The New Look

Fashion Photography Takes Over

Fashion hasn't entirely lost its aura of elitism, but the postmod squad aren't afraid to dirty it up, tear it down, or slap it in the face; a lot of them pretend it isn't even there, substituting aura and attitude for a garment that's little more than an inflated label anyway. Ironically, nowhere is this substitution more prevalent than in fashion advertising, which has become over the past two decades both an unlikely creative refuge and the source of some of the best new photography. Old-school editorial work looks especially tired when surrounded by ad images that are sharper, sexier, and far more arresting.

Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia, March 1999

Testino's splashy campaigns for Gucci and Calvin Klein are many a magazine's liveliest moment, as are Norbert Schoerner's Prada ads, Dah Len's Guess spreads, and Meisel's various over-the-top productions for Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. Weber's Abercrombie & Fitch catalogues, and the ads that are excerpted from them, are among his cleverest and most representative work. Because this advertising appears everywhere—on billboards, on bus shelters, and in every sort of magazine—unsettling, avant-garde fashion photography thrives in even the most timid social and editorial climates. As the fashion moment gains momentum, expect more Calvin Klein–size blowups and flameouts, but they'll be more than offset by gains in visual literacy. Fashion photographers are retraining our eyes. Keep them open.

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