The artist was born in Peru, from an Irish mother and an Italian father. And, when young, he actually wanted to become a priest … but from church to fashion photography, there was only one big step to take. And he did it.
At the Pontifical Catholic University, he studied law and then gave up his studies to discover London. But in order to stay there, he needed a student visa and because the only school that would accept such a visa was a school of photography, he enrolled in these studies.
It is, therefore, a bit by accident that Mario Testino learned the profession of photographer.
One must say that Peru is not a country where one can express oneself easily and freely. And there is no doubt that Mario had a lot on his heart that he has never been able to express. This censorship, he breaks it briskly.
A revenge on childhood?
He does what he was forbidden to do in his native country, such as dyeing his hair pink in order to be noticed and sell more easily books to models – and that for ridiculous sums. We must live well. He knows how to hold a camera and use it. The adventure begins.
Today, he is a celebrity portraitist regularly solicited by the most important titles of the magazine press (Vogue, Vanity Fair, V Magazine) and many fashion and beauty houses. He is also known for his advertising campaigns for Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. His covers for Vanity Fair of Princess Diana marked the memories.
The art of Testino
Testino’s talent came to the fore when he elected to be true to himself and to bring his Latin roots to European photography.
“I am Peruvian, and I spent part of my life in Brazil. I wasn’t happy and I tried for a long time to do as the French. It was absurd, I did not have the same culture or the same knowledge. It was from the moment I really accepted my country: to be a hothead, to love what is sexy, that my ‘magic’ was unveiled.”
He is always attentive to the needs and interest of the client, he immersed himself into their worlds:
“My job is to listen and engage the client’s reality, not my own. I try to understand what the brand is trying to say and to reduce it to an image so people understand what the company is all about. I’m creative but my essence is commerce, really. At the end of the day, we need to create imagery that people want to devour.”
This philosophy pays him well as, in turn, brands listen to him.
This is how he proposed models like Cara Delevingne rather than Kate Moss for Burberry or that he managed to bring forward Gisèle Büdchen at a time when bigger breasts were not fashionable in the fashion world.
Testino is not just a photographer. He is a gifted spotter of “IT” girls. A commercial zest also animates his artistic approach; but unlike other artists, he is aware of it and claims the pursuit of profit.
«I measure the success of a campaign to the economic growth of the company: if sales increase, this means that I am part of this success. It is something that obsesses me. »
Mario Testino and the Hashtags
He is one of the first to have used social networks. In 2015, for a few days, he took the reins of the Vogue Paris Instagram account. The Facebook accounts of the photographer and the one of Vogue Paris were also twinned. That’s a first. With a journal illustrated in pictures by the photographer for Vogue Paris via the hashtag “Couture by Testino”.
His trademark: Minimalist nudes, very simple images with a fetish object: the white towel.
The towel is for Testino what the white shirt is to Lindbergh. The towel serves to maintain a natural modesty. The woman does not hide. She holds the favorite object of Testino, which allows her to confront the artist’s purpose without any embarrassment. It corresponds to the drapery of Michelangelo’s sculptures and the photographer knows how to give sophisticated reliefs to this simple fabric object. And like Michelangelo, he also has a passion for male models.
Witness the recent photograph of Neymar naked in his white towel.
The influence of the famous British photographer Cecil Beaton is clearly visible in the work of Testino. He borrows the simplicity of lines and points of view. A reduced staging and the search for the sincerity of the model. He adds his personal touch with bright colors and a sexy flash.
To explore thoroughly the art of Testino, you must visit his official website (www.mariotestino.com) and for the aficionados a round trip to Peru to visit the Mario Testino museum which was originally a 19th century house that the artist acquired and transformed into a museum. The Mate Foundation is located in Lima and aims to promote international art.
It goes without saying that Mario Testino is a true legend of the world of fashion photography.
Let us know about your favorite piece of art made by Mario Testino!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
And you, tell us about your favorite master piece from Demarchelier in comment!
“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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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!
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.
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.
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. “
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 …
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cartier Bresson said: “A successful photograph, required the alignment of the head, heart, and eye.”.
This definition will help us better understand the function of the photographer over decades and trends. Indeed, according to the times and trends, the photographer has favored one of these three organs.
To put your heart and soul into your work
One can start with the sensual photographs corresponding to the liberation years of the sixties: at that time William Klein, David Bailey or Peter Knapp are witnesses of this social revolution. and Brigitte Bardot brought to St Tropez the very essence of this period.
