‘China Girls’ by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott for Interview Magazine March 2011..Neon glow and 1920’s film-like quality. These images contain a kind of objectification and eroticism that is the topic of much discussion surrounding their appropriateness.. but then again it is this kind of questionable theme that Mert and Marcus frequently channel in their fashion work.
Laetitia Casta by Michelangelo di Battista for Elle France July 2011.. Beautiful foresty shoot that makes me think of little red riding hood. The styling is significantly different across the images, though tied together by a red/green complementary balance.
‘The Virgin Spring’ Henrietta Hellberg & Hedvig Palm by Julia Hetta for ACNE Magazine Spring / Summer 11.. Dark, brooding and desaturated. There is a flat, painterly quality and carefully balanced Rembrandt lighting. I love the simplicity and subtly of visual cues such as the apple. Quite possibly related to the 1960’s Swedish film of the same name which spoke of revenge, morality, sexual innocence and religion.
So why fashion photography?
I am drawn to fashion as a photographic subject because it allows for play; an opportunity to pull together ideas, inspirations and aesthetics to form dynamic scenes or frames. Perhaps viewed as extension of dressing up as a child, it is this shift away from reality that can take one’s mind to any place imaginable.
In saying this, coming from a Fine Art background, a war is waged in my mind between wanting to make amazing images and wanting to make work that stems from concept and is loaded with meaning. Fashion photographer Juli Balla said at the AIPA ImageNation conference I attended last month- “at the end of the day I’m selling frocks..” After all fashion photography is first and foremost a mode of distribution for fashion and is, ultimately, a medium to create desire.
The role of the fashion editorial seems to rest somewhere in between art and commerce; concept and aesthetic forming this symbiotic relationship.
Often approaching fashion in the form of pseudo-narratives, editorials can feel poised and frozen, stories with no consequence in and of themselves. An editorial can become a stage for a production of sorts- taking inspiration from the world around it, suggesting or alluding to an idea. This also speaks of accessibility. People can identify, they can find something familiar on which to grasp.
If anything, fashion photography can become a vehicle for creativity. It will initiate collaboration and it will entertain. It will provoke a sense of wonder and ignite desire.
In some respect I don’t necessarily think it is so distant from its art photography counterpart when thinking along the lines of Jeff Wall or Cindy Sherman who come at photography from contrasting angles- realism and fantasy- approaches which are mirrored in contemporary fashion photography.
But as something so subjected to the whims of fashion itself, it is difficult to view fashion photography as a reliable expression of culture. It often lives in it’s own fantastical world, disparate from reality, superficial and constructed. Perhaps it is only when we look retrospectively to the likes of Helmut Newton, Wolfgang Tillmans and Richard Avedon that we are able to appreciate it for its artistic and historical value. These people had eye for capture in such a way that was made their own- a defining style. They also pushed boundaries and made people stop, look, think and question. Isn’t that what art is about anyway?
Extra reading | A good article via the NY Times.. Gone Global: Fashion as Art?