Inspired by Eyeliner: Visuals Old and New

The other day my friend Alicia, a fellow film lover, posted a link on social media recommending a documentary about the actress Rita Moreno. The accompanying image showed Moreno standing in front of a mural depicting her in her youth.

I remembered I had photographed this piece of street art several times in New York in January 2020. It had probably been commissioned some time before as the the mural already had quite a few scribbles on it:

Mural featuring Rita Moreno by @indie184

As well as being a fan of Rita Moreno’s I particularly liked the concept of this work by @indie184 which is based on a photograph of Moreno applying eyeliner. I haven’t been able to find the name of the photographer who took the original portrait.

In addition to this mural I have regularly photographed a section of wall in London’s Kings Cross, sometimes just documenting it but on other occasions using it as a backdrop for a selfie. I’m particularly drawn to the upside down eyes, outlined in dramatic black liner:

Section of wall featuring near Kings Cross

The black winged eyeliner with its’s upturned flick reminded me of images of my favourite glamorous actresses including Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, Rita Hayworth as well as the young French Brigitte Bardot to name but a few. Below, a photo I took many years ago off the TV monitor. I froze the video – Roger Vadim’s 1956 film And God Created Woman at the point where Bardot says “All the future does is spoil the present”. I love the combination of deep philosophy and 50s style!

TV Monitor shot featuring Brigitte Bardot in a scene from Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman, 1956

However, in terms of her make-up, the winged eyeliner look predates that. Here’s a photograph taken in Paris at a 2009 retrospective of the actor Jean Marais featuring detail of a 1940’s poster for Cocteau’s film L’Aigle a deux Tetes. Actress Edwige Feuillere’s eyliner has the perfect upturned flick:

1940’s Film Poster detail

Closer to home are my own glamorous immediate family. Below are a couple of family photographs that were taken before I was born.

First is an early to mid 1950s portrait of my mother Dalia, then a teenager, applying make-up before going on stage for a performance of Die Fledermaus:

Backstage photo – Dalia circa 1953

Vintage photograph of my aunt Diana

Above, her younger sister, my aunt Diana. This photo was apparently on the cover of the Israeli women’s magazine La’Isha (Hebrew for For The Woman) again during the 1950s. Diana’s eyes are perfectly adorned with black liner, accentuating her dramatic beauty.

Years later in the late 80s early 90s whilst at college I embark on a photographic project on identity and the representation of mothers:

Me & Jac as our Mothers

My friend Jacqui, on the right, and I are both manifesting our mothers is this joint self portrait. I am wearing my mum’s gold lamé dress which I think she made herself. I remember not being able to zip it up as she is smaller than me. Jacqui and I both did our eyes with flick up eyeliner and applied thick coatings of lipstick.

I too have a some personal history with eyeliner. A shot from my Jewish primary school is the early/mid 60s. My mother had helped me with my fancy dress outfit for the Purim Festival. I am Queen Esther, second from the right, and my Max Factor eyeliner is all smudged:

Years later, a self portrait on a Persian rug, circa 1990

Next a couple of examples of images that pay attention to using eyeliner or kohl in the inner eyelid and under the eye. The first image is a documentary abstract taken during lockdown:

Street Abstract taken during London Lockdown, 2021

Below, Farzana, a woman I met at Kew Gardens whose style and beauty impressed me:

Farzana at Kew Gardens, 2018

More recently during Pride celebrations in London – skilfully drawn eyeliner above and below the eyes:

Eye-catching Eyeliner at Pride, London 2023

Although my preference is for black eyeliner I’m open to the concept of colour. Below are some examples of people I’ve come across in the street whose colourful eyeliner is integral to their look:

Girl with orange eyeliner juxtaposed with street sign, Hackney, 2022

Ice hanging out at the Lavazza cafe during Pride, 2023

Pink eyeliner and white lashes, Soho, 2022

The following selection features highly decorative and/or jewel encrusted eyeliner:

Woman in the corner shop, 2022

Sales Assistant at Liberty Store, 2022

A couple of shots featuring Florent Bidois:

Florent Bidois at the London Colour Walk, October 2022

Most recently at the last London Colour Walk, Florent’s black eyeliner merged with golden hued eyeshadows – this used to be one of my personal favourite make-up combos when I was younger:

Close up of Florent Bidois at the London Colour Walk, Jul 2023

I still wear eyeliner most days. My preferred look is summed up by this image of Tania, who like me, is a singer with the London Lucumi Choir. Here she is at a recent outdoor rehearsal:

Tania at Choir Rehearsal, 2023


Also published on Medium.

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