denis Piel.
Essence (noun) the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character
Essence presents a body of work from Denis Piel’s commercial and personal projects. Furthermore, it investigates reoccurring thematic concerns within Piel’s practice, offering an articulation of his search for the elemental and authentic qualities in all that he captures.
With his rapid rise to prominence in the 1980s, initially within fashion photography, Piel has been described by the influential photographer Guy Bourdin as “undoubtedly the most gifted fashion photographer of his generation.” . Alongside Avedon and Penn, Piel was one of the few photographers at the time to be given a contract with Condé Nast. Recognised for his influential directorial approach within fashion photography, Piel fused an intimate narrative into the images he created; working with models in the construction of a story.
Piel subsequently began to strip back the ephemeral within his images, seeking to capture what he describes as a ‘real’ moment while maintaining an acute sensibility toward the subjective and constructed nature of reality . He approaches his subject seeking a moment that is not contrived: an authentic unguarded moment.
Piel’s non-commercial images deconstruct key components of the fashion image: the garment, the body, the face, the location. Clothing is reduced to its most basic form, or removed altogether, to reveal a body which endures and changes according to differing temporal frameworks.
The feeling, sensing, body within Piel’s work acts as a site of shared understanding, developed in light of Piel’s fascination with the commonalities between people: the shared intrinsic needs that define us as human. Food, water and bedding are reoccurring elements within these images and speak of basic physical needs: eating, drinking, sleeping, sex.
Irrespective of the context in which Piel has produced his photographic images, the abiding essence of the work is a celebration of the sensual; a celebration of the body.