Ten years later, as the woman frees herself, Helmut Newton expresses the masculine anguish of the woman who grasps the sceptre of power. With the grunge movement, the 80s are rather placed under signs of exacerbated cerebral. Glamorous fantasy is attacked by criticism of the glamour ‘ideal’ and the idea of luxury and consumerism is widely derided. Models look like drug addicts, posing with their torn clothes against an urban crisis backdrop.
Following the steps of Nan Goldin, photographers like Juergen Teller or Craig McDean develop a trashy style that has gone down in history. For the first time, fashion photographers are exhibited in museums and galleries.
Head photographer …
Today, the photographer has returned to a more sophisticated style. A major change for the photographer is that he is no longer alone in front of his shutter. The work will no longer happen in a dark room where he or she had to develop his films as a physicist. The editing will be done using editing software like Photoshop and the computer has replaced the sensibilities of its silver paper/ take over its silver paper. It is with a lot of nostalgia that he still touches an Ilford movie or caresses the back of his first Leica camera. He was already an artist with his camera. Now, he has also become a computer scientist, a photo retouching artist, a magician of great fantasies that have arisen modern technology.
Everyone remembers the emotional reaction caused when it was learned that Claudia Cardinale, on the poster of the Cannes Film Festival, had been retouched to look slimmer. Her legs were stretched, her ankle was thinned and a piece of the thigh was gone. Even her feet narrowed. The magic of the computer; a photograph today is no longer thrown in the trash for a little detail as we can erase, transfer, trim … The photographer is an orchestra leader who must handle many more techniques than their predecessors. At a time when everyone can make a beautiful picture with an iPhone, it is these skills that must make the difference. Is the shot sophisticated? Of course, photography does not only reference itself. Behind the pose of a model today, we still find allusions to the great art of Botticelli, Rembrandt, Renoir …
The influence of photography on the culture
Photography is positioned within an intense cultural network.
For example, Steven Klein is an iconic photographer. At 52, we can often see his work in magazines such as iD, Numéro or W. He started his career by shooting a campaign for Dior in 1985 and then worked with Eva Mendes for Calvin Klein and Madonna for Dolce & Gabanna. In 2010, he directed Lady gaga’s music video “Alejandro” and more recently, in 2012, he directed the video for the launch of her flagrance “Fame”.His inspiration? While he was studying in art school, he studied the style of Picasso and Bacon and his work was largely influenced by the delusional imaginary that characterized Surrealism.
In addition to their culture of photography, great photographers have but also a graphic culture and know how to interpret the principles of architecture. And above all, like the models, they are observing and mimicking our society. When we take a picture we do not press a shutter but instead we create symbols that sum up a modern state of mind. In the 19th century, Victor Hugo created the myth of La Esmeralda … today, it is the photographer who must generate an extraordinary image that will challenge our imagination and trigger new fantasies.
The expert eye…
The photographer must be aware of the current trends and express his emotions through his work as well as his critical gaze and reflection. In any case, his function has become major in our society of images. It is the photographer who creates the icon. We remember Roger Vadim’s film:
The photographer is a God who creates the woman. He gives his vision of women and at the same time influences the image and the existence of women.
Helmut Newton, for his part, gave birth to the myth of the domineering woman. And above all, he brought the fashion picture outside the clichés of the model posing on a beach: “A good fashion photography must look like anything but a fashion photograph. A portrait, a souvenir photo, a cliché of paparazzi” confided the master.
The fashion photographer enters the staging of his/her model. No more dull pictures. We do not sell, we awaken the senses. The garment is now only a detail in the composition of the photograph. All around him, he sells a dream world in which a fashion designer lets you in.
It is for this reason that the photographer is primarily an artist. And who says artist says art market. With all the possibilities that the art market offers. A fashion photographer today may have difficulties making ends at the end of the month and receive 600,000 euros for a publicity photo like Peter Demarchelier or Peter Lindbergh! Some prints of Helmut Newton easily reach 400,000 euros …
So sharpen your eye quickly … This is where the Eldorado is!
