How has the digital age profoundly affected the luxury industry?

The economic weight of the luxury industry in France and around the world is considerable. Models, photographers and all other creatives working in this sector, know or must know the luxury industry is constantly evolving.

The transformation of the customer experience in the field of luxury

Last November, the Vogue Fashion Festival 2018 was held in Paris. This year, the theme of the festival was very timely and reflected the profound transformation of the luxury and beauty industry on a global scale.

“New fashion frontiers”

Among all the conferences that took place during this festival, the one entitled “New frontiers for luxury beauty” with Edgar Huber, president of Coty Luxury, was particularly interesting.

In his speech, Edgar Huber emphasized on the ever-growing need to improve customer experience, making a clear distinction between the quality of service rendered and the product itself. He also discussed the challenges around transactions and market prices.

As a matter of fact, these questions have undergone significant changes in recent years.

Take, for example, prices. The latter do not differ from one country to another anymore, and this, for the simple reason that the Internet has completely changed the industry practice. Obviously now, a customer can check and compare a product’s price at any time and for any location, shipment fees put aside, with a simple click.

Brands must, therefore, become more and more transparent about their prices vis-à-vis their customers. That change alone deeply affects organizations that now have to harmonize their campaigns across the globe.

The customer experience transformation

The arrival of Amazon Prime has, for example, revolutionized the luxury industry by radically transforming the customer experience and the way people shop.

The Click & Collect option at Seoul Airport in South Korea accounts for 70% of sales.

What does this tell us? This means that today, sometimes, individuals prefer to shop online and pick up their product directly at the airport.

Why? Because unlike a spontaneous purchase in a store, by buying online, the buyer can obtain more details and can, therefore, focus more on his needs, desires, details, and values of his/her purchases. Put another way, purchases are no longer spontaneous and uninformed.

Interesting, isn’t it? And yet, this is just one of the many changes digital technology has brought to the fashion and beauty industry.

The role of digital and social networks in the fashion and beauty sector

Digital technology is one of the factors at the origin of the transformation of the luxury industry, among others. For brands you work for (or will work for) as a model or as a photographer, digital is a real windfall.

With digital and social networks, luxury brands have completely transformed their marketing strategy; starting with their number of digital marketing teams. If before, they had several marketing teams, scattered around the world, today, they have only one.

As professionals, it makes a big difference for you, because if you want to work for one of these brands, you will only have one entry point.

Social networks are key

It is important to know the differences between social networks and traditional media. Social media has had such an impact on the industry, that today to evaluate their market, the big brands refer to it first and foremost. Whereas before, it was more about the assets they held.

Today, financial analysts use online presence and engagement rates to define the market value of companies relying on their brands.

Therefore, if you are an influencer, have a large community on social networks and a strong presence on the web, this could pay off.

If your audience matches the one of the brand you want to work for, you will have your chance.

So it’s official, social media can be an asset in the industry. Sure, there are still brands focusing on traditional advertising through tv ads and print campaigns. But overall, advertising in the luxury world is distributed across more and more digital channels, and traditional television advertising now only accounts for 35% to 38% of the entire advertising campaign.

Luxury fashion and beauty: when borders fade

With social networks and hyperconnection, everything goes very fast. Trends come and go.

Meanwhile, there is a widely recognized movement that relates to well-being, sustainable development, self-respect, and nature.

How does this translate into the fashion and beauty sector?

First and foremost, the fashion industry is now striving for inclusiveness and diversity. Finally.

A great example to illustrate the search for diversity and for more inclusiveness is definitely the 2017 launch of Fenty Beauty by Rihanna and LVMH, which offers a range of makeup foundation for more than 40 shades that adapt to any color skin. It was about time.

Additionally, you have certainly heard about the search for more gender inclusion. The separation between men and women gets blurred. New clothing lines and cosmetics are taking that path by creating more and more unisex products and garments.

We see more and more advertising for cosmetics, makeup, and facials for men. This change is based on a general idea:

Everyone can be beautiful in their own ways and self-acceptance and personality now matter more than ever.

This idea, supported by big brands, that self-acceptance is positive but also valuable opens doors to multiple opportunities.

Understanding the industry to boost your career

The perfume market represents 46% of the luxury market, and of all the fragrance ads, only a small percentage are advertised on television. This is because the creation of perfume and the production of the advertisement run over a period of two years.

Which means that statistically, your chances to land a job for a perfume campaign are very low. There’s not much you can do about that.

As the fragrance industry takes a lot of space in the luxury sector, standing out is a real challenge. And while the European and American market are dominated by perfume and makeup, the Asian market only has eyes for skin care products.

On the other hand, there is a strong demand in the makeup industry.

A boon for models, because if you have a beautiful face or a beautiful hair or hands, you have all your chances, and this, even if you may not be a perfect size.

On the other hand, the cosmetics industry faces major challenges with advertising, because the nature of their products leaves less room for creativity and glamour.

If you want to work and have an edge, do your homework!

As a professional in the sector, it is important to be informed, to understand the pace of iterations of the luxury industry and to know or even anticipate their impact on your career.

We hope this article helped you better understand how understanding the industry can influence your career progression.

Don’t hesitate to ask questions by commenting below and good luck.

Fashion Photography’s Tempestuous Relationship With the Art World

Do artistic and commercial photography mix well?

Version Française

If we believe the official narrative, art and commercial photography are like oil and water: each utterly repellant to the other. The art world turns up its nose at commercial photography for its anti-intellectualism and superficiality; in turn commercial photographers frequently disdain art photography for what they perceive as self-indulgence, pretentiousness, and incomprehensibility.

