A Quest For The Truth
What is The Role of The Photographer in Today’s Fashion Industry.
Awake at 2:00 am PST listening to Bishop T.D. Jakes preach and purging my social media of all accounts that do not reflect the direction i’m following in my life (Fashion, Photography, Film, Art, Culture, God, and Sonos). I’m viciously unfollowing with a slight chip on my shoulder because what I have been seeing online for the past few days have offended me. Instead of wallowing in it and being unproductive with a welling of emotions for but-so-long, my offenses turned to legitimate questions that I began to ponder; that question being “What is the role of a photographer in today’s fashion industry?”
If you look at the history of Fashion Photography, there was a very distinct and intimate relationship established between the industry and the photographer not just because of it being the new and rebellious art form but because it was able to capture a clear and artistic vision and articulate it in clarity on the pages of a magazine. This level of clarity was then translated to consumers who would gaze upon the pages. When Conde Nast hired Baron Adolph de Meyer to shoot portraits of models, actresses, and the wealthy elite for Vogue in 1913, the Fashion Industry put a ring on photography and vowed until death do us part. From there, we see the evolution of some of the more locally known couture brands such as Chanel, and Balenciaga into international power houses as the great fashion photographers of the time like George Huene, Horst P. Horst, and Cecil Beaton were tapped to deliver their images to the masses. For reasons like this, the industry was faithful to the art of fashion photography and so were the photographers. It was never about the equipment, but it was about the unique perspective of the person behind the lens.
I don’t think photography has anything remotely to do with the brain. It has to do with the eye appeal. — Host P. Horst
This relationship is a stark contrast to the poly-style relationship of the Fashion Industry and photography today. With the inclusion of such technologies as camera phones and the improvement of the actual photography equipment hitting the market, one can only ask, what does that mean for the photographer? Magazines such as Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, W Magazine, Elle Magazine, etc. are no longer the prized destination for Fashion knowledge in the modern era. Brands have now become large enough that they can stand on their own, through the internet push content out on their own, and through blogging buys promote their products on their own. Social media has allowed for everyone with a smart phone to have access to the basic editing tools to craft images on the spot while void of any understanding of the processes that they are using such as contrast, exposure, or even the purpose of such things.
I frequent the cafe’s and boutiques in Atlanta and 7/10 times you find a blogger being photographed with a cell phone for content that they will use to brand themselves before they brand the brand that they were paid to blog about so just in that act, the original relationship between the brand, the publication, and the photographer has been perverted. Not a lot of marriages work when you introduce mistresses. Don’t get me wrong now, it’s not just Atlanta, but New York, Los Angeles, Miami, all across the Fashion Industry the system has been not disrupted but destroyed, especially for the photographer.
So what do we say for those of us that come from the school of Horst P. Horst? Who believe in the art form, the science, the discipline of being a photographer, and the love of the process; what’s to be said about us? Do we reduce ourselves to being internet dependent, validating our work by the number of likes or Instagram followers attached to it when they can be bought and artificially enhanced? Do we dig our feet in the sand hold firm against the rising tides of technology that comes our way? Whatever is the right choice may depend on the value you place on the Fashion Industry and the value you place on your work as a active part of it. As for me, I will continue asking questions like this in hopes of further clarifying my intent and my personal vision for my place in the Fashion Industry; a place still in design but with a strong foundation. Where do you think is the photographer’s place in the Fashion Industry?
The photographer, even in fashion and portraiture, has to have a standpoint. It’s important to know what you stand for, no? Most people just take pictures, but they stand for nothing. They follow trends and don’t know why.