For my dissertation I have chosen to study fashion photography. One of the main reasons for this choice is simply because I have always been interested in fashion photography, and I thought that doing this topic for my dissertation would give me a further understanding around certain aspects of it. Within fashion photography I find it very interesting how a whole fashion editorial is put together, and just how much creativity is needed in order to create a successful fashion editorial. Every minor detail within a fashion editorial is vital, whether it be the model and what he/she is wearing, the environment they are placed in or even the placing of a prop in the background. I believe that my dissertation would help me understand why photographers make some of these decisions and how far they actually go to make these fashion editorials so significant. For my AS photography there were fashion editorials by Annie Leibovitz that inspired the outcome for my finals piece, even though the genre for my photography project was not fashion photography. As I was previously motivated by fashion photography, I thought doing it for my dissertation would have a successful outcome. I also wanted to get a deeper understanding of fashion photography.
For my dissertation I am going to look at how photographers use different locations and environments in fashion editorials and what effect these environments and locations have on the fashion editorial and the audience. For the first chapter of my dissertation I have decided to look at the environment of a ‘Studio’, as this is one of the most typical environments for fashion shoots. The photographers I will look at are, Richard Avedon, David LaChapelle and John Rankin. All three of these photographers are known for creating fashion editorials in a studio, however the way they create environments within a studio and shoot their models are all very different. For my second chapter I have chosen to look at fashion editorials that are shot in ‘Everyday’ locations. The photographer’s styles I decided to compare for this chapter are, David Bailey and Elaine Constantine, the reason for this being that Bailey attempts to bring a fashion feel to these everyday environments, whereas Constantine wants to bring an everyday feel to a fashion shoot. For my final chapter I decided to look at ‘Out Of The Ordinary’ environments, photographers I will be studying for this chapter are Guy Bourdin and Annie Leibovitz. Both photographers find interesting locations for their models; however Bourdin approach is to find an interesting location, whereas Leibovitz tends to create a fascinating location. For each chapter I will discuss the individual approach of each photographer towards fashion photography and then compare their approaches.
How do photographers use different locations and environments within their fashion photography and to what effect?
As fashion has changed, so has the ways in which photographers capture it. One of the major changes within fashion photography is the location. Previously fashion photography would most likely have taken place within a studio. As fashion photography progressed, photographers began to create interesting sets within their studios and started to push the boundaries of what a fashion studio set was.
Many different photographers are known for the interesting ways they capture fashion photography. Some of these photographers are Richard Avedon, David LaChapelle and John Rankin.
Avedon is an American photographer, known for his fashion photography. His fashion and portrait photography have been described as ‘photographs that have helped define America’s image of style, beauty and culture for the last half century’ The Times New York. Avedon began capturing fashion images in 1946, his early work uses clear traditional studio sets for fashion photography.
Avedon, January 1967
These Images show the simplicity of previous fashion studio photography. Even though these images use the simplicity of a studio, Avedon is able to make the fashion within the image, as well as the model, more striking to the viewer, and draws attention to the key factor of the image.
LaChapelle is a current American photographer known for his wild and unique take on photography. One of the areas LaChapelle is known for is fashion. LaChapelle creates unique and interesting sets that go beyond how studio photography is usually seen. He has said that he tries to make his images ‘look like they have been plucked from a movie, he then wants ‘the viewer to decide what type of movie they are looking at’. CBS documentary on Youtube.
LaChapelle takes the quirky elements of the clothing and fits it in with a surrounding, opposed to Avedon who allowed his models to stand out from the background, which made the model and the clothing catch the attention of the viewer. It can be said that LaChapelle’s settings could be a key element to catching the viewers’ attention as it is a new and exciting scene for a fashion shoot.
LaChapelle, Christina Aguilera, Italian Vogue, December 2003
LaChapelle takes advantage of the changes that are taking place in fashion and works these changes into his sets. The telegraph has said that ‘his colourful, pop-art aesthetic has made his images instantly recognisable, and like no others in the fashion and art world.’ It has also been said that his images have ‘substance beneath their glossy surfaces’ FashionTV documentary Youtube. Just as Avedon’s work can be seen as classic and of its time, the same can be said for LaChapelle. He has described his style as ‘escapist fantasies, celebratory, beautiful.’ I believe this can be seen within his fashion photography. Lachapelle has said ‘there is another meaning or layer, (to his photography and he) does not want to explain what that is. CBS documentary Youtube.
Even though LaChapelle creates an environment within his studio, there are still many current photographers who use the classic studio setting, but change the way they photograph their models and change the way they edit their images to keep them looking current. John Rankin is one of those photographers.
Rankin is a British portrait and fashion photographer. For his fashion photography he often shoots in a studio. His images have the same effect as Avedon’s, the viewer is often drawn in by the model or what he or she is wearing. Even though he uses a traditional setting, we can see the ways in which he photographs is modern. Rankin has said ‘I am seduced by the world of fashion and the possibilities of modern photography.’ Rankin has also said ‘I think the most important thing in photography is that your work survives the test of time’, this may also be a reason as to why he photographs the majority of his fashion photography within a studio.
