Collier Schorr’s New Photography Book ‘August’ Is a Radical Account of the Past

This sense of fragility also extends to the precariousness of the moments captured by Polaroids, with many of these visions of youthful bliss unfolding as people paddle a lake in kayaks or lie naked in the grass; there’s a sense to the scenes existing outside of time and place, though you’re abruptly brought back to the harsh reality of their historical context through shots of a military jacket or cargo pants. The ambiguous and seductive beauty of Schorr’s work lies in its ability to evoke two things at once, as in his famous series on high school wrestlers, where the tension between these totemic figures of American masculinity and a more homoerotic subtext subversive is as interesting as the image itself. Here, it is the innocence of his subjects in the brief and full youth, but against the backdrop of a more threatening story.

Equally striking is Schorr’s eye for using clothing – and more specifically uniforms, studied here with an intensity that borders on fetishism – as a storytelling device, many years before it became one of the world’s most renowned fashion photographers. “I think I’ve always looked at clothes as a fantastic lie, as the thing that can make something look like something else,” she says. While Schorr embarks on fashion photography thanks to an order from Olivier Zahm Purple magazine in 2005, she notes that even before that, she would arrive to shoot the children of Schwäbisch Gmünd with boxes of clothes to make them go to war. “I was thinking about my early days of shopping on Christopher Street and buying Levi’s and handkerchiefs, and those things that were part of the semiotics of homosexual iconography, so it was a very easy step into military clothing, because that was a big part of it too,” she adds.