Get a load of that, sonny

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The Independent Culture
The scene at Hamiltons Gallery earlier this week was chaotic. The frames for top fashion photographer Ellen Von Unwerth's show, "When Children Should Be in Bed" (right), were too small, and a posse of assistants was hastily constructing new ones, covering themselves from head to toe in silver glitter. In the midst of this frenzy stood Ellen Von Unwerth herself, a lanky blonde goddess in blue jeans. Von Unwerth is used to staying calm under pressure; her first job was in the Roncalli Circus, as assistant to the knife-thrower.

Spotted at a disco by a talent scout, Von Unwerth went on to become one of Elite's top models, moving to the other side of the camera shortly afterwards. Now one of the world's most feted fashion photographers - with regular commissions from Vogue and Harpers Bazaar, campaigns for Wonderbra, Guess Jeans and Katherine Hamnett under her belt - Von Unwerth is famous for her deeply sexy work.

"I like the devil in my models," she grins while looking at a print of Showgirls actress Gina Gershon pouting viciously, "I like to let them play in front of the camera, but if they don't have it, it's impossible to get one good picture".

The premise for this exhibition was Von Unwerth's daughter asking what adults got up to while children were asleep. The answer is contained in a lush series of work detailing the beautiful people at play, smoothing down their stockings in strip clubs, perched in glamorous nightclubs, embracing in dark alleyways and lounging seductively in the back of limos.

Von Unwerth is often criticised for portraying women in an overtly sexual way. But it is difficult to turn away from the full-on gazes of the models. They possess their image and almost taunt you with their sexuality rather than invite you to stare. Definitely an exhibition to see in the more sensual hours of the afternoon.


When Children Should Be in Bed, Hamiltons Gallery, 13 Carlos Place, London W1 (0171-499 9493) to 27 Apr