Modern Creative Fashion Photography Berlin

Modern Fashion Photography | 2019

Modern Fashion Photography

 

Modern Fashion Photography

"It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned." - Oscar Wilde

 

Modern fashion photography

Modern photography, or Modernist Photography, is a term used for the art movement that emphasised clarity and sharp focus (which are some uniquely inherent qualities of photography) clearly breaking with the then prevalent Pictorialist movement that tried to emulate painterly qualities.

The modernist discarded the often cumbersome processes that the Pictorialists put to use to make their images look more like paintings, in favor of direct and unadulterated technology, sometimes called “Straight Photography”. This shift in approach took place between 1910-1950 by lead by photographers like Edward Weston and Paul Strand.

Today, almost 100 years later we find ourselves in a peculiar situation when fashion photography, in my opinion, is plagued by backwards looking work where photographers are trying to make their images look “vintage”. By using image processors where you apply light leaks and shallow depth of field image makers are blatantly trying to make their images look like they were taken with lo-fi equipment, or even toy cameras. (Nowadays there is even a backlash, against the backlash - see the #nofilter hashtags on Instagram) Young photographers are scouring flea markets to pick up antique cameras and there is a wurm for “shooting analog”.

This is also driven in part by the fact that people seem to be looking for rituals in general, as well as in photography. It could be argued that currently we are experiencing a sort of a backlash against reason.


modern vs. vintage

Maybe I'm taking things a bit to far here but looking for rituals in photography is maybe simply a reflection of the broader mindset of people right now. Going into the darkroom, turning on the red light and seeing the images, magically appear on paper, has a definite ritualistic aspect to it that many feel digital photography lacks. I often hear, especially young photographers, stating that only the analogue photography techniques has a soul, which of course I totally disagree with.Instead of exploring the unique qualities that only digital offer us, some argue that here is some sort of warmth in analog that digital can’t offer. (Usually this means scratches and light leaks and out-of-focus work)

Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m sometimes are using this technology myself and I admit that the results are sometimes very pleasing and I can see the appeal of this approach but generally speaking  I much rather would like to identify with this type of work. I believe it is much more modern to look ahead instead of looking backwards.

In reality there is as much soul in digital as it ever can be said to be found in analog photography. There is definitely a ghost in the computer - to paraphrase an old Police album.

Here a breakdown ofwhat makes a fashion shooting successful.

An example of “beautiful accidents” in the digital workflow , or the “Ghost in the Machine”

An example of “beautiful accidents” in the digital workflow , or the “Ghost in the Machine”

 

Creative Photography

in 2019

It is now 2018 and after more than 25 years of fashion photography under my belt I do have a few opinions and thoughts on this subject. I have seen and been through a number of massive changes in the business. I was doing my assistant years in a still life studio where we meticulously moved props and objects around to painstakingly shoot 4x5 sheets of film that we developed and printed ourselves in the, for those days, hyper modern darkroom.

Later on I was a young fashion photographer’s assistant in the city that never sleeps, NYC,  in the 90’s - the era of the super models. That meant that we had Christy, Linda and Naomi in the studio every other day. That also meant that I was flown to Rio de Janeiro in first class - as an assistant - Heck, the flight attendants even wore white gloves while serving the champagne. I probably came away with a rather skewed image of what the reality of a photographer was really like.

The one thing that has really changed with the arrival of digital is how images, both moving and stills, are being distributed. With the arrival of digital workflows and digital distribution any one now has the access to the tools necessary to get their story out. I believe that a modern image maker today need to take advantage of that. In my opinion, modern photography today is less about the images, or the style,  but rather how you handle and take advantage of the distribution of your images and videos. It's where your images show up that will make you look modern, or not.

What would that then look like? Well, since it's now possible to distribute all kinds of images, such as videos, gifs, cinemagraphs, on all the new channels it’s increasingly important to master this process since these new channels give you an opportunity to shape their image of yourself as an artist and how your work is perceived. We artists are no longer dependent on magazines, editors or agencies to provide platforms for our work to be seen. These media channels, which sometimes goes by the name of “Earned Media” as opposed to “Paid Media”  Simply put, earned media is media channels where you have earned your viewership by putting out content that resonates with your audience.

At the moment the prevalent style is a rip-off of what fashion bloggers and instagrammers are shooting. It’s a very flat and anti-technical look. Usually the images are shot in natural daylight, with no artificial lighting. I’ve had a few illuminating discussions with some colleagues who decry the lack of technical skills and the “bad lighting” and some of my friends even call it sloppy photography. I prefer to call it technically nonchalant.

When a sophisticated brand like Balenciaga or Chanel employs this look it's because they want to drive home their coolness -  “Look, we’re so cool that we can do whatever…” (Just think of how totally old fashioned images by Ellen von Unwerth or David Lachapelle is looking right now.) There is a nonchalance and I don’t care attitude involved here that is appealing but I think it only works for luxury brands. Of course these looks come and go and I believe that you have to roll with the punches and stay true to who you are.

The word I'm looking for that really describes what modern photography looks like today is authenticity. I believe there's a search for realness in image making today. Readers and viewers are pretty fed up with anything that even remotely smells fake. I think this come partly from the fact that it is much easier for anyone today to publish their own images and get the story out.  So now we see new publishers, brands, smaller producers getting their stuff out in front of readers and they don't play by the old rules so they speak. The images they produce end up looking in a certain way because maybe they didn't have an agency who help them. Or maybe they didn't have enough money to hire an expensive photographer so they shot images themselves. And people like it because it feels real, it feels authentic and that has that has changed things dramatically.

One way to get achieve this is to dispense with the, to me rathert old fashioned idea, that fashion photographers have to tell stories. I'm actually bit allergic to this since i think this notion it's rather silly.