And starting out as a photographer, one of the first things you’re expected to do is choose which side you’re on, and then stick to it.

To be sure, any photographer who attempts to traverse the heavily-policed frontiers between art and commerce will likely find the way ahead guarded by industry gatekeepers. And even if you do make it across the border, just try keeping your artistic credentials intact in the fashion world while still paying the rent.

Yes, you may pick up some edgy and prestigious editorial commissions, but don’t be surprised if you’re expected to foot the entire production bill yourself for the “privilege” of appearing in the magazine: just as with a model’s editorial fees, the more respected the publication, the smaller the budget.

Goading aspiring photographers into shooting high-profile but low-paid editorial of this kind is the convenient industry fable that it will lead to lucrative advertising work. In reality though, while being seen as “arty” may bring plenty of kudos in the fashion industry, very rarely does genuine artistic integrity translate into hard cash: this instead goes to the safer choice of more commercial photographers.

Yet those hoping to transition the other way – from commercial photographer to artist – will likely find the route to success even rockier still. Indeed, try introducing yourself as a fashion photographer to a room full of gallerists and curators; you might just as well inform them that you’re carrying the Ebola virus for all the welcome you’re likely to receive.

But are the divisions between the art and commercial photography worlds really so clearly defined and antagonistic? Do the two industries behave like the couple in a Bavarian Weather House, destined to never meet? Or are they more like two sides of the same coin, each essential to the other’s existence?

Photography’s Shifting Relationship With Art

We only need go back a few decades to arrive at a time when no photography was considered art. There was fashion photography, advertising photography, and photojournalism. But “art photography” was an oxymoron: it was all commercial.

Art meant painting and sculpture, not machine-made reproductions of reality.

But with photography by artists such as Andreas Gursky, Richard Prince, and Jeff Wall now hanging in the world’s most important art museums – not to mention fetching millions at auction – clearly the medium’s place in the art world is fully secure today. But do the old divisions between the commercial and artistic spheres persist?

Monochrome to Color

They undoubtedly do to an extent. Yet even as far back as the ‘70s, a few intrepid photographers succeeded in transversing these limits. In the 1960s, if any kind of photography was valued as “artistic” – rather than journalistic or merely technical – such praise was entirely reserved for the “expressive” and elegant qualities of black and white photography. By contrast, color photography was considered common and vulgar: for weddings, foreign cruise brochures, or adverts touting the merits of a new soap powder.

Then came William Eggleston, who filled the Museum of Modern Art with saturated color images of everyday objects such as sauce bottles and lightbulbs. Eggleston and a handful of others saw the radical potential of appropriating techniques from commercial photography and applying them to more artistic pursuits – thus changing forever what could be considered “art” photography.

Romantic to Realist

At around the same time, Nan Goldin began documenting her own life, and that of her circle of friends, in Manhattan’s New Wave and LGBT+ scenes. Goldin became an icon of art photography largely on account of her honest confessional portrayal of turbulent lives – particularly her own – touched by domestic violence, addiction, and AIDS.

Interestingly, though, it was fashion photography that had inspired Goldin to pick up a camera in the first place. Of course, the images she produced in the late ’70s and early ‘80s were very far removed from anything that would have been classed as fashion photography at the time: raw, impulsive, and often graphic in content, Goldin’s work made an aesthetic of being anti-aesthetic.

Glossy and Stylized

Meanwhile, art director and graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude was transitioning to a highly successful career as a fashion and commercial photographer. What made Goude’s photographic work so original is the way he incorporated into it many of the skills and techniques he’d acquired in his earlier career as a commercial artist. As case in point, today Goude is most particularly remembered for the striking, ultra-stylized album covers he produced at the cusp of the 1980s for his romantic partner at the time, Grace Jones. Through Goude’s lens, Jones became a chiseled and androgynous superhero.

Goude was no doubt a very capable “straight” photographer and drew on his background in art direction to create elaborate studio sets on which he’d shoot his subjects in fantastic scenarios. Yet arguably the most groundbreaking part of Goude’s photographic process took place after the photos came back from the lab: now he would cut and paste, paint and draw; elongate the models’ limbs, airbrush their faces; turning them into larger-than-life stylized perfection. And all this by hand, at a time when technology such as Photoshop was barely even conceivable – let alone actually available.

Raw and Unforgiving

Goude’s approach to fashion photography would prove to be massively influential throughout the ‘80s – a decade distinguished by an excessive striving for perfection, often to the point of artifice and caricature. It’s perhaps not coincidental, then, that in reaction to the high polish of the commercial world at the time, certain art photographers instead began experimenting with techniques borrowed from “low-brow” vernacular photography.

Previously, the harsh “slap” of a camera-mounted strobe was a look you’d most expect to see on a snapshot of a small-town mayor opening a new supermarket. Or a tabloid photo depicting the scene of a crime. Such a crude method had no place in art photography. But just as Eggleston and others had done with color photography in the 1970s – and perhaps also taking their lead from Nan Goldin’s earlier abrasive approach – now photographers such as Paul Graham and Martin Parr began using flash in their “serious” documentary work, turning this frank and unflattering technique into an acceptable tool in the photographic artist’s arsenal.

Credit:  Evolution Atlanta via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/evolutionforever/
Nineties fashion photography was strongly influenced by the underground rave scene.

