Photographs — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


In the field of textiles, fishnet is hosiery with an open, diamond-shaped knit; it is most often used as a material for stockings, tights, or bodystockings. Fishnet is available in a multitude of colors, although it is most often sported in traditional matte black. Fishnet is commonly worn on the legs and arms by practitioners of goth and punk fashion, but is also commonly worn by the mainstream as a fashion statement. Generally considered to be a sexy garment, it may serve as a component of sexual fetishism. Fishnets are used mostly as a type of undergarment, and in as much as it defines curves by applying a grid close to the body it generally accentuates the wearer’s muscular definition.

A more practical use of fishnet textiles is in high performance next-to-skin apparel used in cold weather outdoor sports, including hiking, hunting, fishing, skiing, and mountaineering. In this context, fishnet is usually knitted from fibers of polypropylene, merino wool, or nylon, and offers a number of benefits over traditional densely knitted base layer apparel. These benefits are related to the presence of large void spaces in the fishnet fabric structure that trap insulating air for warmth in cool conditions, and allow for the rapid transport of moisture from the skin surface to outer layers to minimize conductive heat loss.


In my career as a magazine photographer and writer and later as art photographer I have always had a very hot space in my heart for fishnet stockings. I could fill a very large gallery with photographs of women wearing them. But it was in February of 2005 that my friend T came into my studio with a fishnet body stocking. I used two cameras. One was a Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD with Kodak Plus-X Pan film. For the others I used a Nikon FM-2 loaded with Kodak B+W Infrared Film (alas discontinued many years ago). For the Nikon I used a deep red filter. The colours you see here are not due to the filter but the fact that I scan my b+w negatives I 3 colour RGB. I then add yellow and red for the colour. In one of them I added cyan and blue.

The technique for all of these pictures was to place my camera inside the circular hole of a Pro-Foto Ring Flash. I purposely turned the camera crooked and used a wide angle lens so that the lens would “see” the edge of the ring flash. This I discovered a few years before by accident.

But the true discovery happened when I asked T to pull up the body stocking.

While I am certainly no Helmut Newton I do know that one of the reasons his photographs are so arresting is that there is always something in his pictures that is “wrong”. In the case here it’s the fact that the hands are inside the stocking.