Is Fashion Photography, or is Photography Fashion? Ritam Banerjee tries to explain and unravel it elaborately…
More often than not I find photo-enthusiast aspiring to be Fashion Photographers. During my workshops at the Udaan School of Photography, students often came to me with a lot of enthusiasm and even more confusion…confusing me all the more… Is Fashion photography, or is Photography fashion?
After having photographed for reputed brands such as Clarins, GUESS, Elizabeth Arden, Max Factor, to name a few, I still feel that the answer lies way beyond the question…
The question is who doesn’t want to create glamorous images of beautiful models in fashion-forward clothing and exotic settings?
But if that is Fashion Photography, how is one to label Max Vadukul’s cat on the roof? Or Herb Ritts’ unabashed celebrities and models shot in natural light, and Richard Avedon’s petite Dovima (model) striking a pose with a pair of elephants? What about Terry Richardson’s naked bodies shot amateurishly for Tom Ford with direct flash, David LaChapelle’s larger than life, surreal frames? And Annie Leibovitz’s serene canvases subtly punctuated by Louis Vuitton bags, or the “Four Inches” project to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS shot with celebrities wearing nothing but Cartier ornaments and Jimmy Choo shoes?
Chalk and cheese, each of these iconic images differ in their style and representation of fashion, beauty and glamour. Yet they stand out in a crowd of fashion(able) images today.
I have often noticed the question in the eyes of the students of Fashion Photography. What makes them endure? What’s their X-factor?
It is focus. Focus is what infuses life in each visual. It’s what gives the image a story to tell. No matter how complex or simple a photograph may be in terms of execution, a good picture always draws the eye (and the mind) to the primary subject of interest, never wavering from its original purpose.
The drama—the exaggeration or the conscious underplay—is never the end in itself. It’s but the means to the end.
Each frame must also have a rhythm of its own. There ought to be friction when disparate elements are forced to come together in a frame. Or if the elements blend into each other, there has to be visual fluidity, and fluidity of thought. And all of this must converge to find the real focus.
Yes, fashion is a statement. Fashion is an attitude… subtle at times, in your face at others and sometimes, downright rude. So is Fashion Photography. But weird clothes and gimmicky make-up are certainly not the sum of all its parts.
You don’t have to be Karl Lagerfeld to shoot Lakshmi Menon aesthetically in the nude for the Pirelli Calendar. What is important is to become able (as a photographer), not just fashionable, to weave beautiful elements into a whole—to see the big picture. To realize and create your own style over time. And to remember that the models and the designer tags are but incidentals. The real picture lies elsewhere. Let your imagination fly beyond the obvious. Go discover the real picture.
Till then happy shooting!
The author, Ritam Banerjee is a professional photographer who specializes in diverse genres of photography. He is globally represented by Getty Images and has worked with several national and multinational brands. He is also a faculty member at the Udaan School of Photography, Mumbai.