Anti-Fashion is On-trend

Funnily enough though, in the ‘90s this look was to cross back over to the commercial world once again, as a new breed of fashion photographer reacted against the padded-shoulder perfectionism peddled by the glossy fashion publications of the previous decade. Closely tied to the UK’s burgeoning DIY rave scene and the popularity of Grunge, in the early ‘90s a more spontaneous, grimy, and unpretentious style of fashion photography was to emerge in the pages of London style magazines i-D and The Face.

The airbrushed ‘80s were replaced with “heroin chic,” and photographers who in another decade might never have contemplated a career in the fashion industry began shooting a rough and ready documentary-fashion hybrid that harnessed the energy of the UK’s underground party scene. This was a school of fashion photography that rejected the stylized perfection of Goude’s decade, and instead sought grittier inspiration in the documentary photography of Graham, Parr, Larry Clark, and particularly in the loosely composed confessional works of Nan Goldin.

Time’s Up! Environmental Organization via Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/txup/
Nan Goldin’s raw documentary influence could be seen throughout the ‘90s and even today.

Outsiders Are the Establishment

Renewed interest in Goldin’s work during this time saw her career as an artist flourish. And ironically the anti-fashion style she’d pioneered in the ‘70s now became the fashion industry’s default look, with Goldin herself commissioned to produce some major campaigns.

Meanwhile, Goldin’s spiritual offspring also rose to the top of the fashion industry and even transcended it. For example, Juergen Teller shot fresh and exciting campaigns for brands such as Jigsaw and Marc Jacobs, before deciding he wanted to become a serious artist and promptly taking off all his clothes (because, you know, that’s just what artists do, right?). And Wolfgang Tillmans started the decade shooting off-beat fashion images for i-D and Interview, and ended it as a recipient of the highly prestigious Turner art prize.

However, perhaps the most obvious inheritor of Goldin’s diaristic approach was Corinne Day, a photographer who rose to fame in the early ‘90s photographing a very young Kate Moss for The Face. Superficially at least, Day’s photos may appear random and unconsidered. However, she actually possessed a very strong eye for aesthetics, and when her book Diary was published at the end of the decade, its tilted, angular, faux-accidental compositions influenced an entire generation of self-referential snapshot-shooting wannabes.

As a former model herself, Day was to a certain extent a fashion industry insider. And much of the appeal of her photos no doubt stems from the fact that she documented the hedonistic lifestyle of her model friends – albeit usually in rather grotty and insalubrious surroundings. However, Day’s photos acquired a greater poignancy when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the treatment of which she subsequently documented in harrowing honesty.

Although Day started out by shaking up fashion photography with radically “wrong” compositions and scummy subject matter, by the time of her death a few years ago she had transformed into a “regular” fashion photographer, producing straight up studio shots for Vogue.

From Style to Substance

Overlapping with Day’s arc to becoming fashion royalty – but traveling in the totally opposite direction – current art world darling Taryn Simon instead began life as a commercial photographer, shooting for Vogue and producing campaigns for Chloe, Cesare Paciotti, and other designers while still in her mid-20s. True, Simon always had a more edgy look than the average Vogue photographer. Nonetheless, her early fashion work was a far cry from the more cerebral, well-researched photographic projects that have since brought her so much success in the “serious” art world.

Interestingly though, in order to establish herself as an artist, Simon effectively had to erase all reference to her commercial past.

Of course, with contributors to internet fashion forums periodically digging up old campaigns and editorial shoots from the analog days, it was only a matter of time before Simon’s previous photographic incarnation would resurface. But with her status as an art world heavyweight now so firmly established, at this point, such revelations are unlikely to cause her career any damage.

Adding Substance to Style

Simon’s early work was clearly influenced by the photography of Philip Lorca diCorcia. In the late ‘70s Lorca diCorcia had begun using studio lighting techniques learned from advertising and fashion photography, but instead taking his strobes out on location to photograph “real” people rather than professional models. As the influence of the grungy post-Goldin school of photography waned toward the end of the ‘90s, the more technically accomplished and highly cinematic work of Lorca diCorcia had its moment in the limelight.

Interestingly though, despite enjoying art-world superstardom with shows at MoMA and other prestigious venues, Lorca diCorcia now also took on commissions from publications such as W Magazine to shoot fashion stories – once again closing the loop between the art and commercial photography worlds.

Battlefield to Runway

More recently, Magnum documentary photographer Paolo Pellegrin has produced several campaigns for Fred Perry. He is nonetheless a well-respected photojournalist who has major gallery and museum exhibitions dedicated to his work.

Above all though, this gritty combat photographer seems like an extremely unlikely candidate for shooting polo shirts.

Even more so when we consider that, stylistically, the bright, clean images he’s shot for Fred Perry are about as far removed from war photography as you could possibly imagine. Quite why the brand chose to work with this hardened combat photographer – only to then ask him to shoot images that could have been created by countless fashion photographers – is anybody’s guess. Nonetheless, it shows that the divisions between photographic genres may not be as firmly entrenched as they once were.

Final Thoughts

The commercial world has always drawn on the art world for inspiration.

But it’s much less acknowledged that the reverse is also true: because artists on the cutting edge are always looking for some way to overturn the values of the previous generation and expand what is meant by the word “art” itself, those working with photography frequently also pillage the commercial world in search of “taboo” ideas.

What’s more, the once rigid barriers between the spheres of commercial and art photography have become much less of an obstacle than they were even just a few years ago.