Just as the painting had to survive against the expansion and development of the camera in the last century, the survival of photography as an art is now being threatened. (I develop this idea in my book « ART[GUMENT] Vol.II. ») Indeed, cameras are becoming omnipresent in our life. They are our primary medium of communication. They are becoming smaller and smaller. They are available everywhere and to everybody. They fit into your pockets and it feels incredibly natural to take a quick snap and share it with the world.
The painting was a great way to describe what our eyes saw as an imperfect reproduction of reality. (Concept developed by Aristotle with the notion of Mimesis.) Now, cameras can capture reality with a level of visual accuracy that painting could never achieve.
As a matter of fact, painters had no choice but to paint and retranscribe reality in their own way. This is how a lot of new ways of painting were born in the past: Impressionism, Cubism, Abstraction, Pop-Art, Conceptual Art…. It was time to see, to feel and to paint differently.
Same cycle, same war.
Now it’s time to see, to feel and to capture reality differently too. Everybody can pretend to be a photographer, with just a brand new reflex camera or simply with a super expensive smartphone. Today, photography is not just about getting a perfect apprehension of reality. Admittedly, everybody can instantly take a picture from anywhere… And isn’t it normal to have more than two cameras at home? Just get a smartphone and a camera and you’re done.
Thanks to the big WWW everybody can share their photographs and have their own audience and viewers. That’s the power of the Digital Age. We probably have already seen billion and billion of images from literally everywhere: ads in the streets, ads on TV, social media, television, newspaper, internet… Advertising is everywhere. People are being fed with tons of images and they can’t control it. They can’t freely choose what they are going to eat, like and wear…
But don’t you remember? “To be free means to choose, whose slave you want to be.” Jeanne Moreau.
So, whose slave do you want to be?
The alarmingly high incidence of anxiety and depression among children and young people, the social and emotional pressure that manifests our decade… People are now the own adverts of their life.
This is how we become a symbol of success in the heaven of capitalism… Endless consumerism encourages creatives and their bosses to sell up more and more to people in a perpetual pursuit of happiness. Creatives have to cobble together a column with or without a great idea, or any idea at all, just for sales. Yes, it is a hard time for society and for creatives: there is so much pressure, lack of freedom, competition, inspiration, and abuses.
Photography has changed and you have to adapt too.
Everybody can take a picture and feed their social media pages. But then, how are you going to be able to stand out from the crowd? To me, it’s all about credibility, quality, and work. You have to find your deeper self and personal branding because cameras aren’t smart enough to make anyone a great photographer. To stand out from billions of people around the world, you have to be unique, to capture your own reality and give it your own meaning… Don’t be afraid to share that through your camera. Express it! Art is the answer to all of our modern World’s afflictions.
« The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life … » – Picasso
Well, here’s an extremely valuable piece of advice to survive this World, finally! Stay true to yourself. Don’t be someone else’s copy or a stereotype. Surround yourself with family, friends and positive individuals. Stay focused and committed to your goal and on what you do best. Be your own boss, and try to stay disconnected at home. MEMENTO MORI :).
Let me tell you why I started the Elytiz project: a hub dedicated to professional models and photographers.
First, let’s talk about modeling.
Why? Simply because I know more about modeling than photography, being having been a model myself for the last 8 years.
Modeling is a definitely an interesting job in many aspects.
As a matter of fact, it generates criticism but also the same degree of fascination.
It makes some people dream and is associated with tons of clichés like:
“Models have an easy life.”
“You just need to be well born to become a model. Models have no brain.”
Because models mainly work with their looks, it leads to a great deal of confusion, and the air needs to be cleared out.
The truth is that if you look at modeling from the outside, it’s full of mystery and untold stories. By the way, the blog is also meant to tackle this point.
Well, I’m here to tell you about the story of Elytiz.
It all started when I got into modeling. I was a bit of an accident I would say, but I’m saving that for another article.
Long story short, I’m a commercial model and actress. Over the last 8 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work and travel across Europe, the USA, and Asia.
Although I managed to build a decent network in Paris, every time I’d be back home it’d be like I had to start from scratch.
Building a network and traveling
By building a decent network, I’m meaning being regularly called to castings by my agencies, tagged on casting posts, receiving regular messages and inquiries from qualified photographers and cool brands. It doesn’t mean I necessarily made tons of money out of modeling, but it definitely showed results from dedication and hard work.
Well, if I left a few months to live in another country, not only would I have to start from scratch at my new location, I’d also have to “reactivate” all my network and activity once being back to Paris.
