Brand Translators (aka photographers)

Пытаясь сделать выдержки из очередной главы книги Fashion Brands, я пришел к выводу, что эта глава настолько самодостаточна и неделима, что решил опубликовать ее без купюр. Как есть.

Итак, история фэшн-фотографии в двух страницах:

BRAND TRANSLATORS
‘Fashion photography is about translating a brand into a concept,’ says Vincent Peters, the German-born, London-based photographer whose list of credits includes British, Italian and French Vogue, Arena, Dazed and Confused and Numéro, as well as ads for Dior, Bottega Veneta, Celine, Miu Miu and Yves Saint Laurent. ‘Often, when a client comes to you, they have a product and a brand identity, but they aren’t certain how to combine the two. Your job is to achieve that transition; to create the image that brings the brand to life. Sometimes the client has a reasonable idea of how you’re going to do it – after all, that’s why they’ve hired you – but in my experience they like to be surprised. This means that the photographer has an enormous influence on the branding process.’
Peters began taking pictures on a trip to Thailand in the 1980s, with the results being published in a travel magazine. In 1989 he moved to New York, where he got a job as an assistant photographer. Soon he branched out on his own, moving into fashion photography. After a while, though, he developed an ambition to become an artistic photo-grapher, and relocated to Paris to pursue his goal. Although his work was exhibited throughout Europe and published in leading art photography magazines, he grew disenchanted with the scene and decided to refocus his efforts on fashion photography: ‘I remember I had a season when it all suddenly began happening for me. I shot a campaign for Miu Miu, and that made a difference. Things evolved quite quickly after that.’
Fashion photographers have always combined commerce with art. The earliest practitioner with something of the star status accorded today’s snappers was one Baron Adolphe de Meyer, nicknamed ‘the Debussy of the camera’. (Although he was not from an aristocratic background, he married into nobility.) From 1913 to the early 1930s he brought an other-worldly lustre to his photographs of socialites, actresses and dancers, first for American Vogue and then for Bazar (which later evolved into Harper’s Bazaar, picking up an extra ‘a’ along the way).
In 1923, de Meyer was replaced at Vogue by another pioneer, Edward Steichen, whose pictures already looked more crisp and modernist than the soft-focus confections favoured by his predecessor. Steichen may have taken the first colour fashion photograph, but he was far more interested in the art of photography than in fashion. In the early
1900s he’d been a friend of the sculptor Auguste Rodin, and he later co-founded, with Alfred Stieglitz, Photo-Secession, an organization whose sole aim was to elevate photography into an art form. Between 1947 and 1962 Steichen was director of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Another founding father of fashion photography, whose background was almost as aristocratic as that of de Meyer, was George Hoyningen-Huene. Born in Russia, he had escaped the revolution with his family and pitched up in London before moving to Paris after the First World War. He started out as a backdrop designer for shoots before moving on to photography with the encouragement of French Vogue’s editor, Main Bocher. Hoyningen-Huene, too, was later lured away to Harper’s Bazaar. His photographs of Josephine Baker, Joan Crawford and the model Lee Miller – eventually an influential photographer in her own right – have a frosty monochrome poetry about them.
In this respect, Hoyningen-Huene’s work resembled that of his protégé, Horst P. Horst, who was inspired by Greek statues and Renais-sance art. Technology had not yet freed the camera from the studio, so their pictures inevitably look stiff and enclosed, and reliant on props and backdrops for atmosphere. Cecil Beaton, the final member of this precursory quartet, used props to sometimes surreal effect, deploying sculptures of papier-mâché and aluminium backdrops. Born in London in 1904, Beaton had been captivated as a child by postcards of glamorous society women; and this influence is still apparent in his costume designs and art direction for films such as My Fair Lady, for which he won an Academy Award in 1964.
By the Second World War, Leica was producing cameras with faster shutter speeds – an advance that urged fashion photography outdoors and encouraged breezy spontaneity. This ushered in the era of Irving Penn, Richard Avedon and Norman Parkinson. There is the gulf of a generation between Horst’s stony goddesses and Avedon’s early photos of models frolicking on a beach; or Parkinson’s exotic, sun-drenched location shots.
Parkinson, known to one and all as ‘Parks’, formed a stylistic bridge between the pre-war practitioners and the emerging generation of the 1960s, who added sexual liberation to photography’s physical freedom from restraint. Working for British Vogue, Parks brought an impish spirit to his pictures of strong, provocative women, which did not look at all out of place beside the images being turned out by the rebellious trio of David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy (see Chapter 9: This year’s model). With their unambiguous, cool-yet-accessible aesthetic, these photographs look as innocent now as they must have seemed decadent at the time.
In the 1970s, a seismic shift caused tremors that are still being felt today. It was provoked by Bourdin and, of course, Helmut Newton. Vincent Peters cites Newton, who died in early 2004, as one of a handful of icons who sought to change fashion photography in particular, as opposed to photography in general: ‘Guy Bourdin’s world was not about fashion. What makes Helmut Newton so irreplaceable is that he really was about fashion photography – he was determined to push it as far as it could go, to make it sexy and dangerous rather than cold and bourgeois. He did for dresses what James Bond did for suits. In the 1970s there were no rules, no formulas, so if you had the talent you were free to experiment.’
In the 1980s, fashion photography benefited from an evolution within the fashion media itself. New magazines such as Blitz, The Face and i-D – the latter started by Terry Jones, a former art director at British Vogue – had an irreverent, slash-and-paste style that owed far more to punk than to catwalk shows. They proved fertile ground for photographers like Nick Knight, Corinne Day, Juergen Teller and Terry Richardson, whose pictures pushed clothes – and sometimes models themselves – further into the background, relegating them to mere ingredients in entertaining tapestries. Photography took on a hyper-real, snapshot air, with the merciless light of the flashgun illuminating seedy domestic scenes, drug-fuelled nightclubs, or parties that seemed to have dragged on far too long. These pictures were personal and observational, pulling the viewer into the world of the individual who had taken them.
Corinne Day became notorious for creating the so-called ‘heroin chic’ look, with a series of photographs featuring Kate Moss. The pictures, which appeared in the June 1993 issue of British Vogue, showed the model looking wan and undernourished, clad in vest and knickers and posing in a dingy flat. The shoot, which spawned hundreds of pale facsi-miles, contributed to the ‘grunge’ fashion trend.
Richardson’s lurid, funny, blatantly sexual pictures – famously shot on an old Instamatic – continue to provoke controversy today. In an interview with online fashion magazine Hint, he refers to his playfully erotic advertising work for the fashion brand Sisley. ‘We tried to put a picture of a girl with pompoms over her tits on a poster in Soho [New York]. They said no, because a little of her areola was showing. . . They said it was too sexy and it would be too close to a church and a school. It’s all so silly and conservative.’ Despite his involvement in fashion, the photographer’s attitude to clothes has a timeless ring about it: ‘To me, photographs are more about people than clothes. I’m not one of those photographers who says, “Ooh, that dress is just making me crazy.”’ (www.hintmag.com/shootingstars/terryrichardson)
Photographers can take comfort in the existence of magazines such as Visionaire, a format-shifting blend of fashion publication and portable art gallery in which clothes definitely take second place to ideas. It has occasionally provided a setting for the work of photography duo Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who utilize digital tech-nology to produce the kind of images Bourdin might have come up with, had he used a computer. Disturbing and disorienting, the pictures are filled with digitally contorted limbs, manipulated expressions and artificial landscapes. All of these photographers have lent their talents to advertising, as well as contributing to fashion magazines. And with their peers, they continue to blur the boundaries between art, fashion and marketing.

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