One photographer who effortlessly moves between the worlds of art and fashion today is Viviane Sassen. Encompassing portraiture, fashion, and some unusual still-life/landscape hybrids, Sassen’s colorful and graphic compositions have been highly influential in both the fashion and art camps in recent years. However, rather than starting out on one side of the divide and then abandoning it for the other, Sassen appears totally comfortable straddling this diverse terrain; producing exhibitions and books of her personal work while also regularly shooting fashion editorial and campaigns. Her work is focused and shows no sign of schizophrenia, and this fluid attitude to photography doesn’t appear to have damaged her career in any noticeable way either.

Nonetheless, it’s worth going back to consider the case of Taryn Simon: in order to re-establish her career in the artistic realm,  Simon had to carefully reinvent herself by obscuring her past. This can likely be taken as a sign that there still remains considerable art industry prejudice against photographers “tainted” by association with the commercial world – especially if they wish to position themselves on a more intellectual level. Even today, a photographer attempting to shift from a commercial career to exhibiting in galleries and museums will likely encounter numerous hurdles blocking their access to the more elite echelons of the art industry.

The relationship between art and commercial photography remains tense, suspicious, antagonistic even, but nonetheless highly symbiotic, and the frontier between the two sectors is likely more porous than ever before. However, while there is certainly more opportunity to walk the thin line between art and commercial photography than 40 years ago, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a photographer hoping to combine the two disciplines will find the path an easy one to navigate.

Let us know your thoughts on this topic by commenting below!

Patrick Demarchelier, a timeless imagery…


“Get me Demarchelier!” …

It is Miranda Priestly, aka Meryl Streep, who asks for Demarchelier in the movie The Devil Wears Prada. No mistake, Patrick Demarchelier is in fashion what Romanée Conti is in Burgundy. Un Grand Cru. The best of the best, a master. He was Princess Diana’s personal photographer for years, thus becoming the first Non-British photographer who snaps the Royal family. Today he is considered as one of the most influential and best paid photographers of the fashion world.

Pirelli Calendar by Demarchelier
Pirelli Calendar by Demarchelier

Demarchelier photographed the All-Paris, the Hollywood planet, the crowned heads … in short, the dream of every photographer was incarnated in him. Major brands such as Calvin Klein, Chanel, Versace appealed to him … But who is Patrick Demarchelier? What are the secrets of his shots?

Demarchelier… Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington…

Demarchelier has worked with Vogue since 1974, when he moved to New York. At the time, working for American Vogue was a baptism. He has credited Grace Coddington, one of the most influential women in the fashion world, for launching his career as his journey at Vogue began under her guidance. His cover of the first Vogue China revived his career in the Middle Kingdom. In 2013, he authored an important photograph of the Dior Couture album covering the MOCA museum in Shanghai for the “Esprit Dior” exhibition.

Between the Pirelli calendar, the Elton John and Madonna album covers, exhibitions, his friendship with Anna Wintour style icon, James Bond posters and the Lucie Award, Demarchelier is omnipresent in the world of fashion.

Pirelli Calendar

Fashion photographer at only 20 years old

The photographer was born in Le Havre, Normandy, in 1943. He was offered his first camera at age 17 and began photographing weddings. It is after having assisted the photographer Hand Feurer that he became a fashion photographer. His first photos appeared in magazines Elle and Marie Claire in the early 1970s.

He had an untrammeled career and his success knows no bounds.

Demarchelier displays the “French touch”, he owes his success to a perfect classicism: the clean lines of his models give his shots the ideal of rational perfection.

There is very little madness in Demarchelier’s photography.

The picture is studied: the perspectives are erased, even non-existent. What really matters is the model. Almost without staging. In fact, the only staging resides in the look of the model. His models say a lot just by expression.

Demarchelier is not a photographer who breaks the codes, hence his timeless success. Apart from some “Newtonian” shots, his photographs do not convey any message. They are deprived of any social or political considerations.

The ideology of Demarchelier is to emphasize personality.

And Princess Diana had understood very well that Demarchelier knew how to capture spontaneity, that he was going to understand her. Nothing is fixed in Demarchelier’s photographs, and yet the model is not in motion. The chosen moment simply reveals a state of mind. As a psychologist, the photographer is the heir of the French masters of painting and sculpture. Rodin to start. And the French portraitists. Cezanne, Bonnard, Degas … like these painters, he loves the female nude and gives his models an authenticity that is both simple and remarkable.

Fashion Museum

If the images of Demarchelier are works of art, they surely deserve their place in a museum. An exhibition was dedicated to him from September 27, 2008, to January 4, 2009, at the Petit Palais, where more than 400 of his photographs were exhibited.

It goes without saying that the artist has entered the history of fashion. His work, which has not given way to glitz and glamour, is part of the history of photography, above all because of the sobriety of its scenography.

His major works remain his book of photos, Dior Couture, published by Rizzoli. To compose this book, the artist has taken 150 outfits from the history of the fashion house throughout the world. Seventy-two models and one hundred and fifty models selected from the archives of the house embarked on a blockbuster: from Beijing film studios to the Rodin Museum, Times Square – with models in Plexiglas boxes, like giant dolls – to Opera Garnier.

Portrait of Patrick Demarchelier

And you, tell us about your favorite master piece from Demarchelier in comment!

Thierry Azzopardi

Lea T, supermodel and much more

It is no coincidence that Lea T starred in the Givenchy ad campaign featuring transgender models in 2010 and that since then, she keeps appearing on the brand’s runway…

Black and White duo portrait of Lea T.

But why should we especially care?

