Major Study Proposal

What Will I Produce?

Fashion editorial photography, shot in studio in a modern, clean and expressive style.
A collection of 16 images presented as 8 pairs. A tight, emotive beauty shot & a mid to full-length shot will comprise each pair.

What are the images about?

The photography studio is an artificial environment. It’s austere. White walls, technical equipment, cords everywhere, lights. It bears resemblance to a stage, and not only in looks. Here is the place where elaborate preparations happen, where the magic is woven. The studio strikes me as a bizarrely blank and impersonal space, a backdrop out of kilter with the expressionistic and whimsical nature of fashion photography.

The self contained world of the fashion image is divorced from reality by the backdrops and lights, the props. These form a fake little reality of their own, which in their sparseness only hint toward a real life setting. It’s self conscious fantasy.

Some intensely personal and emotive images come out of a studio environment. All the supporting elements are there to point toward the exaggerated, heightened expressions of emotion usually found in many styles of modern fashion photography. The model is there to perform, to sell a story, and the relative success or failure of a shoot often hinges on their believability. Are they fierce? Playful? Regal? Eerie? Feminine? Strong? Androgynous?

I’d like to highlight both this strange fakeness found so often in the genre I have chosen. I’d like to make the viewer consider the space implied in a studio fashion portrait. It seems to be endless, but when shooting, there is usually only a centimetre or two of backdrop left over before ugly reality begins again and everything becomes boom poles, exposed scaffolding and people in all black and sneakers pressing buttons. By cropping in very tight on my beauty shots, I acknowledge the selective nature of the photograph – and by retouching that image, taking it farther from any sort of ‘reality’. By extending backdrops to a double page spread in Photoshop, I will make the space seem infinite, and strange. The model and their performance will stay to one side of the image, while the backdrop stretches, in its implied endlessness, blank and weird and abstract.

I’d also like to draw attention to the exaggerated performance that is a hallmark of contemporary fashion photography. I would like to use props, and experimental light techniques as a tool to generate silly, awkward reactions from the model. I will try to elicit expressions that seem slightly uncomfortable, that break the illusion of the shoot. I like the idea of a dark but playful mood – somewhat mysterious – and the models should have control over  how they present themselves to a degree. Obviously, I will pick the final images, but during the shoot I will encourage them to come up with creative poses and expressions, pushing them to further develop them in line with whatever ‘role’ they are enacting for the shoot.

I’m not trying to ridicule fashion photography as an art form. Far from it. I am just fascinated by the hidden technique of making something so obviously fake seem desirable, believable.  I would like to draw attention to how little attention we pay to the images that saturate our consciousness. I would like to invite the viewer to stop suspending their disbelief and engage with the way these images were made.

Major Influences

  • Richard Avedon (1950s – 1980s) would ‘transform energy into spectacle.’ He placed emphasis on movement, light and shade, mastery of the formal elements to create something visually arresting and engaging, often using an obvious studio space with a visible cyclorama or backdrop, lots of simple plain white backgrounds.

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  • Irving Penn (1950s – 2000s) ‘…was among the first photographers to pose subjects against a simple grey or white backdrop and used this simplicity more effectively than other photographers. Expanding his austere studio surroundings, Penn constructed a set of upright angled backdrops, to form a stark, acute corner’ also very formalist, strong design background from mentorship with Alexy Brodovitch (Harper’s Bazaar head designer)

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  • Nick Knight (1980s – current day) ‘consistently challenging the conventional notions of beauty’ & ‘pushing boundaries technically and creatively at every opportunity and being at the forefront of innovation’ He’s technically experimental, and pushes new media (began SHOWStudio, the fashion film website) and an avant-garde aesthetic.

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  • Chen Man (2000s – current day) provocative interpretations of feminine beauty and power. “It’s time for us to shift our focus to develop our inner world. Buddhism says that one’s inner world somehow determines the external world,” she said. Very particular about details, especially when it comes to colours. Heavy on retouching, lots of studio shoots. Often has a quirky detail (or many) to draw the viewer in. Formalist and clean.

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Minor Influences
Other reference images from various and miscellaneous sources can be found at my ever growing moodboard.