Wikileaks and You

During the initial release of government documents via Wikileaks I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel discussion addressing the ramifications of the event. There were the expected comments; one part of the panel celebrated the release stating the government needing to be more transparent and that people deserved to know what was happening. Others on the panel pointed to the danger the release may have created for certain individuals and the need to be able to discuss items of national interest in private. There were also conversations regarding freedom and the need for honesty, all of which were interesting, but there was one comment that caught my ear that day and stayed with me. A former Ambassador on the panel noted that as opposed to creating greater freedom and transparency the Wikileaks release would result less freedom, greater governmental control and a restricted flow of information over the internet, an effect just the opposite of what was intended.

The Ambassador’s comment has frequently come to mind during a discussions regarding over the need for an organization to monitor the usage of imagery in publication and across the internet. The trend in this conversation seems to have shifted toward the idea that the creation of a single organization that can monitor the movement of imagery on an international level, one that may also resolve the issues of payment and usage. I am not going to discuss the merits of this proposal here, that is another post entirely, but I would like to ask you to think about this issue from other perspectives.

There are generally two proposals that arise during these conversations. The first is to have the copyright office or another governmental agency monitor the use of imagery and to possibly work as a sort of collection agency for usage. The second is for a corporate entity to oversee and manage this process. For one or the other of these methods to work one entity will need either extraordinary over site and the ability to reach into all corners of the internet, or there will need to be choke points built into the system through which information would need to flow. The resulting concentration of power over the flow of imagery and information would be extraordinary. The effects of this concentration of power and control are unknown but certainly can be imagined. As image makers we may quite possibly be handing over control of what we create with unintended results, a look at the changes within the stock industry over its short life might be a good example. This is not to condemn the ideas listed above, they may indeed be the best or only solution to our problem, but to ask you to be aware of what you ask for. Sometimes the results are not what we expect.

Thomas Werner: Lecturer, Educator, Curator, Consultant
Thomas Werner Projects on


What is a Fashion Photograph?

Great fashion photographs are a reflection of the moral, social and economic imperatives of our time in a way that other photographic genres are not. From war time to economic booms fashion photography has shown us where our boundaries were and how we alternately sought to embrace or break them.

Beyond addressing larger social mores a great fashion photograph is about lifestyle, desire, fantasy, sensuality, and, unavoidably, commerce. It is about wanting to be the person inside in the clothes, or wanting to have the life shown within the image. It is also about identity, individuality, subculture and the desire to belong. A fashion photograph is quite simply one of the best arbiters of the time in which we live and have lived.

There are a million small details that go into the creation of a great fashion image. Once you get past casting, make-up, styling, lighting, teamwork and the other technical and pre and post-production issues, there is the movement of the garment, the gesture, the turn of a head, the gaze, the personality of the model, and the social and commercial concepts that the image define. A great portrait informs and entertains, but a fashion photograph engenders a much larger conversation.

Fashion will always have the ability to press and break boundaries. As our social mores change the envelope within which fashion exists changes as well. There will always be boundaries to push against, and designers and image makers willing to test those boundaries. This exploration does not always need to involve shock though, as companies such as Benneton, Kenneth Cole, and Prada have shown, fashion has an enormous capacity to address social issues in a diverse and intelligent manner.

In terms of the freedom in fashion to explore, the essence of creativity is freedom. Without the ability to challenge one’s own boundaries one loses the chance to be truly creative. The beauty of fashion and fashion photography is that it allows its creators to indulge their creative capacity on so many levels. It is this freedom that has allowed for the creation of so many fashion images and campaigns that have endeared, challenged, and engaged us over the years, and what gives fashion photography its unique and powerful voice.