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A History Of Fashion Photography

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Fashion photography is a highly effective tool for marketing in the world of haute couture, but it is also regarded as a spectacular art form with a rich history featuring countless models of all shapes and sizes. Sporting the fashion of the day, both past and present, and being photographed for a variety of purposes is one of the hottest ways to grab the public eye and get it to focus on what the photographer desires. By considering the history and details of this particular art form one can begin to grasp the wide range of reasons which have made the world of fashion what it is today: A catalyst for the way all of us think, feel, and act, and for how we express that through the clothing and accessories we choose to wear. It has proven itself far more motivational and powerful than any of us could have ever imagined.

Fashion photography found its beginnings in the early nineteenth century and picked up the popularity pace as magazines with a fashion focus became more and more in demand by the public. Magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar took off like rocket ships because of this specific photographic genre. Vogue magazine proved to launch several photographer’s careers as well, including the man who is hailed as being the first fashion photographer, Adolph De Meyer. In those years, the primary purpose of fashion photography was to allow magazine readers to see what type of clothing was popular and in-season, as well as showing them what was available to them for purchase.

Paris was the very heart of fashion, both clothing, and photography-wise, during the early years, drawing photographers from all over the world. A majority of fashion photographers in those days were from Germany, but regardless of their home countries, these individuals turned basic photographs into works of art. Integrating mood and emotion into each and every picture they took, raising fashion photography to such a level that many individuals photographed were catapulted to fame as a direct result of their participation in modeling.

Cecil Beaton, a London-born photographer, relocated to New York City to pursue his passion. He photographed models in fashion for both Vogue and Vanity Fair before becoming an Oscar winner for the fashion creations he put together for Audrey Hepburn in the film “My Fair Lady.” Edward Steichen, a German photographer who immigrated to the United States, became known for his stunning photos of Greta Garbo, one of which made the cover of “Life” magazine in 1955. The picture is easily recognizable by most anyone to this day. Both of the men above are considered pioneers in the fashion photography industry.

While Paris is still integral to the fashion photography world, New York City has become something of a beating heart when it comes to art. Today the American city can truthfully claim to be its very center and draws countless individuals every year who are seeking to take their brand of fashion photography mainstream. Many who found fame and fortune as fashion photographers got their humble beginnings in the Big Apple, and this trend continues today as well.

The Theory Of Fashion Photography
The most useful pieces of fashion photography are about far more than robotic poses, though these were what pictures mostly displayed in the early days. Those who have the ability to communicate emotion to the viewer and this requires the model to be in touch with his or her surroundings to the point that one can feel what they are feeling. Whether the model is featured in a specific locale or with certain props and items of clothing or accessories, they need to be able to play these things off in a manner which conveys personal interaction.

A single photograph should tell a story for it to have the greatest impact, and this is what makes a great fashion photograph. It should consist of enough detail to put everything into proper context for the viewer. It should bear a certain level of drama or mystery (drama can consist of several emotions and settings), and the level of drama in any photograph is determined by the level of tension provided to it.

Context is essential to great fashion photography, and it can only be achieved through the composition given to any photo. The composition is made up of not only the items or surroundings a model is interacting with, but also the colors and tones being lent to the shot which make for the specific mood it is meant to convey. These even consist of the tones, saturation, and colors used around the focal point, or model, in the picture. It is the proper use of these points which will make or break any photo, as well as the fashion photographers themselves.

The point is to reach out and touch the individuals viewing any photograph by using these specific tools to bring specific characteristics to life. This results in raw emotion being brought to physical existence through the inanimate photograph, thus bringing the fashion itself to life. The viewer will inevitably be drawn to what they are viewing, as it has succeeded in touching their very being at its core. This is the purpose of fashion photography, and when it is accomplished correctly, a great fashion photograph will complete its mission thoroughly by bringing the viewer to the emotional mindset intended by the artist.

The Preferred Photographic Genre for Models
With such a powerful ability to convey coupled with its long public reach, fashion photography is the primary option for professional models who are seeking to find their niche. There are several specific factors which compel individuals in the profession to opt to get on film in this particular area. Not only do they have a much greater chance of being seen by more of the people who can take them to the career points which they desire, but they are also able to effectively demonstrate that their career choice was based on more than good looks. Fashion photography is a perfect platform for these people to show others what they can really do professionally. There is much more to this than simply striking a pose while wearing the fashions they do; they must be able to assist the photographer in bringing their vision to life by capturing specific moods and communicating with whatever surrounds them in a manner that also allows them to communicate with the viewers of their pictures. This ability is obvious in fashion models who may have either a natural knack or talent for their art, as well as those who have a much more seasoned level of experience. Though age is considered the prime enemy of the fashion model, more and more of them today span a much broader range of age groups, thus changing the public’s thoughts regarding how old a fashion model should be.

