Review by Ed McCormack Gallery & Studio Magazine
Fortunate, in an era when high art and popular culture continue to draw closer, are those artists whose personal and professional concerns not only coincide harmoniously but nourish one another. The young Israeli-born photographer Ella Manor, who studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology and is now a denizen of the New York Fashion World, is a case in point.
Those who log onto Manor’s website ( HYPERLINK “http://www.ellamanor.com" www.ellamanor.com) can click on categories that specify “self Portraits” and “Fashion”. However, the singular aesthetic sensibility that unites them transcends categories. Like Man Ray, Sarah Moon and Dianne Arbus, all of whom honed their unmistakably fine art visions at “Vogue”, Manor marries form and content with an élan that makes a mockery of distinctions between high and low. Her pictures intrigue one by investing what is sometimes considered superficial, even trivial, with a suggestiveness that speaks of fate, mortality and other issues more profound that one is accustomed to encountering in the precincts of the fabulously trendy.
For example, one of the most striking images on Manor’s website shows a woman perched on the ledge of a rooftop in a bridal gown and veil as though contemplating a leap. Since much of Manor’s personal work takes the form of self-portraits, often with the artist enacting a role in a manner akin to Cindy Sherman or Kimiko Yoshida, the picture seems to make an ambivalent statement about the sacrificial symbology of being “given away” in marriage. (“I’m exploring the idea of being a bride,” the artist, who took the picture of herself on the weekend before her own wedding, told a reporter.)
At the same time, lest one misinterprets her pictures, it is more important to be aware that Manor is creating Metaphors rather then being literal. Thus masks are a favorite motif, mingled in one personal picture with ghostly overlapping self portraits that seem to speculate wryly on how the artist’s penchant for role playing could possibly precipitate a genuine identity crisis.
Gender is also up for grabs- or at least fluid- in some of Manor’s photographs, as seen in one image in her digital Fashion portfolio of a model with her luxuriant mane pinned back out of view on one side and a stubble drawn into her face, suggesting a more beautiful tongue-in-chic update on those half-man half-woman hoaxes in sleazy carnival sideshows.
But Manor also demonstrates that she need not always resort to subterfuge or fantasy to create compelling imagery, in a magazine spread in yet another section of her website called “tearsheets.” Here, employing the verite technique of a rapid-fire documentary collage, she juxtaposes images of thin young things on the runway and backstage, to evoke both the glamour and wide eyed anxiety of the annual cattle call known as Fashion week. By contrast, her ability to take fashion photography to the edge comes across sensationally in set up shots of black-lipped goth girls in dark brick alleys and one image, in particular, as carefully plotted as a film noir still: While the model lies sprawled like a lovely, gape-eyed murder victim, the viewer’s attention bounces helplessly back and forth between her blood-red lipstick and the elegant matching handbag, dropped half open on the pavement nearby.
But perhaps the real showstopper of the site is a picture in which Manor, her lips dripping fake blood, hovers sinisterly over a nude model with fang-marks on her neck. At first glance, it could look like a spoof of Charles Busch’s off-Broadway camp classic “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.” Then it dawns on one that Ella Manor may be alluding to something deeper and more universal: how all artists draw their life’s blood from their models or muses.
— Ed McCormack
September/October 2008 issue