Being someone who loves traveling, that would be the very first thing in the industry to annoy me.
It raised the following question:
Why is it so complicated to have to build a new network everytime you switch country?
Let’s set apart the fact that first of all, you have to learn about the culture and general practices of the new country you live in. Funnily enough, I realized how much beauty standards and sense of aesthetics can differ from one place to another one.
However, I found out that no matter which country I lived in, the process of finding photographers to collaborate with is relatively the same one everywhere.
Finding portfolios you like
You go on whichever platform is available and spend hours looking for portfolios I like. Once this is done, you send out requests all around. Sometimes you get no answer, sometimes you are being asked to pay for the shoot and sometimes you find a good candidate for a collaboration. It can feel discouraging at times and unfortunately it really depends on where you are, thus, finding people you’d like to collaborate with can be tricky or time-consuming.
Managing incoming requests
And it goes both ways: when you are a model, you are regularly solicited and have to reject requests or send your rates. That’s neither convenient nor pleasant. Personally, I hate doing that. There are some photographers that have very sweet approaches and kindly ask for collaborations. The problem is that if I feel their work doesn’t match my portfolio, a collaboration wouldn’t be the best use of my time (besides the fact that I may be meeting someone passionate and interesting). I can’t afford spending my time on activities that don’t grow my portfolio and career. Plus, I cannot risk having pictures that are not in line with my personal branding. But it can be tricky to “reject a collaboration” and again, I just hate doing that. I wish I could do that less often.
Then, once you found someone to collaborate with, you have to schedule the photoshoot. It may take a couple weeks or even months before you manage to find a timeslot that works for both of you.
The brave ones will even go and look for an artistic team like a makeup artist, a designer, and a hairstylist themselves… Then the concept of the shoot needs to be defined, the location selected and so on…
Getting the images from the shoot and sharing them
But the work does not end once the photoshoot is over. After that, you need to be patient and hope to get the images at some point. Ideally not 6 months later (or never), when your hair will have grown, your skin tone will have changed and the pictures are not up to date for your agencies and clients.
Then you have to choose the best images to put in your portfolio and share them with agencies and on your social networks.
To me, even that part of the job is painful. I personally struggle with choosing the right images to market myself and get more jobs.
Work more effectively with agencies
I’m also frustrated by the fact that I have to wait while my agencies do all the job hunting. I’m tired of telling them I’ll send them new pictures shortly, and end up sending nothing because I never received my pictures or because they are already too old.
I’d like to be able to work more proactively with my agencies by, for instance, doing some of the hunting myself.
It should all get easier
Each and every one of the steps I’ve mentioned takes time and can create frustration. They sometimes lead to confusion, miscommunications, and loss of time.
So a lot of work needs to be done in order to finally enjoy yourself shooting and creating with new people.
So much to see your portfolio grow…!
I’d say that modeling is 90% of the time going through boring tasks with 10% of pure awesomeness and enjoyment.
But don’t get me wrong, I find the 10% totally worth it! I wouldn’t have stayed in the industry otherwise.
However, I believe that the cursor could be moved towards a better balance between the boring tasks vs. the fun of being a model. I believe that more time should be spent on creativity and performance than on the necessary but unpleasant work.
While I explored many potential platforms and mobile apps, I couldn’t find one that would save me enough time in the process and that would be truly dedicated to professional models and photographers.
So I have decided to create an app.
The app of my dream. The one app that would make my life easier as a model.
Yet, the point is not for me to design an app for myself!
I want to create an app that will be useful to other people too.
I want to co-create that app with other professionals from the fashion industry. With people who experienced the same challenges as me, with people who experienced even bigger challenges.
To build a project focused on the actual needs of models and photographers.
I want to hear about photographer’s and model’s daily problems.
I want to help them grow their portfolio and career with what I have learned over the past years.
Because it’s fun.
Because I love passionate people.
Because I love to see people dream and grow.
Because I think that we can make the industry better.
Because I love the human connections that you can experience in this industry.
Hence, I’m looking at gathering a community of people, who want to design the app of their dream together with me.
With small or big contributions: time, ideas, opinions, social media support, etc. No contribution is too small!
It’s as simple as that.
I need models and photographers to tell me what they like and dislike. I want them to tell me how I can make their life easier.
So let’s get in touch if you want to be part of it, there are tons of ways of doing so!