A Look at Fashion Photography’s Evolution

by Christopher on

For a very long time the main purpose of fashion photography has been to capture the artistic value that has been intended in every exhibit and piece of clothing designers have released, however, for some time now there has been a noticeable decrease in the quality of work being captured. Most exhibits are now reserved only for leading practitioners in the field, the entire niche has pretty much deteriorated to nothing more than commercialisation, the most troubling thing about it all is the fact that this genre has been blatantly ignored by academics, a large majority of scholars not taking the genre seriously at all.

Nowadays a large majority of exhibits are produced only for advertisement purposes, the handful of people out there who actually try and study this genre of photography in depth trace this behaviour back to when these works started appearing in galleries. It was at this time that fashion photography lost its ephemeral factor which seemed to turn it into a work of art, and slowly the genre started to lose its artistic intent.

In order to shed some light on this slow but steady deterioration of fashion photography, a compendium commemorating some of the most important figures in fashion photography is being released. The purpose behind this collection of 180 pictures is to document the various changes that fashion photography has gone through over the many years. One can see various changes on how artists captured fashion and portrayed it according to various time periods, their works evolving to meet the norms and demands of society, often emphasising on various factors that played vital roles in the shaping and progress of society as a whole.

For example, as fashion photography slowly became a more established genre, it started gaining more confidence and started commenting on more sensitive topics, such as politics. After the events of World War 2, the works of photographers such as Henry Clarke started portraying women with greater control and independence, photographers also challenged societal issues such as racial discrimination by campaigning for using models of different racial groups. Even to this day, the man responsible for this campaign (Richard Avedon) is credited as one of the most important fashion photographers of the twentieth century.

In the 90s, fashion photography played a vital role in challenging gender norms, capitalism and how people perceived social respectability, the work of many artists emphasised on the concepts of gender fluidity and other social constructs. This industry has played a pretty important role in shaping the values of modern society, but looking back at what went at the other end of the lens, this industry has always been quite conservative.

A large majority of fashion photographers throughout the ages have been white men and have primarily focused on the West, leaving a whole mountain of talent and fashion related ideas completely untouched. Fashion Photography has become more stagnant recently and the only way to revitalize this industry would be to try and reform it at its core.

Written by: Christopher