Sunday, 27 September 2015

What's Relevant Now in Fashion Photography?

   As part of London Fashion Week, I attended some talks at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design in Soho - these were really informative, and acted as a nice break from the hectic flurries of the catwalks, if I'm honest.

   One of the most interesting talks, in my opinion, was 'Fashion Photography: Then and Now' with legendary fashion photographer, Miles Aldridge, and incredibly creative makeup artist, Isamaya Ffrench. This talk was interesting because it addressed the way that creatives publish their work and enter the professional industry.

   Miles, in his witty and nonchalant manner, talked to a room of around thirty attendees about how his professional career took off. Originally intending to go into videography, he began taking photographs of his then model girlfriend, which were then seen by an influential editor - and the rest is history. But is it so easy these days?

   I've looked at handfuls of job applications in the creative industry which demand at least two years experience, a degree and excellent recommendations. Would an aspiring photographer be able to simply show his images to someone high up in journalism and become an undisputed success? Probably not - but that's because the industry has changed so much in the last two decades. Whereas most kids in the 80s aspired to become doctors, police officers and teachers, we're now aspiring to work in fashion, art and film. Is that a bad thing? There are negatives and positives about this shift; but if one thing's for certain, people in the creative industry have more competition than they ever did before.

   So how do we stand out?

   Isamaya became a makeup artist after spending her time painting children's faces at parties; word got round about her undeniable skill, and now she has worked with Chanel, Selfridges and Vogue Italia, as well as becoming Beauty Ambassador for YSL.

   She says, 'It's so hard for the new generations of creative people because the last century of decades have been so stylised, but we no longer have that kind of pigeonholing. People don't want to keep referencing the past, but they also don't know how to move forwards.'

   It's clear now that there is really no predominant style in media. We can identify a look from the 60s, 70s and 80s at the first glance, but what about a look from 2015? What does style mean to us now?

   A clear influence in today's style, whether it's personal fashion or a global ad campaign, is Instagram. We use this tool to show the best bits of our everyday lives, to create a story, or to show off a portfolio. The photosharing app has become so much more than its description; for many, including myself, it is a window to opportunity.

   Isamaya uses her Instagram to show off work that her agency doesn't feel fits in with her profile. Miles admits he 'gave in' to the app around three years ago and began posting particularly 'artsy' shots of decrepit Jelly Babies and used takeaway cups.

   Miles states, 'There's no Editor in Chief anymore', alluding to the oversaturation of work being published into the world. But what, or who, really determines 'good work'? Haven't we come to a point in time where all published work is considered art? I mean, isn't that what the Saatchi Gallery is all about?

   Isamaya had a similar opinion about Instagram, explaining, 'People just photovomit their lives onto Instagram and it causes confusion because there's no legitimacy. Quality is still the most important thing in professional creativity, and that differentiates the good from the bad.'

   But surely we don't need to address the good and the bad anymore. We all know what we like, what we enjoy looking at and what makes us double tap that photo on our feeds - why ruin that by applying a critic's perspective?

   Has Instagram created a segregation between the professionals and amateurs, when it was meant to bring us all together? Do professionals still put themselves above others, simply because they earn money for their art?

   Let me know your thoughts...


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