Because she is the first transgender supermodel to make a career, a real first in the history of fashion, but also in the chronology of the progress of society. The fashion world is changing dramatically. And after Andrej Pejic’s sex change, we can say that fashion has gone beyond gender biases.

Lea T, a great career despite a tough life…

Lea T. was born under the name of Leandro Cerezo. She was born in 1981 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and grew up in a wealthy, Catholic family. A difficult environment for this young man who dreams of having beautiful breasts and high heels.

As a child, she dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. Nothing predestined Lea to a career in fashion but rather she seemed destined to a life in sport, with a father who was in football, officiating at international level.

Luckily, Toninho Cerezo, her father won a contract in an Italian football team and took his family with him. It is from this moment that Lea began to assert herself although she did not know yet whether she prefered men or women, she explains ” not having a defined sexuality or a precise direction to follow”.

The birth of Lea

Leandro, or Leo as she was called then, eventually became Lea. The instigation of this transformation? Certainly, one strong influence was Riccardo Tisci, who was the director of the Givenchy collection at the time, who encouraged her to feel like a woman and to dress accordingly. He made her wear Drag Queen shoes and advised her to dye her eyebrows. Moreover, the letter T which accompanies her first name is a reference to Tisci. She then continued with hormonal treatment. After posing for the Italian Vanity Fair, she appeared naked in the August edition of the French edition of Vogue. The left hand covering her male genitalia.

The hardship behind determination

But this path was not easy for Lea T who appeared at that moment very lucid and somewhat pessimistic: ” I cannot allow myself the luxury of being in love, we transsexuals are born and grow up alone. After the operation we are born again, but once again alone. And we die alone. It is the price we pay. “she confided.

Although her father had difficulty in accepting her transformation, her family did not reject her and always supported her in her career. The 29-year-old, already applauded on the Milanese or Parisian podium, is now considered the first transsexual supermodel. A few years later, Lea revealed to the world the story of her transformation and now works to help other models who want to assert their difference.

“Life’s what you make of it”…

In November 2014, she became the face of the American brand Redken, which belongs to L’Oréal, joining Sky Ferreira and Chiara Ferragni in the ranks of the muses of the firm.

Shortly before, she appeared kissing Kate Moss on the sultry cover of Love Magazine.

Lea T kissing Kate Moss

The secret of Lea T is also knowing how to take risks by displaying her difference for those who have suffered like her.

In 2017, Lea T spoke on Brazilian television alongside her father to discuss her difficult story.

A supermodel on the rise

Recently we could see her in the campaign “Nike be true” which celebrates the LGBTQ community, using colors and symbols of the community, and specifically around the lavender hue and the pink triangle, combined with the colors of the rainbow.

Besides fashion, the model is now a spokesperson for diversity, within fashion, helping young people who suffer from their differences…

In her last interview, Lea T said, “I never wanted to be a woman: I’m transsexual,” adding, “Life’s what you make it …”

Recently, in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, Lea T claimed to have met an alien and dated a famous actor without revealing his name. Decidedly, Lea T will always remain an alien in the world of fashion and will do everything to remain forever.

She’s a real inspiration for the people looking at using their uniqueness to change the status quo. Let us know in the comments which models inspire you the most!

By EVW

Ellen Von Unwerth, Photographer and Model

“I also shoot men, but my work is more about women. Men are more like accessories…. (laughs).”

Ellen Von Unwerth is the proof that fashion photography is not the prerogative of men. Her pictures lose nothing in comparison to those of her male fellows. Indeed, this former German model-turned-photographer, offers a strong and innovative insight onto fashion. While some might have feared that a woman would look too softly at other women, this is a prejudice that the one we call Von has simply swept away.

By EVW
By EVW

Her work can be qualified as playful, sexy, provocative or even disturbing. Von was the first to photograph Claudia Schiffer and to win the first prize at the “International Fashion Photography Festival” in 1991. Her photographs of Vanessa Paradis, Kate Moss, Rihanna, among others, toured the world. Her work appears, among others, in prestigious magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair. She has also been working on advertising campaigns for major brands such as Guess, Chanel or Diesel. Her work has been presented in the Archeology of Elegance in 2002 and the Fashioning Fiction organized by the MoMA PS1 in 2004. Her photo novella Revenge was accompanied by exhibitions in the major capitals cities.

Capturing life in motion

“I always love movement and story telling, even in pictures.” 

Her secret certainly resides in the motion. We find in her photographs a certain kinetic energy that gives life to her models. She started taking pictures of her model friends by letting them choose their poses but then decided to impose an aesthetic where modesty had no place. As Vanessa Paradis confided, posing with Von is a very funny exercise: you enter the artist’s world and let yourself go to her eccentricities because you feel that she is a real artist. Von Unwerth explores feminine fantasies that are familiar to her and does not bother with principles. Her models take undisguised pleasure in drinking, smoking, eating, etc. The spontaneity of her images and the reflection of happiness displayed by her models will not go unnoticed by the photo connoisseur. This is clearly reflected in the photograph in which three very beautiful blondes bite the same candy apple. But in reality, the models do not really eat, drink, or smoke – they are just pretending to. What is important is this gap between the activity proposed and the body –  the gaze is elsewhere. One can tell the double life of the woman photographed: Vanessa Paradis reading a magazine but looking elsewhere, displaying a desire of which only her knows the secret. Objects of desire, but also actress of the desire she provokes. Or David Bowie and Kate Moss posing lasciviously, while the smile and look of Bowie are not directed towards her. Dioni Tabbers who drinks milk but who is thinking of something else. Von is having fun with the concept of virility. (See her book “Fraulein” devoted to female sexuality.)

