Fashion without photography is like a day without sunshine, and fashion photographers bring the sun to the gloomy day. The masters of their trade use photography as a means of depicting clothing and various other fashion items while still remaining in the realm of art. Vogue, Vanity Fair, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and other high-end fashion magazines are the perfect galleries that exhibit the finest of fashion photography. From its humble beginnings to today’s sometimes overwhelming aesthetics, this genre has nurtured some of the best names in the business. Adored by fashion magazines, designers, models, and the fashion aficionados are figures such as Cecil Beaton, Helmut Newton, just to name a few. Such authors adored to branch onto various other photography disciplines, and have greatly influenced the realm of fine art photography, portraiture, not to mention the world of still lives as well.
From the beginning of the 20th century, fashion photographers have become more and more prominent in the world of photography. The development of halftone printing allowed these photos to be featured in various magazines. The rivalry of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar also influenced the expansion of the genre. Fashion photographers such as Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Louse Dahl-Wolfe, and Martin Munkacsi revolutionized the world of fashion photography and redefined the role of the photographer in the creative process.
During the war, the United States and Europe became strikingly different and viewed fashion photography in different ways. The USA adopted the classic Americana vibe with models posing with flags, American cars, and in general seeking to fulfill the American dream, while Europe depicted models wearing gas masks and pin curlers in their hair to show the brevity of war and the lack of electricity that would allow them to curl their hair more easily.
Fast forward to contemporary times, today fashion photographers choose to shoot clean product, knolling, and ghost mannequin style. Often such a style of presentation is greatly criticized by female authors, such as Cindy Sherman, that continue to fight against the stereotypical roles and depictions of women. Regardless of the amount of controversy some of the images produced by the fashion photographers may produce, one can not bypass the fact that such a genre helped to push the boundaries of the world of photography. Even though the expansion of technology and the social and Internet life allows for the amateur photographers to display their works, the pure talent always breaks through.
Defined as the most important fashion photographers are the following authors who have managed to place the art of clothing and such documentation into the realm of art, so please continue reading.
David Bailey - The Portrait Master
David Bailey CBE is a fashion and portrait photographer originating from England. He was a photographic assistant at the John French studio in 1959, and in 1960 he was a photographer for John Cole’s Studio Five. Later he was contracted as a fashion photographer by the British Vogue. He captured and helped in the creation of the Swinging London subculture, a term that encompassed fashion and cultural scene of 1960s London which largely consisted of discotheques, music, and the famous mod fashion. Bailey is famous for his Box of Pin-Ups (1964) which is basically a box of prints of the celebrities of the time such as The Beatles, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Cecil Beaton, Terrence Stamp, and the infamous Kray twins, the East End gangsters. He created 18 Vogue covers and numerous editorials and photographed the image that appeared on The Rolling Stones album.
Image: David Bailey – Jean Shrimpton at Bailey’s family home via Vogue.co.uk
Arthur Elgort - The Vogue Prodigy
Arthur Elgort is an American fashion photographer born in Brooklyn and known for his work with the Vogue fashion magazine. His debut at the British Vogue in 1971 created a frenzy in the world of fashion photography with his use of natural light and the iconic snapshot style. Since then, he produced 24 Vogue covers, which definitely means that his work was groundbreaking, to say the least. Elgort’s work was different and exciting, he often asked his models to run or jump on the set, he emphasized the movement instead of the static, motionless figures, and is considered one of the photographers that treat their models as real people, not just blank canvases or coat hangers for the clothes.
“You can take a picture or you can make a picture. I prefer the latter.” – Arthur Elgort
Image: Arthur Elgort – Stella Tennant, Vogue, October 1995 via vogue.com
Mario Testino - The Royal Photographer
Mario Testino is a Peruvian fashion and portrait photographer and one of the most influential contemporary fashion photographers. His works have been published everywhere, notably in Vogue, Vanity Fair, V Magazine, and GQ. He has worked with a myriad of fashion and beauty houses, such as Gucci, Versace, Michael Kors, Burberry, Chanel, Estée Lauder, and Lancôme. Some of his most famous portraits are of the royal families of Europe, probably the most recognizable being the series with Princess Diana in 1997, and the engagement photographs from the engagement of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton. He also captured the British Royal Family in 2015 after Princess Charlotte of Cambridge’s christening. Testino is also famous for his collaborations with the supermodel Kate Moss, and in our humble opinion, nobody can take a picture of Kate as good as Mario Testino can.