The Purpose of Fashion Photography
What is the point behind taking pictures of men and women posing in clothing? The answers are many, as we will discuss here. Fashion photography is rooted in pictures of individuals wearing the haute couture of the day while in different surroundings and with different props. Different moods and photographic techniques are used to empower the photographs so they will motivate the viewer to engage in an intended behavior. These pictures are mostly used in fashion magazines, on billboards, or in other forms of advertising to elicit the desired response. Today, fashion photography extends to moving pictures, or film and video, and these may be shown on television in commercials or taped and broadcasted runway shows. While the primary purpose of the genre may be to get consumers to buy, buy, buy, the fact of the matter is that the photographs themselves are art, and awards are given for the best and most powerful. This reason motivates individuals, in and of itself, to pursue fashion photography as a career choice.

High Fashion
Also well known by the French term ‘haute couture,’ high fashion is the creation of custom clothing that is both beautiful and, at times, very practical to its specific occasion. The product being made is tailored by hand, beginning with the selection of the fine fabric, which is to be used and ending with the individual being measured and fitted for the item to be worn. High fashion has been dated as far back as the eighteenth century, with nobles and the rich indulging their desires through their need for clothing. The making of fine clothing is an art form that stands alone, and today, fine fashion designers show off their wares by adorning anyone who can afford to don them.

Fashion or Glamour Photography?
Contrary to the popular opinion of the layman, there is indeed a difference between fashion photography and glamour photography. While fashion photography is quite glamorous in its makeup, its main focus is the clothing being worn. The model, the props, and the context of pictures taken are all used to lend credence to the items of clothing being displayed. Glamour photography, on the other hand, focuses on the model rather than what they may or may not be wearing.

Fashion Photography Past and Present
There have been countless high fashion models who have achieved wealth and fame as a direct result of their career choice, women and men alike. Both yesterday and today have provided the public eye with photographs of some of the most beautiful human beings on the planet. While there are literally countless renowned female models, far fewer people are familiar with their male counterparts. Famous men have contributed their good looks and talents to the fashion photography industry.

With changing tastes, fashion, and technology, fashion photography has experienced great metamorphosis over the years. In days gone by, or in its humble beginnings, this form of photography was of the ‘strike a pose’ variety, simply showing off the clothes which were the main focus of the picture, and using beautiful people to do it. Today, fashion photography has evolved into a full-blown art form, using not only skilled, attractive models, but also implementing the use of color, light, props, and the like to convey specific moods and messages to those who look at the pictures. So much more attention is paid to the specific effect generated by the photos taken that pictures of this type are no longer simply sales tools; now they are a solid means of communication, and they have proven shockingly effective, as the high fashion market proves. No more staring at the camera and smiling; now the model is basically giving a silent performance. The better the performance, the more dynamic the photo’s effect is on its audience.

In the modern world of fashion photography, everything is taken into consideration. Where are the pictures taken? What will accompany the model in the photograph, if anything? Attention is paid to hair and makeup, even if the hair is messy and the makeup smudged. Everything plays into the end result, and this has had a serious effect on how all of us view fashion photographs and photography.

Fashion Photography as Art
All you have to do to realize that fashion photography is an art form. View past pictures with those from the present day and identify the differences in emotion and overall appearance. Identify what the pictures you are viewing spark within yourself. Do you simply recognize an urge to splurge, or do you identify with something much deeper, something unspoken yet tangible? Fashion photography, which inspires the latter, can be identified as sheer art. If you look at a quality photo for even a mere second, you will realize that the hues, the colors, and the context within the shot can stir something to live on the inside. Walking through a museum filled with sculptures and paintings may have the same effect. A talented photographer can communicate an abundance of thoughts and feelings through their shots, and this, simply put, is art.

Each photo is unique, though it may have a specific flavor, depending on the one behind the camera. Angles, the use of saturation and color, and other personal touches enable the artist/photographer to make each, and everyone shot their own, one-of-a-kind tool to convey their thoughts and feelings. It will appropriately revolve around the clothing worn, and it will make you desire the product while appreciating its purpose and beauty. Today, more than ever before, fashion photography holds its own in the art world.

Fashion photography is vital as an art form because art is a personal expression. Any form of expression which is stifled is done so at the peril of everyone who could, and should, observe it. While the primary point may be to help others identify personal styles, tastes, and what they want to wear, it also possesses the ability to take others into themselves and explore who they are in relationship to the world, and that is essential to the human spirit. Therefore, fashion photography should be utterly embraced as an art form in today’s world.

In Conclusion
For hundreds of years, men and women all over the world have chosen fashion photography as a profession. While it may have started out as nothing more than a promotional tool, it has morphed into a powerful means of expression and communication for those who choose it as a career. Not only do we see beautiful people wearing stunning clothing, but we also observe individual talent that knows no bounds, expressed by people able to handle a camera and command its outcome. By implementing a variety of techniques, these photographers can change the entire aesthetic of any photograph, blending beauty with raw emotion, whether it be cheerful or gloomy, angry or elated. Sparking the interest and emotion of viewers is a skill only a few are well-known for.

The models who participate have dictated what we should wear, how we should look, and how we should behave. They have crossed barriers, and their general look has changed over time, but they remain “the beautiful people,” and like it and admit it or not, we look to both the model and the photographer for advice more than we may like to admit. As an art form, fashion photography is undeniable, and as a profession, it is solid for the talented and driven. Today, observe the offerings made by those in the business and discover for yourself what kind of feelings their photos spark in you. You may be surprised at what you discover!

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