A female photograph?

Von was able to stand out by empowering her models who always seem to be in control of their desires. Photographs which, although being deprived of any modesty, do not oppress women. Although represented as objects of desire, their looks remain powerful and never objectified or degraded. They are not mere objects of pleasure, but on the contrary, they take an active part in the celebration- they are the detonators of pleasure.

Ellen Von Unwerth was able to break the codes of fashion photography and encourage women to play with men’s desire. Like in this picture where a woman poses in a sultry way in the middle of the road while a truck driver is taking her picture. Men always seem a little silly in Von Unwerth photography. Women can easily turn men’s head and she knows it.

The German photographer loves pin-up poses, without ignoring the power that these photographs can have on the male spectator. She loves to play with this fake naivety. Indeed, we often see the models with a lollipop or a finger between the lips. Images that awaken desire and which Von enjoys. Her series Revenge, for example, has become a classic of its kind. Ellen Von Unwerth explores her imagination using black and white shots that creates a sadomasochistic story and celebrate femininity. The glaze of her models are studied with great mastery.

The women are taking their revenge, and Von is having fun with it. Moreover, in all the photographs that the paparazzi have taken from the German photographer, Von is always showing a tremendous smile.

Ellen Von Unwerth
Ellen Von Unwerth

She admits it herself: It was because photography amused her that the she abandoned the glamorous world of the fashion shows to get behind the lens. And this, for our greatest pleasure.

Portrait of Flora Mathieu

Are You Photogenic?

Being photogenic is the ability to figure well in photographs.

French version

Indeed some people with ordinary faces appear as more beautiful on a cliché. The opposite is also true. Some beautiful people lose their beauty in front of the lens.

Being photogenic is the ability to figure well in photographs. Indeed, some people with an “ordinary” face appear as more beautiful in a picture. And the opposite is also true as some really beautiful people tend to lose their beauty in front of the lens.

What makes someone photogenic?

First, in order to define what makes someone photogenic, it is important to return to the notion of beauty.

Beauty is “the quality of being pleasing, especially to look at” without any semantic link with aesthetics. It is the quality of what is beautiful, of what is aesthetic, what approaches perfection. It is synonymous with delight and extreme rapture. It can refer to a man, an object or a landscape.

For photographers, photogenics is an important factor as a photogenic model will facilitate his work. A face that reflects the light, a good bone structure will add value to the image.

The eye of the photographer

The photographer should know how to perceive and use light. His eye is naturally attracted by the brilliance of a beauty according to his own sense of culture, taste and personality. A photogenic face can challenge you, just as a situation may reveal a subject.

The eye of the photographer is capable of highlighting the beauty of a face, a body.

You must quickly observe the model to find out what is the best angle.

And If you have a photogenic model who looks good from several angles, your work will then be easier! A photogenic face can also give you inspiration.

A creative encounter

Feeling at ease will help generating beautiful ideas, especially if the photographer’s imagination is stimulated. The opposite is also possible, you can photograph a “photogenic” model and not be stimulated because this very aesthetic face does not move you. You will have “beautiful” shots that do not reflect your work.

It is for this reason that photogenicity and beauty are subjective. Some photographers prefer the “atypical” beauties to the “classic” beauties preferred by others.

It is important to emphasize that a photogenic face can tend towards the non-photogenic if it is badly handled. A person can have photogenic qualities and get a disappointing picture if “the trigger” did not happen. I mean by “the trigger”, a successful communication between the model and the photographer (see previous article).

Ethics…

According to François Cheng ” Why speak of beauty if not to attempt to restore man to his best self?”

The writer explains that aesthetics can only achieve its true depths by letting itself be subverted by ethics. It is this ethics that brings us back to the relationship between beings, to the relationship in photography between the photographer and his model.

By Flora Mathieu

Benetton Campaign

In shape and shapely: exploring the concept of beauty through history

French version

It is often thought that things were simpler in the old days.

Birth of Venus
XIR412 The Birth of Venus, c.1485 (tempera on canvas) by Botticelli, Sandro (1444/5-1510); 172.5×278.5 cm; Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy; Giraudon; Italian, out of copyright

But in fact, being a model in 1900 was much more complex than it is today. With globalization comes new means of communication, networking opportunities and with the proliferation of social networks, working in the fashion sector has certainly become more accessible. While in the past, one had to rely on luck to be spotted by a photographer or an agency director, it is much easier to get scouted today. A model should constantly keep that in mind in order not to get discouraged. Indeed, millions of sites are, photo books as well as professional platforms are now available online, and this give more opportunities to those who master both their image and their communication tools.

Now, it is much easier to be beautiful

Twiggy

A larger nose, a skin defect, a broken tooth and your chances of posing for a photographer are destroyed. Thankfully, today, there are a large variety of tips that solve most of these problems. The American Series Nip Tuck testifies to the place of surgery in modern societies. But also of its excesses. While the creed in fashion was to “reinvent yourself” through surgery, we now favor the natural way. Indeed, a defect can make a person’s charm. Vicktoria Modesta, Moffy, Winnie Harlo, and Aimee Mullins have succeeded in this business despite their unconventional beauty.

The TV show Nip Tuck highlights the excesses of plastic surgery

Western beauty ideals in the past were quite steady. Until the 20th century, we have always favored a type of woman with very white skin, wide hips and an ample bosom. Only one beauty standard existed through the century.

