I love photography. In all it’s forms. I love the debates it provokes and what it tells about us. I could talk about it for hours and I actually do. I manage my own photo book collection and I m pretty proud of it.
I however have a feeling that it’s problematic to love photography this much. There are different group of people, all fighting their way through and working very hard in promoting it as a form of art. Did you know that photographs represent less than 10% of the global artwork sales in galleries and auction houses? Sounds nuts! Why? Well, think about the mass of photos you see everyday, whether it is as default background for your computer or to illustrate family happiness on a chocolate box. Probably a million photos sold everyday for such purpose and a billion photos taken by mr. everyone but yet such a low status for photography as…a form of art.
To make it even more difficult, the photo people even fight each other’s adding a layer of confusion for the public; mostly to determine who’s got the biggest (pardon me I m angry)!
People have always been ranking subjects “worth of interest”… So are we educated, always being told that first comes sciences, followed closely by economics and business studies, social sciences and in any case at the bottom: the arts.
Within the arts world, a hierarchy again with visual arts, music and at the bottom comedy and dance. I think it’s crap but let’s face it, it won’t change any soon!
We are ranking everything and the world of photography doesn’t escape such nonsensical judgement.
So stop the suspense, what lays a the bottom in photography? This one category that nobody wants to write about? The one that is regarded as a subform, a horrible mutation meant to serve hideous purposes? The one that holds no credibility and is meant to be disposable?
Well, I believe it is fashion photography…
A little while ago, I saw myself submitting my work to a few groups labelled FASHION EDITORIALS on the Flickr platform… For review. One hour later, the website notifies me that a review had been written by one of the platform members, a text of about 8 paragraphs, very promising! Not… This person wrote a miles long mail to tell me how stiff the model was (actually a ballet dancer for the record), to criticize my poor choice of clothes that weren’t fashionable and a lack of story to follow through the different pictures. I was shocked, ready to give up had never heard of such disgrace. I wanted to understand who wrote that and what motivated him!
Sure my series were far from being perfect but… That bad?!? C’mon!
So I clicked through and ended up on his website within a minute. Ok, so a professional fashion photographer as stated on the banner and a dedicated “fashion editorials” section. A few sub categories entitled with the name of the series. I pick “affair at the mosoleum” for a start.
I see myself browsing through a neat collection of photographs, highly professional in the look, framing, retouching, of a good looking model in romantic poses in a cemetery…
That’s When it stroke me!!! We were simply not talking about the same thing!
I think that despite the impressive technical skills demonstrated through his sets, this person was completely wrong and misunderstood what was at stake under the banner “fashion editorial”. The photos I could see there where photos of fashion and not fashion photography.
Ok let me explain: today when coming back from work you opened your mail box, picked a few bills a postcard and threw away that advertisement offering you 20% on fashion articles in a local shop. Oh you know that shop pretty well and it is anything but “fashionable”!
And now I am talking to you Fashion design student, fashion designer and alike, yes YOU!
This thought of having everyone around using the term fashion for any piece of crap sold at every corner is pretty spine chilling Isn’t it?? You spend days and nights developing your concepts, you hide yourself in hype student WG and go as far as not sewing your clothes at school because you are afraid of others stealing some of your ideas! Yep, I know you well! You want that high grade but you also want to state something about yourself, about the time being and the times to be through your very unique designs? Congratulations you are doing FASHION.
FASHION is something that lays ahead of us. Ahead but close enough to be accepted and eventually understood, digested. Something both unique (this “never seen before”), but universal (this “that’s it, damn that IS it!”). The FASHION label (please note the capital letters) applies to dresses, hats, underwear, footwear… Make-up, hairstyling… Photography.
So let me be clear now: fashion photography is not about taking pictures of clothes. As a matter of fact I could copy a dozen of links to brilliant fashion editorial series where models are completely nude all along. Fashion photography is about being innovative, ahead, unique and universal in the very way the photo is taken. It’s about the photographic process. It’s a proper exercise for the mind and it must be challenging. It implies a sound dialogue with a rich historical background of creativity and a will to move forward, a knack for innovative and out-of-the-box thinking.
Fashion design and fashion photography remain interdependent though and fuel each other’s. But the result is meant to stand above the simple sum. Something different with its own set of rules. Something deeper than the simple look book and that answers to a set of rules that aren’t found in any other photographic field. Fashion editorials give life to your creations. It sometimes interprets your creative intentions in an unexpected manner…and? Shouldn’t you accept it? Once public, your work is going to be reinterpreted by critiques, juries, teachers, fellow students as well as consumers, bloggers, haters and photographers. Give it away and see what happens, you might be surprised!
The history of fashion editorial photography is rich, very rich and it is depressing to see how little recognition it has gained. We surely see institutional initiatives such as Deichtor Hallen exhibiting Guy Bourdin or Vivianne Sassen publishing more art books (and I m not going to complain about this really!) but those are rather the exception. Internet remains the sole place where Calikartel, Fashion Gone Rogue, Ben Trovato and alikes vigorously promote Fashion Photography the way I defend it here.
Haven’t you ever surprised yourself daydreaming when flicking through the pages of a magazine, unfolding such universe? A fantasy world existing only for a few A4 frames, so moving you want to rip the pages off and save them for later? So you can come back to them any time you want?
I do. Everyday.
But look… All across this blog post I copied a few highly recommended fashion editorials that will show you what I mean. I find them provocative in a way, executed with maestria all their very own and unique way but always challenging. Isn’t a photo worth a thousand words?