Image: Mario Testino – Kate Moss, British Vogue, 2009 via pleasurephoto.wordpress.com
Helmut Newton - The Provocative Genius
Helmut Newton is one of the fashion photographers that simply had to be on our top list. Why? Because he was one of the most influential, the most imitated, the most provocative fashion photographers who left a great footprint on the fashion industry. Newton was born in Berlin where he had a troubled life, being imprisoned in the concentration camp, an event that made his family leave Germany. In 1957 he went to London where he won a year-long contract with the British Vogue but later went to Paris where he worked for French and German magazines before returning to Melbourne in 1859 to work for Australian Vogue. His work can often be described as erotic, slightly sadomasochistic, and provocative, but that never stopped Newton from becoming one of the most celebrated fashion photographers in the world.
Image: Helmut Newton – Here They Come II, Paris from the series Big Nudes, 1981 via vogue.com
Peter Lindbergh - The Soul Photographer
Peter Lindbergh is a German photographer and film director and one of the most influential contemporary fashion photographers. His groundbreaking works changed the standards of fashion photography during the period of excessive retouching and photo manipulation. He chose to capture the personalities and the souls of his subjects, and not focus on the ideal standards of a woman’s body for exploitive purposes. His pieces are timeless and raw, as he prefers to photograph the models with an almost bare face, bereft of makeup and artificial eyelashes, enhancing the natural beauty and freeing the women from the shackles of age. He includes narrative in the fashion series, bringing the storytelling into the world of mindless product promotion.
“This should be the responsibility of photographers today to free women, and finally everyone, from the terror of youth and perfection” – Peter Lindbergh
Image: Peter Lindbergh – Natalia Vodianova from the Images of Women II: 2005–2014, via vogue.com
Patrick Demarchelier - The Officer of the Order of Arts and Literature
Patrick Demarchelier is a French fashion photographer who discovered the world of fashion by working as a freelance photographer in New York during the 1970s. He worked alongside photographers such as Terry King, Jacque Guilbert, and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Soon after his pieces got the attention from the notable fashion magazines such as Marie Claire, Elle, and 20 Ans Magazine, and he later went on to work with Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, with which he had collaborated for 12 full years. He photographed editorials and advertising campaigns for high-end brands such as Dior, Celine, Chanel, Donna Karan, Louis Vuitton, Vera Wang, Yves Saint Laurent, Moschino, and Carolina Herrera, as well as for Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Lacoste, and Elizabeth Arden. He shot covers for Vogue (British, American, and Paris), Rolling Stone, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Glamour Magazine.
Image: Patrick Demarchelier – Gigi Hadid, British Vogue, January 2016 via demarchelier.com
Horst Diekgerdes - The Surreal in the Mundane
German-born photographer Horst Diekgerdes’ visual language is provoking, sensual, and slightly eccentric. Over the years, he has shot some of the most beautiful images for Miu Miu ad campaigns, Pulp album cover – This is Hardcore. He is also known as a photographer of the most distinctive cultural icons, such as Alexander Mc Queen, Erykah Badu, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. The surreal element vibrating in a normal setting was the standard which helped Diekgerdes choice the images for his new published monograph. As a celebration of life, the book is a journey of fashion and photography during the 1990’s. Included in the book are also never before published works, observations of mundane life, and pictures from his personal diary.
Featured image: Horst Diekgerdes – Stephanie Kunz, AnOther Magazine. Image via dazeddigital.com
Sebastian Kim - The Tamed Sexuality
The work of Sebastian Kim can be found in Harper’s Bazaar UK, i-D, Interview, Muse, Numéro, Numéro Japan, W, and Vogue. Whether photographing celebrities or models, Sebastian Kim is one of the best storytellers of fashion photography and one of the most sought-after as well. Receiving commissions from the iconic fashion designers, such as Calvin Klein, Nina Ricci, John Galliano, H&M, Kim’s images radiate the serene and powerful sexuality.
Featured image: Sebastian Kim – Rooney Mara, Time. Image via theredlist.com
Victor Demarchelier - Do What You Love
One important secret of the trade Victor Demarchelier learned from his father Patrick Demarchelier. Love what you do, was the passed knowledge. The son of one of the most acclaimed fashion photographer, Victor Demarchelier early on in his career created his own space far away from his father’s shadow. The photographer is celebrated for his black and white photography produced for his exhibitions, erotic images for Interview magazine, or the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Australia. Using simple concepts for making big statements, elements of architecture combined with the beauty of his models, make his work one of the most celebrated in the fashion industry.
