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.

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