Eugenie Shinkle’s essay ‘On Boredom and Contemporary Fashion Photography’, is out now in Fashion and Feeling: the Affective Politics of Dress, Roberto Filippello and Ilya Parkins, eds. Palgrave Macmillan, 2023.
In this essay, I examine the complex phenomenology of boredom and its relationship with contemporary fashion photography. Boredom, I argue, has a structural – rather than a merely subjective or incidental – relationship with fashion photography. Designed for rapid consumption followed by disinterest, fashion images encourage specific perceptual habits that depart from conventional definitions of boredom as unfilled time. Helped along in recent years, by technologies that are optimised for the instantaneous transmission and consumption of images, fashion photography’s cyclical movement of anticipation, arousal, and disinterest leaves little time or space for reflection.
If there is political potential in fashion photographs, is not linked specifically to their subject matter, but in the refusal of meaning that they invite. Rather than a passive state, boredom can be actively embraced as a form of aesthetic judgement, an enticement to find or create meaning where none exists. The final sections of the essay reflect on this possibility, setting the passivity of boredom as something to be avoided against a more active will to embrace it. Here, the subject’s encounter with meaninglessness can be seen as a prelude to the creation of meaning.