Fashion Photography, as exciting as it sounds, plays an essential role in the world of Photography & global fashion culture.
So, let’s dive deep into the History & Evolution of Fashion photography!
How Did Fashion Photography Start?
Fashion Photography began when a culture fascinated by fashion collided with the camera and with an urge to showcase fashion to others. The result? The first-ever picture of individuals wearing the latest fashion came into existence.
But when did the photographers begin to focus on the artistic beauty of fashion?
The concept of Fashion Photography originated in the 1850s and in 1856 Adolphe Braun published a book featuring the photographs of Virginia Oldoini.
Virginia Oldoïni, Countess of Castiglione was an Italian aristocrat and an important figure in not only fashion photography but photography itself.
Most of Virginia Oldoïni photographs depict the Countess in theatrical outfits, such as the Queen of Hearts dress. Along with Pierre-Louis Pierson, she created around 700 different photographs and recreated some key moments of her life.
But it was only until the 1880s when the American Fashion design blossomed and the magazines publishing and the retail industry grew.
The Early 20th Century Era of Fashion Photography
One of the most remarkable Fashion Photographers in photography history was “Edward Jean Steichen” from Luxembourg. He popularized the practice of Photographing the same model in several different sets.
Edward Jean Steichen was challenged by a publisher of a famous magazine to present fashion as a form of art. The Fashion Photographer, Steichen succeeded in the challenge and it led to the release of a series of photos for the magazine ‘Art et Decoration’. During this series of shoots, the models posed at the bottom of decorative marble staircases and in front of ornate mirrors dressed beautifully in Poiret.
Steichen then went on working as a Fashion Photographer for the publication Conde Nast. He was even regarded as one of the best and the highest-paid photographers in the world at that time.
In the year 1909, the publisher Conde Nast bought an American social magazine “Vogue”.
He transformed Vogue into a high-class & well-known fashion publication. Vogue captured the spirit and fashion of London, New York, Paris etc through its unique photography and glamorous models.
Challenging Perceptions in the 1920s & 1930s
The cultural movement by surrealism had an effective impact on Fashion magazines in the 1920s & 30s.
Paintings by Salvador Dali & Giorgio de Chirico got featured in Vogue magazine alongside Avant Grade Photographs by Man Ray.
While some fashion photographers adopted their revolutionary principles attempting to give a visual representation to the unconscious mind. New techniques and unexpected juxtapositions were tried to challenge the perception of reality, to amuse and to disturb.
This bold experiment in fashion photography disturbed the editor of Vogue- Edna Woolman Chase and she angrily wrote to her staff in 1938 – “Concentrate completely on showing the dress, light it for the purpose and if this can’t be done with art, then it should be damned, show the dress.”
The Liberation of Fashion Photography in the 60s
In the 1960s, the feminist movement started as many women campaigned against the inequality happening around them.
In the world of fashion, the structured pattern of designs that were followed gave way to a more youthful look and the body was liberated from narrowing undergarments & corsetry.
From the year 1966, exotic fabrics, ravishing patterns, and beautiful colours were boldly combined.
Evolution of Fashion Photography in the 90s
The 90s was all about pop culture! Fashion Photography in the 90s was highly influenced by pop culture.
By the 1990s, a British magazine, ‘The Face’ started the grunge movement which challenged gender norms, capitalism, and the ideals of social respectability.
Soon, Fashion Photographers brought reform to the industry and Richard Avedon was the person behind bringing diversity to the world of fashion photography as he worked with models from diverse cultures.
Evolution of Fashion Photography: The End of the 90s Era
As the 90s Era was coming to an end, the fashion photography industry rose and people started becoming less conservative towards Fashion.
Most photographers listed during that time were western-educated white men because most of the fashion publications and magazines were majorly located in the west of the US.
But as the era was about to end, the publications started focusing on other fashion photographers like Samuel Fosso from Cameroonian who also got a chance to prove himself.
Throughout the decade, societal changes, particularly feminism, had an influence on women’s portrayal in the fashion industry and the media.
Female photographers like Sarah Moon, Deborah Turbeville, and Eve Arnold also gave magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar new perspectives.
The 2000’s Fashion Photography Era
Finally, the 2000s era started, the buzz of TV shows, pop culture and craving for technology, and celebrity obsession were at their peak and influenced fashion.
Instead of supermodels being the trendsetters, popular celebs like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie were the fashion icons and featured across various Magazines and publications.
Later, TV shows like Friends, Sex and the City, Gossip girls, etc influenced the audience more than any other fashion model or photographer could.
Fashion Photography Today!
Today, Fashion Photography has evolved with dazzling fashion images rich with gorgeous colours, big-budget sets, fashion stylists, makeup artists, etc to create fascinating fashion covers.
Fashion designers reinvented fashion clothing from the past years and fashion photographers got inspired by photography in the 80’s & 90’s eras.
For the past century all the fashion magazines aimed at women’s clothing but today, it’s the era of equality. With women’s fashion, publications have started aiming at men’s fashion too.
Fashion Photography, as they say, has been evolving, but one thing that hasn’t changed would be the art of Photographing fashion that tends to create trends in Fashion.