Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Posing, fashion and photography

click photo to enlarge
Fashion photography  too often isn't. By that I mean it is photography, but it isn't about fashion. This branch of photography seem to attract those who see it as an opportunity to create "art", and so they produce images that do everything except show off the clothing that is being promoted. Thus, models adopt contorted poses, or are photographed in harsh or dim light, or are placed in locations that overwhelm or hide the main subject, or - well I think you'll have seen what I mean.

And even when a straight forward shot of a model is taken from face-on the photographers seem to crave an awkward element such as the feet in a strange position, the eyes deliberately closed, the hand raised to shield the face etc. Or the model is asked to adopt what I think of as the "gormless pose". I think you'll have seen this one too. It involves the model standing upright,  staring straight at the camera, mouth dropped open, no hint of emotion evident, arms hanging limply with the back of the hands turned forwards. I suppose it's a reaction against the poses of the middle of the twentieth century where models sat in the sunlight, relaxed, on scooters, on garden seats, or leaning nonchalantly against a tree, all the while beaming their best smile. On balance I think I prefer the latter! There was a time when fashion photographers managed to create art (of a sort) that also showed off the fashions being sold - Norman Parkinson frequently managed it producing wonderful images. These days many aim for one or other of these goals but few achieve both.

Today's photograph shows a wall of windows at the London Tower Bridge Hilton next to More London. It's an interesting wall  for the way colour is used. Standing on a thick wooden trunk nearby is a wooden sculpture of a woman (there's also a man nearby, out of shot). She is one of the "Couple", a commissioned work by the German artist, Stephan Balkenhol, completed in 2003. It was only after I'd seen the woman a couple of times that I realised her "wooden" pose reminded me of the "gormless" poses favoured by some fashion photographers. Now, it has to be said that this lady really can't help but look wooden: even if she was contorted like an Olympic gymnast she'd still be completely wooden. But why do we have to suffer it in the living models in the Sunday supplements? Incidentally, on past experience you may have expected me to say something about the quality of the sculpture. I see them as WYSIATI (what you see is all there is) pieces, so there's not much to add, and I certain won't be describing them as totemic or poles.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 85mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On