After all we're taking pictures of pretty clothes worn by pretty girls and the idea of trying to make that look like something else strikes me as adding injury to the insult. Fashion photography is about surface - period, and by trying to pretend that it's not you’re just insulting your viewers intelligence.

In short, don't try to make your fashion images look like anything else than images of models wearing nice clothes.

If we move away from fashion photography and into fashion itself, we can find a good example of this aesthetic in Alexander Wang’s  model-off-duty-look MOD. It's glamorous, slightly disheveled but most of all, it’s real. There is never any doubt that these girls are real girls that just happen to be models.  Simply put, earned media is media channels where you have earned your viewership by putting out content that resonates with your audience.

At the moment the prevalent style is a rip-off of what fashion bloggers and instagrammers are shooting. It’s a very flat and non-technical look. Usually the images are shot in natural daylight, or with no artificial lighting. I’ve had a few illuminating discussions with some colleagues who decry the lack of technical skills and the “bad lighting” and some of my friends even call it sloppy photography.  

When sophisticated brands like Balenciaga or Chanel is employing this look it's because they want to drive home their coolness -  “Look, we’re so cool that we can do whatever…” (Just think of how totally old fashioned images by Ellen von Unwerth or David Lachapelle is looking right now.)

There is a nonchalance and I don’t care attitude involved here that is appealing but I think it only works for luxury brands. Of course these looks come and go and I believe that you have to roll with the punches and stay true to who you are. Here an example of what I mean by shooting in a technically nonchalant way that makes the images look modern.

The word I'm looking for that really describes what modern photography looks like today is authenticity. I believe there's a search for realness in image making today. Readers and viewers are pretty fed up with anything that even remotely smells fake. I think this come partly from the fact that it is much easier for anyone today to publish their own images and get the story out.  So now we see new publishers, brands, smaller producers getting their stuff out in front of readers and they don't play by the old rules so they speak. The images they produce end up looking in a certain way because maybe they didn't have an agency who help them.  Or maybe they didn't have enough money to hire an expensive photographer so they shot images themselves. And people like it because it feels real, it feels authentic and that has that has changed things dramatically.

One way to get achieve this is to dispense with the, to me rathert old fashioned idea, that fashion photographers have to tell stories. I'm actually bit allergic to this since it's rather silly. After all we're taking pictures of pretty clothes worn by pretty girls and the idea of trying to make that look like something else strikes me as adding injury to the insult. Fashion photography is about surface (pretty clothes on pretty girls), and by trying to pretend that it's not you’re just insulting your viewers intelligence.

In short, don't try to make your fashion images look like anything else than images of models wearing nice clothes.

If we move away from fashion photography and into fashion itself, we can find a good example of this aesthetic in Alexander Wang’s  model-off-duty-look, or MOD. The look is glamorous, slightly disheveled but most of all it’s real. There is never any doubt that these girls are real girls that just happen to be models.

Here, yet another example of what I believe constitutes the new realness in fashion photography.


 

Being creative is about “showing up for work.”

There's a old fashioned notion of that creativity is something magical, something that happens like a flash from a blue sky, when in reality it is simply just about going to work. The painter Chuck Close put it this way: “Inspiration is for amateurs - the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will - through work - bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘art [idea].' And the belief that process, in a sense, is liberating and that you don't have to reinvent the wheel every day. Today, you know what you'll do, you could be doing what you were doing yesterday, and tomorrow you are gonna do what you [did] today, and at least for a certain period of time you can just work. If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.”

I would like to delve into the subject of being a creative, productivity and working efficiently. I often get the impression of that creatives struggle with these things and I really do think that many creatives fail to learn the most basic business principles. It's very easy to get excited new projects but creatives often fail of implementing processes and methods in their businesses, and yes, we’re all in the business of being creative.

Having a process or method in place is essential because it forces us to focus on what works but also discards stuff that we shouldn't be doing.

I’d like to start with what Eban Pagen calls his Value Pyramid.  Imagine a pyramid, divided into 4 segments. On top there is something called Lifetime Value activities, below that there's a level which High Dollar Value activities. On the third level there is something which he calls Low Dollar Value and at the very bottom there's something called Zero or Negative Value activities. The fact is that unfortunately most of us, including me, spend a lot of time at the bottom, doing stuff that actually doesn't have any value at all.

Our activities down there could actually cost us money. Time is money, right? The trick is to identify what activities and things that we do that have lifetime value and then only do that.  Of course, life is life and things will get in the way and you will have to run those errands to the post office and the grocery store.

It came as a big shock to me to realise that taking pictures actually doesn't carry Lifetime Value. Now that seems like a very provocative statement so let me explain that a bit more. I do get paid for taking pictures, but I have to do it over and over and over again so it’s not something that is sustainable/scalable. It’s something where I either have to work more on or charge a higher price for. To put it bluntly, I always have to put in new efforts.

So instead, in the Lifetime Value Segment on top of my pyramid, as a photographer, there are other things that i should consider spending more time on. These are things like building business and photography processes. These processes could be things like, marketing, client outreach or client relationship building, or creating attractive up-sells or cross-sells, all of which have  lifetime value.

Learning new skills and learning new things to do in my business also has Lifetime value. Creating new services and products for your clients has a tremendously high lifetime value. (Instead of just doing the same thing over and over again why not create a new service or a new product or a new product bundle that you can offer your clients that have a higher value for them and allows you to charge more?)

Again, taking pictures doesn't have a lifetime value but by feeding my pictures into these new processes that I create, the value of my images will automatically increase. The value of creating these processes is that once created they continue to provide value for my business. until I change them.


 
 
 

Per Zennstrom Photography, Bornholmerstrasse 88, 10439 Berlin.