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L’Histoire de Mode~Fashion Photography

 

 

Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione in a photo by Pierre-Louise Pierson (c. 1863/66)

 

Fashion Photography

 

Fashion photography is a genre of photography devoted

to displaying clothing and other fashion items. Fashion photography

is most often conducted for advertisements or fashionmagazines such

as Vogue, Vanity Fair, or Allure. Over time, fashion photography has

developed its own aesthetic in which the clothes and fashions are

enhanced by the presence of exotic locations or accessories.

Photography was developed in the 1830s, but the earliest popular technique, the

daguerreotype, was unsuitable for mass printing. In 1856, Adolphe Braun

published a book containing 288 photographs of Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione,

a Tuscan noblewoman at the court of Napoleon III. The photos depict her in her

official court garb, making her the first fashion model.

In the first decade of the 20th century, advances in

halftone printing allowed fashion photographs to be featured

in magazines. Fashion photography made its first appearance in

French magazines such as La mode practique. In 1909, Condé Nast took

over Vogue magazine and also contributed to the beginnings of fashion

photography. In 1911, photographer Edward Steichen was “dared” by

Lucien Vogel, the publisher of Jardin des Modes and La Gazette du Bon Ton,

to promote fashion as a fine art by the use of photography. Steichen

then took photos of gowns designed by couturier Paul Poiret.

These photographs were published in the April 1911 issue of

the magazine Art et Décoration. According to Jesse Alexander,

This is “…now considered to be the first ever modern fashion

photography shoot. That is, photographing the garments in such

a way as to convey a sense of their physical quality as well as

their formal appearance, as opposed to simply illustrating the object.”

At this time, special emphasis was placed on staging the shots, a process

first developed by Baron Adolf de Meyer, who shot his models in natural

environments and poses. Vogue was followed by its rival, Harper’s Bazaar, and

the two companies were leaders in the field of fashion photography throughout

the 1920s and 1930s. House photographers such as Edward Steichen,

George Hoyningen-Huene, Horst P. Horst and Cecil Beaton transformed

the genre into an outstanding art form. Europe, and especially

Germany, was for a short time the leader

in fashion photography.

But now with that change in time every country has taken

considerable measures to promote the field of photography.

In the mid 1940s as World War II approached, the focus

shifted to the United States, where Vogue and Harper’s continued

their old rivalry. House photographers such as Irving Penn,

Martin Munkacsi, Richard Avedon, and Louise Dahl-Wolfe would

shape the look of fashion photography for the following decades.

Richard Avedon revolutionized fashion photography — and redefined

the role of the fashion photographer — in the post-World War II era

with his imaginative images of the modern woman. Today, his work is being

exhibited in the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, FL. This exhibition features

more than 200 works and spans Avedon’s entire career, including vintage

prints, contact sheets, and original magazines from Harper’s Bazaar,

Vogue and The New Yorker.

The artists abandoned their rigid forms for a much freer style. In 1936,

Martin Munkacsi made the first photographs of models in sporty poses at the beach.

Under the artistic direction of Alexey Brodovitch, the Harper’s

Bazaar quickly introduced this new style into its magazine.

In postwar London, John French pioneered a new form

of fashion photography suited to reproduction in

newsprint, involving where possible reflected

natural light and low contrast.

After the deaths of Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts,

some of today’s most famous fashion photographers are Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Meisel,

Mario Testino, Peter Lindbergh and Annie Leibovitz.

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