Fashion and Beauty Photography Essay

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  1. 1. Fashion and Beauty is important to study, as it is an important part of everyday life. This is because it is always present, even though its not necessarily something people consciously think about such as getting dressed in the morning and doing their hair. Not only is a part of everyday life but also it is a crucial part of society and culture, showing religious beliefs and peoples background and where they come from. Fashion not only shows these, but reflects where the person is going or what they are doing. For example a smart suit and brief case could indicate someone is going to work and a sparkly, short dress would show that someone is off to a party. These clothing decisions often come as second nature to people, knowing how to appropriately dress for different circumstances. This could be a subconscious decision ad not necessarily one made based on fashion trends. Fashion and beauty is also a form of expression and art, showing how people feel and what they are interested in, which links to the idea of stereotypes and how people are perceived and the impression they leave on people without even doing or saying anything. A good example is teenagers wearing hoodies. Automatically people tend to steer clear and think they are up to no good, and if someone is wearing a lot of makeup, people will criticize. Fashion and beauty is in some cases the only way people can express themselves. Such as a teenager will go through various different fashion and beauty looks to rebel, become their own person and find their style. People who have to wear a uniform or suit change their hair and makeup to express their style and personality. The form of expression is most likely the most important reason to study the idea of fashion and beauty, as a world without them would be dull and bland. If everyone had the same hair style and outfit then things would look boring and people would be unhappy with out them as they show personality and visual look into someones mind. Fashion photography has been around since the late 18th Century/early 19th Century, and was introduced into society by fashion magazines that are still highly relevant today and renown for their fashion photography and photographers that are associated with them, Harpers Bazar (1867), and Vogue (1892). 1Although photography was invented in the 1830s, fashion magazines were at first using hand coloured illustrations to show fashion as the first practiced use of photography, daguerreotype could not be used for mass production, and was therefore no good for magazines. It was not until halftone printing techniques became more advanced that it was possible for photography to be used to show fashion and mass produced for magazines. During this time period, Paris was the centre for fashion and the use of photography to document it, and this was the case until the end of the 1930s. Paris produced a significant number of fashion photographers, as well as attracting them. One of the most significant fashion photographers who is dubbed as the first fashion photographer was Adolphe De Mayer2. 1
  2. 2. The work of De Mayer was for the fashion and photography industries, revolutionary as he developed the idea of fashion photography into an art form stemmed from the idea of portraiture. He also had a unique style to his work, with the majority of it focusing around the use of a soft focus lens and a backlight, which helped to create his distinctive style. During the 1930s, the centre of fashion moved from Paris, to New York. This meant the photographers followed. One of the key photographers here now is Edward Steichen. Although he was around previous to this change, he became more prominent during the late 1920s. One of the biggest achievements and advances for fashion photography and Vogue was when he took the first colour cover photograph in 1932 at New Yorks infamous Radio City. Fashion photography was still relatively new, and therefore was continually explored to see different ideas and techniques. Although these techniques were explored, the photographs were still flamboyantly set up with props and high fashion in an almost theatrical way. This changed however, when Hungarian sports photographer, Martin Munkacsi3went over to American on assignment in 1933. The editor of Harpers Bazar, Carmel Snow, approached him to do a fashion shoot. This was a different approach to fashion, coming from a sports perspective that completely contrasted the typical and popular way in which fashion photography was seen and shot. He used a fast shutter speed in order to capture model Lucille Brokaw running down the beach. This not only captured movement in the image from her flowing dress, but also showed models in a new, more realistic way instead of them looking as false and posed as previous. This had opened new doors in terms of fashion photography, expanding the way the shoots could be approached and how fashion could be shown. After the Second World War, fashion grew again after its downfall during the war, and thus came about new and iconic photographic styles and photographers. The 50s and 60s in themself were highly groundbreaking culturally with new ideas being explored and more being shown through the media opening up the general public to more than they were used to. This was all given to a world already shook up by the events of the war. This vast change included the emergence of icons in both music and film such as Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. All of this of course impacted fashion photography dramatically, giving it more ideas, subjects and icons to work with as well as this decade producing some now highly 3
  3. 3. influential photographers. One of those photographers being David Bailey. Born in England he became inspired by the photography works of Henri Cartier Bresson4. In 1959 he got a job assisting John French, photographer for the Daily Mirror. This led him onto a highly successful decade in the fashion photography industry including working for Vogue. His approach to his work was fairly simple, with him taking a photograph of what was there showing his ideas in a straightforward yet creative manner. On his own work he said; I think they had a directness that other photographers pictures didnt have. And they werent about me. They were about the people in the pictures.5 He is also responsible for showing the most iconic model of the 60s Twiggy6. His work has and continues to influence photographers, with the sharp, crisp lines and strong form shown in him images as well as the strong fashion and beauty styles. During the 70s, society and culture continued to change, this time taking a more political approach fighting against the government and conformity, with rebels emerging fighting for peace as well as sex drugs and rock and roll being a popular theme. There was now even more ground for fashion photography to cover, due to the new cultural divisions that were shown mainly through fashion; for example punks, glam rock and men in general becoming more interested in expressing themselves through fashion. During this time, fashion photography was liberated as a reflection of a more open minded audience, with photographers such as Helmut Newton7 looked at women in a more sexualized way, looking at the naked body more in fashion photography which was ground breaking and expanded the creative walls of fashion photography. One highly iconic photographer that emerged from the 70s was Annie Leibovitz. First featured in Rolling Stone magazine with the John Lennon cover image she rapidly grew in popularity during this time creating her own styles, making her work recognizable. She created a story and brought her images to life expanding the subject beyond the person she was photographing. As well as working with Rolling Stone she worked with Vogue which includes 40 covers to date.4 6
  4. 4. The 80s continued to be a success within fashion photography, with the photographer gaining even more power in how the ideas were shown and how society perceived them. Something new that occurred during this era was the idea of advertising campaigns for fashion shot in a similar way to editorial images8. This allowed photography to become more creative and work closer with fashion houses rather than just magazines, expanding the mediums reach. One prominent photographer of this decade was Patrick Demarchelier. His work stood out from others due to the classier, more classic approach to photography and the presentation of the model and the ideas he was showing. Initially he went to New York in 1972 from France to work with Glamour, but he worked up to Vogue in 1974. He was recognized not only for his work but his attitude with models feeling relaxed and comfortable. His work was not only recognized in the fashion world, but by royalty. In 1989 Princess Diana asked him to take a photograph of her and Princes William and Harry9. By the 90s technology had advanced tremendously since it early, basic start in the late 1800s when shutter speed was extremely slow and images could originally not be mass produced. Now not only cameras had evolved to the early digital cameras as well as advanced film cameras, but their distribution and editing had by now dramatically changed. One of the major advances to impact upon photography specifically fashion was Photoshop. This new found power and control over the image that extended beyond the shoot allowed models to be retouched and perfected. This is seen in some cases as controversial