Featured image: Victor Demarchelier – Fashion Photography. Image via managmentartists.com
Alice Hawkins - The Playful Side of Fashion
The work of Alice Hawkins is both sexy and intriguing. Reaching the essence of her subjects, be it in her commercial or fine art fashion photography, Hawkins never stops to amaze us. In her trade-mark style, her photography is both energetic and fun and was known to be featured in some of the most prestigious fashion magazines such as Vanity Fair, InStyle, among many. Recognized to represent some of her greatest work are her ad campaigns for fashion labels Diesel, Agent Provocateur, and Topman.
Featured image: Alice Hawkins – Jessie J, cover of the Sunday Times Style. Image via ngca.co.uk
Herb Ritts - The Synonymous of Iconography
Herb Ritts high contrast black-and-white images of supermodels and celebrities placed the body and face at the forefront. For the 1980’s and 90s fashion photography, this became the style and the synonymous for the period’s iconography. Some of the most iconic images, such as the portrait of Richard Gere in his tank-top, or the Elle cover featuring Brooke Shields, were taken by this artist whose celebrity sky-rocketed during the 80s. Alongside his work for the top magazines and brands, Ritts is known for his directing of pop music videos and numerous commercials. Yet, his best-known images are of course the supermodel group portrait Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood published in Rolling Stones, and the Calvin Klein underwear campaign, featuring Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg.
Featured image: Herb Ritts – Photography. Images via wallpaper.com
Paolo Roversi - The Iconic Photography
Considered as one of the most iconic fashion photographers, Paolo Roversi’s dreamy images made their first major appearance in Marie Claire magazine. Quickly after, Italian editions of Vogue and Harper’s Bazar recognized his contribution and significance for the fashion industry. In his own words, Roversi described his technique as ‘more subtraction than addition. I always try to take off things. We all have a sort of mask of expression. You say goodbye, you smile, you are scared. I try to take all these masks away and little by little subtract until you have something pure left. A kind of abandon, a kind of absence. It looks like an absence, but in fact when there is this emptiness I think the interior beauty comes out.’
Featured image: Paolo Roversi – Studio Work. Image via wallpaper.com
Juergen Teller - The Magic of the Overexposure
Appearing frequently in the alternative fashion magazines such as Purple, i-D, and AnOther Magazine, Juergen Teller’s raw subjects intrigue. Presenting moments that feel as if they are plucked from the personal archives, his photographs bush the boundaries of fashion photography. With his work, the rigid and glossy editorial photography is left in the distant past. His trade-mark approach to image making, above anything else the overexposed color images in 1998 caught the eye of Marc Jacob. Soon they became the synonymous of Jacob’s advertising campaigns which Teller was responsible for.
Featured image: Juergen Teller – Kate Moss. Image via showstudio.com
Ben Hassett - The New Portraiture Photography
Considered as the most sough-after photographer of the industry, Ben Hassett’s passion for photography came at an early age. Best known for his striking portraiture photography, with the distinctive use of light and dark, his images push the boundaries of photography, and as of recently motion video. In his 15-year old career, he has photographed some of the most beautiful supermodels and has been commissioned to create for the most celebrated fashion magazines. Studying and receiving his first pay for documentary photography, the fashion photography of this artist is focused on the detail that emphasizes the tactile nature of his subjects.
Featured image: Ben Hassett – Extravagant Photography. Images via pinterest.com
Jan Welters - The International Fame
Jan Welters began his career as a fashion photographer in Amsterdam and soon his photography expended to other parts of the world. His work is recognized for its dark and mysterious quality and its ability to capture movement in fashion. His passion for the visual arts follows him from an early age. In 1983, Welters left the St Joost Art School in Breda and assisted different photographers in order to learn the trade. Like all the photographers of the industry, his work extends to commercial commissions, ad campaigns, portraiture, men, and women fashion.
Featured image: Jan Welters – Women Fashion Photography. Image via wallpaper.com
Cecil Beaton - The Greatest English Photographer
As is often the case, the best is saved for the end. Considered among the greatest photographers in England, Cecil Beaton was important not only for fashion photography but for his contribution to portraiture art as well as fine art photography. His contribution to the world of photography spanned more than half a century, and during this time Beaton photographed a host of the world leaders, film stars, models, and other VPs. Collaborating with Vogue and Vanity Fair, Beaton is one of the historical figures of fashion photography whose prestige was acknowledged by two Oscars and Academy Awards for stage and costume design.