By Franscisco Jose Goya
By Franscisco Jose Goya

It goes without saying that until the 19th century, models were only for painters. On the other hand, being beautiful required superhuman efforts. Women of the Middle Ages waxed using a mixture based on arsenic sulphide! And to prevent the hair from growing, they then applied bat blood on their skin. In the 50s, Marilyn Monroe lathered on thick layers of Vaseline to prevent the aging of her skin. Nowadays, cosmetic innovations make it easier for women to look after their skin. We can be beautiful more effectively and for longer.

Non-white models are all the rage!

Benetton Campaign
Benetton Campaign

Today, fashion supports diversity. Like world cup footballers, miscegenation is no longer a problem for the fashion world and sometimes even becomes an asset. And this trend is going to increase. In cinema, too, with the boom of China and Korea, Asians are increasingly in vogue. Perhaps we are moving towards a m world that embraces differences.

Conquering feminine beauty …

Throughout history, the notion of feminine beauty has evolved. It is History that changes the body of the woman, dresses and undresses her according to the trends of the time. Today, models have the opportunity to impose their vision of the word by showing a certain attitude, a way of being that corresponds to the image of their times.

The "Kim Kardashian Style"
The “Kim Kardashian Style”

The boyish style (Garçonne) of the Roaring Twenties (loose, streamlined, androgynous silhouette) corresponded to women’s liberation and emancipation movements. In 1940, silhouettes became more imposing to show that women could be strong in the face of conflict; more recently, faced with the demands of libertarian movements, fashion has developed toward an androgynous model. Kate Moss being the icon of that time.

Kate Moss
Kate Moss

Today, we could say that we want to impose a model of tolerance and acceptance of difference. Kim Kardashian’s curves or the thinner body of Kendall Jenner: fashion, too, wants to show that it is necessary to put an end to a unique beauty canon. From the timid smile of the Mona Lisa to the naked clichés of Emilie Ratajkowski, it is a slow conquest of the physical beauty that the fashion world has told us.

Thierry AZZOPARDI

A portrait of Marine by Samatha Martinez

The Passion for photography

Lien vers la version française

Let’s start with the beginning.

Why choose photography?

Why not actually.

Photography is like any art, a way to express oneself for those who want to speak out, who want to be heard, to be read, but for whom, talking is not enough.

We are today in 2018, in a digital age, an era of the image. Pictures speak to everyone. Quite simply it speaks to the ones who do not know how to correctly read as to the ones who no longer want to “waste their time” reading. It also speaks to those who do not yet know the whole story of the making of an image.

It is a medium that is also easy to access, in this digital age. As a matter of fact, it is like painting, drawing or other arts that, to be seen by many, must also be digitized.

So why to choose photography as a career?

If you want to get a message to a wide audience, it seems that it remains one of the fastest and most effective ways to transmit information.

This is done via the internet or via smartphones, everyone, or almost everyone, has access to it. Almost everyone constantly creates and consults new images, especially on social networks, to talk about something or simply to share an event, a landscape or even personal photographs of family and friends.

Louise's foot in a black and white picture by Samantha Martinez

Making a living out of photographyLouise by Samantha Martinez

Making a living out of photography

So why ? Why is it so hard to live as a photographer today?

Why is it so complex to make a living as a photographer while everyone on Earth loves and needs images to various extents?

All companies and/or brands, from any field, need images to make themselves known or to sell their products. Just as we, consumers, need those images for our purchases from or to get acquainted with an existing brand.

To Choose

Reading a description is not enough anymore, we have to see what we want to buy before making the purchase. That’s just the way it is. A question of safety first and foremost, but also to have the choice because it is now possible to have it. The choice to react and agree on what we want to get if it fits with our aesthetic selection criteria.

To Explore

On a more personal note, we also need images to travel, to visit the world through the eyes of other people or to keep abreast of the news because the information remains more anchored when we see it.

Or even more simply, for the sake of art in general, the love of creation, the love of novelty, beauty, and ugliness, for all those who in whatever way want to satisfy their needs.

To Create

Artistic picture by Samantha Martinez
By Samantha Martinez

But now, since art is part of the economy of the world, it is necessary for an artist, to fight to assert his rights, to get to live. Also ever since photography became accessible to a large majority, in this digital era. The market has been devalued, and it has been quite a long battle. In addition to this era of mass consumption and overproduction, some photographers have decided not to make it their main job because everyone cannot or is not ready to pay for quality. It’s a tough reality.

It is not said that it is impossible to become a professional and accomplished photographer. It is simply said that this job is not the same as it was twenty or thirty years ago. Today, if the photographer wants to live from his/her passion, he/she must also be a good technician more than an artist, a worker more than a craftsman. He must also become a fine retoucher.

To Fight

Today, there is such a need for mass production of images that in order to earn a living, you have to be ready to produce more and more every day… Especially in the e-commerce, as it is an expanding area. You have to be ready to produce countless images, to charge monthly fixed prices to stay in the market and to let go of your artistic principles because it is not what you are hired for anymore. Your artistic touch has a lesser scope than the product. Well, that’s a shame …

To Win

Admittedly, it is a bit of a generality to say this because there still remain some brands or agencies which believe that it is the difference in style, the adopted perspective and therefore the quality of the image that overrides quantity. Here is the work of art direction. And let’s not forget that before being a marketing tool, above all photography is an art above all!

A DAY IN A LIFE
A DAY IN A LIFE by Samantha Martinez

To Endure

And that’s what I personally enjoy about being a photographer. I like this way of seeing things and of valuing art and quality over quantity. I like people who see photographers as artists, not content producers. Photography and art buffs feed the creative flair of the few survivors of the creative industry.