Photographers are finding new and interesting ways to shoot their models in studios, many photographers completely remove their models from the studio, and place them in everyday environments. Some photographers attempt to place their models in fitting environments, in order for the image to still be seen as a part of a fashion editorial or fashion ‘story’. Whereas other photographers are throwing their models into odd environments, presenting a juxtaposition of styles.
Some photographers known for placing their models in everyday settings are, David Bailey and Elaine Constantine.
David Bailey is an English fashion and portrait photographer. Bailey was known for capturing the period’s (60’s) current fashion on the streets of New York and London.
Bailey has said that he was greatly influenced by Henri Cartier Bresson, I believe this can be seen through Baileys successful attempt to move his models on to everyday streets, and into everyday quirky environments. Bresson is known for capturing the decisive moments in street photography, I feel Bailey brings this element to his fashion photography, and his images are able to portray a story and have a deeper meaning that what is simply seen on the surface. ‘My fashion pictures are documents just as much as my boat people or my pictures for Band-Aid of Sudan’. - David Bailey - in "International Herald Tribune," 15 Nov 1985..
Bailey has also said ‘I never cared for fashion much, amusing little seams and witty little pleats: it was the girls I liked’. - David Bailey - In "Independent." (London), 5 Nov. 1990. This quote shows that other factors were more important to Bailey in his fashion images, whereas other photographers focused on producing timeless fashion images. I feel that this is why Bailey was able to produce such interesting images, outside of the studio.
Another photographer who is known for their non-typical fashion photography is Elaine Constantine. Constantine is another British photographer known for her colourful and upbeat style of images.
As Bailey was known for taking supermodels out of the studio, Constantine was known for not using a studio but for also not using models. Instead she would mostly place teenagers in her images, allowing the image as a whole to look more like a documented event, opposed to a fashion shot.
Many have noticed the different angles that Constantine uses to approach her fashion images. An article in ‘America Vogue’ stated that ‘The hyperreal colours and exuberant subjects of her photographs have been catching the eyes of designers (like Katherine Hamnett) and editors (at Italian and American vogue), who have latched on to the incredible joyride of her dynamic and aspirational vision’. As well as being fashion photographs, Constantine’s images have been grouped as feel good images. An article from the ‘Independent on Sunday’ wrote that ‘Constantinehas single- handedly reintroduced smiles to fashion… Nick Knights former assistant is the mistress of wild spontaneity ’.
I feel the way in which these photographers move their models out of the studio into everyday settings, makes strong fashion editorials. The everyday environments are more relatable to the viewers. This not only draws the viewer to the editorial but also gives the viewer the need to want the clothing as it may fit in to their lifestyle, which is similar to what is shown in the image.
Out of the ordinary
As fashion is changing photographers are inventing more imaginative settings for their fashion editorials. Some photographers such as Guy Bourdin create quirky scenarios for their models, or take something ordinary and allow the models clothing and positioning to make it out of the ordinary. Annie Leibovitz is also known for her strange and unique approach in fashion photography.
A current photographer known for their interesting approach to fashion photography is American photographer Annie Leibovitz. Leibovitz often creates ‘fantasy worlds’ to accompany her fashion photography, or adds elements of fashion to editorial shots. Leibovitz is known for her fairytale/Disney images. Leibovitz takes a classic fairytale and uses that story as inspiration for her fashion editorial, whereas Bourdin created the story first.
Even though many of Leibovitz images are taken out of a studio, they remind me of those taken by David LaChapelle. Both photographers are able to take a space and create something eye capturing and dynamic. Leibovitz has said ‘[she] was scared to do anything in the studio because it felt so claustrophobic. [she] wanted to be somewhere where things could happen and the subject wasn't just looking back at you’. In addition I feel that Leibovitz constantly tries to being out of the ordinary aspects to her images, in order for it to not feel ‘staged’ or simply moved out of a studio. She wants to do more than simply move her models out of the studio.
I feel that out of the ordinary environments for fashion photography can be the most interesting, as aspects of studio and everyday fashion photography can be incorporated within this style of photography. I also believe that the creativity in this style of photography links well with the creativity needed in fashion.
In my introduction I asked ‘How do photographers use different locations and environments within their fashion photography and to what effect?’ Through my research I have discovered that many of the photographers I chose to study often create a story they wish to tell before they take their images. They then use different locations and environments as a tool in their fashion editorials to help create and portray their story to the audience. I also found that locations and environments were often more important to a photographer than certain fashion aspects of the editorial. For example David Bailey did not see clothing as a very important factor in his fashion editorials. Furthermore I found that locations and environments often reflected a certain part of the photographer. Also many people when discussing the photographers would often discuss the importance of the environments for the photographer but also they impact it could have on others.