Happy September! The arrival of this month can mean different things for different people: back-to-school, the end of beach season, or the long-awaited return of Monday Night Football. For a certain segment of the population, it is synonymous with but one thing: the annual September Issue of the fashion world’s publications on the newsstands. With weights seeming to rival War and Peace, this month’s issues of Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and the like are the most important of the year, so in homage we’re surveying three influential photographers known for their work with the fashion industry.
1. IRVING PENN: elegance is in the details. Although Penn shot his first cover for Vogue in 1943, it was not until July 1950 when he found his true, singular style in fashion photography. Photographers commonly organized their shoots around a theme and employed sets and props to showcase clothes, Penn included. But when he went to Paris to shoot the 1950 fall collections, he revolutionize the field’s aesthetic by focusing on discrete details of the garments themselves. This image, “Balenciaga Sleeve (Regine), Paris, 1950” is a wonderful example of how Penn created a graphic aesthetic which focused on the very construction of couture, drawing attention to the clothes by cropping out the model’s face.
2. RICHARD AVEDON: only an occupation. Fashion photography altered as the styles changed. Postwar fashions were highly constructed, but in the 1960s, with the advent of the sexual revolution, fashion moved towards spontaneity and liberation. Avedon, who had shot for Harper’s Bazaar for 20 years, arrived at Vogue in 1965 and embodied this shift in style with dynamic poses, often bursting with energy. One such example is this 1970 photo of the model Ingrid Boulting wearing a Dior coat. Although Avedon is widely renowned as a fashion photographer, he preferred to be identified as a portraitist. “There’s always been a separation between fashion and what I call my ‘deeper’ work,” he said in 1974. “Fashion is where I make my living. I’m not knocking it… It’s pleasure, and then there’s the deeper pleasure of doing my portraits. It’s not important what I consider myself to be, but I consider myself to be a portrait photographer.”
3. TERRY RICHARDSON: provocative or perverted? Fashion photography has evolved over the decades, and Richardson’s trademark style is a far cry from Penn’s visions of sophistication. His highly sexualized photos seem to beg for a judgment call. Some people absolutely adore working with him and he is highly sought-after, whether doing ad campaigns for Jimmy Choo or Gucci or magazine shoots for Vogue or Bazaar. But some of the models he has shot before have voiced feelings of discomfort and degradation. To counter this “bad boy” persona, Richardson has stopped giving regular interviews and exhibited this February a series of perfectly PG landscapes in Hollywood. Yet he has not completely shed the style for which he is primarily known, as this photo of Kate Moss from this June’s Bazaar clearly demonstrates.