I think we are simply in an area of abundance and strong competition that sometimes and for some, leads to pushing the prices down in the photography industry.

I think and I hope that it is only an ephemeral trend which will fade away as people will realize that images produced by photographers should be better considered. I believe in perfectionism, in having an artistic soul and in producing quality work.

To Believe

I believe in Art and in the “why” we started to create using photography as a tool. Photographers work around lights and use it as a medium to convey emotions and ideas. I am a photographer and I am still able to fulfil that thirst for freedom. The latter is a quest that has been forgotten by too many. It is also one of the types of art that can evolve over time, in our digital age, even if the evolution does not always take the right direction. There is still this possibility of living from being a photographer, while other forms of art are even harder to monetize.

00 LIFE bd
Life by Samantha Martinez

For Passion

In the end, I don’t mind if one day I cannot make a living out of photography anymore. Today I find compromises that allow me to flourish but if someday I have to quit this job because the compromises I have to make become unbearable, it does not mean that I would stop photography. Being a photographer is more than just a job. It’s a real way to express yourself, a real passion.

“For me, photography is an efficient medium and a haven of peace.

I want people to read my images, I want them to agree with what I have to say. “

Samantha Martinez

Flora Mathieu smoking a cigarette by Gilad Sasporta

The relationship between the photographer and his model

I am a photographer and a young director.

French version

But, I was previously a model and actress. Through these combined experiences, my relationship with images has evolved a lot.

When I started as a model

When I started to pose in front of the lens, I felt a lot of pressure … I thought that it was my duty to make suggestions about poses and angles.

I felt responsible for the success of the shoot.

It was only after several photo shoots that I realized that fashion was really an industry.

An industry in the sense that although photography is an artistic discipline, the more you acquire experience, the more your body poses automatically.  It’s a little mechanical.

During shoots, body movements look a little like a choreography.

The body moves to the rhythm of the trigger; you synchronize your poses to the rhythm of the flashes …

The trigger

One day, I had the chance to make a decisive encounter that transformed my way of seeing things. This trigger, I had it while discovering the universe of Gilad Sasporta, a talented photographer for whom I posed.

I started to pose, as usual. But at some point and against the odds, Gilad “jostled” me asking me to break this somewhat cold image that I got from high fashion. That shook me in a way because it was not really the attitude that I’d always been asked to adopt.

Indeed, I belonged to a category called “gueules” in French, which also applies in the sector of editorial fashion. In other words, I had a very gendered image, something a little dark, and a somewhat inaccessible attitude. For me, I was confined to this style and this mood.

Control your image and challenge the standards

This image, despite being heavily criticized by some, creates a certain fascination in the world of fashion. I also understood that day that fashion was made to sell desire.

Before I realized that, I had a complicated relationship with my role as a model. It is sometimes difficult as a model to sell and play with your body in front of a stranger, a camera and much of the time, a whole crew of strangers.

But finally, once you understand that all this is nothing but an exercise, an artistic performance, everything becomes simpler.

Every physique and face creates an individual response, specific to its image. I had a hard, cold face. Gilad taught me to open my face and change my attitude to achieve this goal.

I then realized that rather than stay in this closed style, I had to work instead on opening my eyes and my personality; become more accessible, give some joy, counter-balance the coldness of the architecture of my face with a moral positivism; add a smile to my eyes, relax my jaw … Play a multitude of subtleties to create deeper and more captivating visuals.

A subtle look in the eyes

The problem is that I could not do it! So I asked for a break and I went out for a smoke. As soon as I lit my cigarette, Gilad stopped me and said, “I want this look! “.

There, I understood that everything resided in the relaxation of the glance. The photo freezes reality and models respond to this. Thus, the model tends to freeze her or his gaze, while in everyday life, your gaze looks different at every moment. It was then that I discovered the essence and the secret of the subtlety of a look.

Flora Mathieu smoking her cigarette by Gilad Sasporta
Flora Mathieu by Gilad Sasporta

An exchange between the model and the photographer

The photographer gives directions, the model must understand them, find them

deep inside of her and then make his/her own suggestions.

But the model alone does not necessarily realize how she or he looks. She/he needs an

outside eye to understand where and how she/he has to work. If the direction of the photographer is very skilled, then it shows in the photograph. If the direction of the model is an art and a pillar of the profession of the photographer.

Fascinated by this dynamic between the model and the photographer, I decided to go behind the lens. My passion is capturing looks and personalities rather than playing with my image.

The photographer’s perspective

Flora Mathieu
Flora Mathieu by Gilad Sasporta

I understood the magnitude of this thought around the eyes since I passed behind the lens.

When I shoot models, they may be beautiful, if I don’t direct them well the photograph ends up being flat and shallow.

In addition, it is necessary to observe the model, understand where he/she takes the best light and which profiles and axes are the most advantageous for her.

In a collaboration for a shoot, some kind of magic happens between the two personalities respond to each other.

The role of the photographer is to be the outside eye that reveals the model.

An exchange beyond appearances

It goes without saying, but the personality of the subject is very important. It is the element that will inspire the photographer and give depth to the visuals.

For me, photography is a mix of special moments, the direction of the photographer and

the model’s personality. It is an infinite quest in which each encounter allows one to grow and to question oneself.

What are the experiences that helped you grow the most?

Share your experience with us by comment or by email at info@elytiz.com.

Flora Mathieu