Back in 1976, photographer Jim Britt took a series of snapshots of his two daughters at the family home in Los Angeles. One resulting image, which would later be named as ’Sisters’, captured 12-year-old Jody and 11-year-old ‘Mimi’ Melendy in what can only be described as an ecstatic fit of braces-baring laughter. The siblings unique bond had been documented since birth by their father, but little did anyone know the immense impact and trajectory that the super-smiley image would take.
Fast-forward to 1988 and a Comme des Garçons representative came across the image in a back issue of People magazine, where it had been featured as part of a feature on Jim’s work. Immediately the brand asked to license it for their AW88 campaign. The rest is, you could say, ground-breaking fashion history. The image — un-staged, brimming with pre-teen spirit and a natural hyper-communicative joy — was everything fashion advertising had not been until this point. ‘Sisters’ has gone on to influence the next generation of photographers and image-makers, but until now little was known about Jim, Jody and Melendy’s story.
This week sees the launch of a new book that looks to uncover the history of ‘Sisters’, explore the duo’s undeniable bond, and the monumental impact the image has had on the fashion industry. Published by Dazed and Confused editor-in-cheif Isabella Burley, with art direction from Jamie Reid, it will be launched, fittingly, at London’s Dover Street Market — a reference to the Comme brand whose choice of campaign imagery bred a new kind of fashion photography.
“For me, Jim’s photographs of his two daughters so perfectly capture the magic awkwardness of adolescence and the unselfconscious, but magnetic spirit of girlhood,” Isabella tells It’s Nice That. “It began as a father photographing the two things in the world he loves the most – his daughters, yet their impact still reverberates as strongly today,” she adds.
The book weaves the magical story behind this series, and the, until now, secret history behind the iconic Comme des Garçons campaign. “We wanted to celebrate the intimacy of these images and the subtle differences that occurred between each of the outtakes,” explains Isabella of the process her and Jamie went through in creating the book. “At the same time, it was important for us to consider the fandom around the campaign — myself and Jamie of course being fans ourselves.”
“I actually remember one of the really early conversations I had with Isabella when we first met was about her feature on the series, so its nice that almost three years later we have ended up working on the project together!" Jamie Tells us. "There is such a heart and soul in the series, it’s so personable, yet I feel its an image that really can speak to anyone,” he adds.
“The design really is quite clear, delicate and transparent. Its layout is quite no-nonsense and more about the interaction between reader, object and image in a pretty direct and delicate way,” says Jamie of the approach he took to designing the publication, which features a 24-page document of unpublished outtakes, a two-sided large-scale poster and new interviews from Jody and Melendy and Jim.
“The intention was always more of a publication, or a set, instead of a book,” says Jamie. “We had longevity and practicality in mind, as well as using the format as a way to create a cover; the poster fold out is quite an interesting one and bespoke to the reverse grid and the front image, which led to an amazing crop of the ‘hero’ image. The reverse of the book’s first edition is a simple black foil block – we decided to keep it monochrome to reflect the tone of the imagery.”
“Alongside the poster full-bleed image, we show the series of imagery in shot order on the reverse; its amazing to see the expression and movement of the girls etherise of that moment, kind of like the build up to that moment,” Jamie adds.
‘Sisters by Jim Britt, 1976’ is available at sisterswithbraces.com; the official launch is on Oct 4 6.00-8.00pm at Dover Street Market London
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