Often, our basic standards of beauty as either individuals or as a cohort are driven by the visions created through fashion photography . Here we have trained professionals who spend hours crafting visuals intent on distracting and confounding us. But are the images created art or are they just edgy advertising?
Ad In order to grab our attention these days, advertisers need to make their images more striking and inspiring, which can make them appear -artier’. This is especially the case when it comes to fashion – this an industry that demands potent visual expression in order to sell on mass. More often than not, fashion photography presents us with a highly idealised vision of what the hair, makeup or clothing line on display can allow a person to become.
Advertisers love using the idea of -transformation’ to tap into our insecurities, hoping that we will think that we can match what we see. The internal logic they are aiming for is essentially – -wow, maybe, just maybe I could be a little like that if use x product-. The -daring’ style of the images created is typically based around increased sex appeal and little else. The thing to remember here is that this is the result of the advertisers and the brand controlling the creative process, not the photographer. The line between ad and art usually blurs when it’s a prestige brand or magazine behind the marketing efforts.
Art As subjective as the idea of -art’ may be, we can all agree that something that is artistic has some degree of meaning embedded within the image – something beyond -I’m so pretty/edgy/sexy-. By its very nature, art is evocative, inspiring and engaging, which is everything ads aim to be – albeit in a superficial way.
One basic cue to consider here is that art isn’t always based around obvious beauty or -pretty’ imagery – it can be dark, disturbing, deranged. If what you see is beautiful, the beauty needs to be conveyed by more than just what the model or models wear, it needs to be shown in their expression, their stance, positioning. If these images sell, it is by accident rather than design. The artistic integrity is mostly lost when you are left with an image that is simply an idealised person standing around looking good.
While professional photographer such as PhotoPlan aim to blur the line between these two areas, the debate will continue to rage. These days billboards, magazines and bus shelters are displaying eye-popping imagery created by fashion photographers and augmented by advertisers. Some of what we see appears to be too expressive to be an ad, other images are just too obvious in what they are trying to do. It’s up to you whether it falls in column A or B, or just maybe in that grey area in between.