Not sure if y’all have been to a Bloomingdale’s lately. Or Neiman’s. Or just walked down a street in which you would see high end fashion designers threads in the windows. If you haven’t, I assure you, you are not missing anything. Well, you are actually. You are missing a wave of horrific, heinous, embarrassingly ugly clothing that makes me think we are on our way to the ‘end times’ if clothing continues to deteriorate at this pace.
neon. on adult women. is generally a bad idea.
Mixing patterns is good in theory and good in the right hands. intentionally modeling collections after our latest Hipster generation? not so good.
Leotards are not to be worn in a manner in which one can easily recognize it as a leotard unless you are A. a professional dancer, or B. changing into something over your leotard (such as pants, sweater, whatever). All other incarnations are unacceptable unless you are Lady GaGa, and even THEN it’s questionable.
What is worse than this trend of awful fashion? The more awful fashion photography to go along with it.
Above (and to the right) are photographs from Richard Avedon, one of the foremost successful and pioneering fashion photographers in the world. His work is not just fashion photography, but art. The control of the models, the clothing, the scenery and his masterful technique make his work memorable and ultimately it transcends the realm of fashion and enters the world of fine art photography. The image above is iconic, beautiful, striking and regal – I daresay any woman seeing this photograph in a magazine will immediately ask where she can buy the dress, how she can do her hair like that, and who the hell that photographer is. And I mean, LOOK at this second picture! Before the epidemic of the ‘jumping model’, this woman appears to be just barely on solid ground with her toes effortless sliding along the susrface. It is painfully beautiful – not only do I want to own this image, I want to own the magical dress this model seems to be floating away in. Just take me away Avedon!
Patrick Demarchelier is another terrific fashion photographer whose work whisks you away in gorgeous clothes in even more gorgeous places. In order to sell you the clothes, Demarchelier creates such elaborate and mystical places, you can’t help but imagine yourself playing the role – an ingenue running through the streets of Paris at midnight, a Cinderella looking for her glass slipper in Venice...whatever the task, Demarchelier takes it on with get direction, lighting and story. Notably his work utilizes many tenants of strong fine photography and some of my personal favorite elements such as extreme lighting (chiaroscuro anyone?) and negative space – allowing the model to be physically secondary in the photograph and yet command the image at the same time.
And then there is Steven Meisel. He’s been around the block, and though I don’t love all of his work, I give him props for bringing us some of the most memorable fashion photographs of our time. This headshot (right) is killer. The lighting is perfection and demonstrates the proper way to use a flash (as we will see below, there are a number of current photogs that can’t quite read their meters properly) while capturing a striking moment with the model, even through mesh obscuring her face. Black and white elegance. Stunning styling. Command of the model and being good enough to pick up what she’s giving. It is to die for. Portrait perfection.
Which brings me to the contemporary slew of crappy photographers that are tarnishing the good name that these guys have built with magazines through the past few decades. While I welcome new ideas in fashion photography, I’m really growing tired of the blown-out-I-don’t-know-how-to-use-the-meter-on-my-flash bullshit. The let’s-make-the-models-look-dead! epidemic. The putting-a-model-in-sexual-positions-is-so-edgy inanity.
We’ll start with Terry Richardson. Ye of ‘I just love forcing models into performing sexual acts on me during the shoots‘ fame. Because, you know, using models that look underage and then asking them to take a photo with a dick in their mouth is fashion! or…not. And before y’all get on my ass for being against ‘sexy’ or ‘edgy’ shoots see my past post about my love of David LaChappelle.
Richardon wishes he was as good as LaChappelle.
He isn’t even LaChappelle-light – he is like, almost as good as whomever does the awful American Apparel ads – and those are so dull and painfully obvious I am embarassed for the models involved. Though I find myself concerned for Richardson’s models…poor things doing faux cum shots (as the image above) or faux cum shots in the image here…
Wait. Am I seeing a pattern here?
Man, maybe I just have to be there? Maybe if I were on the set I’d understand just how sexxxy it is to lick an ice cream cone like I’m fucking it for the entertainment of the photographer who looks like a pervy anorexic lumberjack?
Somehow…I think not. Honestly though, that is all this guy has. Get hot girls to do naughty things for the camera and jackpot! Make millions. Ugh. How our standards have fallen.
And how about Juegen Teller? This guy has been doing Marc Jacobs ads for ages…and why Jacobs pays a ‘professional’ photographer to do these painfully blown-out shots instead of grabbing a point and shoot and doing it himself is beyond me. But it’s happening. Not to mention, perhaps the best way to sell a skirt is not to show the woman in it as post-drug-induced-sexual assault victim? I mean, what exactly are we looking at here? Ok, perhaps sexual assault is a leap – but what are we supposed to think when we see this?
“I think she’s dead – but shit, I love that skirt! – I can’t wait to be dead in that skirt too!“
And aside from the awful model position…this is just a shitty photograph. It’s doing nothing for the clothes. It’s blown-out – albeit that is Teller’s thang – but when all you can do is take a photo and blow it out to make it visually appealing, then you’ve entered art school undergraduate levels. I can hear my old photog professors saying “that is a good start…but you’ve got a ways to go” in my head.
Yet another blow-out boring photo of a nekked chick on a bed courtesy of Tyler Shields.
Note: this has not only been done – it’s been done better.
A lot better.
In fact – let’s do a little compare and contrast as I end this article, shall we?
Some think this is how you do sexy:
Steven Meisel says:
You’ve got a lot to learn, buckaroni.
Also – you are awful. My work is awesome.
why is it awesome?
Subtext that is deeper than “I hope this gives someone a boner”
Is this Madonna photograph sexy? Of course. And she manages to do it being almost non-sexual aside from her being nude. Note the difference. Sexy without trying: Meisel. Obvious, boring, been-done sexy? Teller/Shields/Richardson.
In the end, good fashion photography is kinda like good fashion: classic lines never go out of style and they can easily be embellished or simplified. Going too far outside the lines can be fun, risky and exciting – but you always need to bring in the tenant of good craftsmanship. Without that, you end up shooting crap that is neither exciting nor revolutionary and piss off those who used to buy fashion mags for the spreads – and until I see a return of the fine art photographer, I’ll consider my subscriptions canceled.