Photographers And The Art Of Capturing Style

There’s more to fashion than what meets the eye, and industry photographers signify exactly that. The men and women who have dirtied their hands to deliver art and grace to the world of fashion are often more acclaimed within that world than outside of it. However, a closer look at the individuals behind the photographs offers another way of appreciating fashion. 

The world of fashion – a fantastical masquerade, a glamorous planet compounded by atmospheres of art meets paparazzi, a black hole of flesh and instinct, a passionate love affair between the egoist and the craftsman; a peek into a kaleidoscope of shifting forms which sneak up on you with every twist and turn. The world of fashion has stood unwaveringly within a seamless veneer – defined by the surface of things, the touch of things, and a historical value for the wizardry of transforming textiles to embrace skin. A models’ swerve on the catwalk, a thighs’ gleam on a glossy page, a collars’ hang on an elongated neck, and of course, colors upon shapes upon colors, aptly characterize the crux of the exclusive world of fashion. 

Who snaps it? Who shoots it? Who brings it? The people who photograph this world, document this world, delivering it wrapped with ribbons, may not be as well known to those outside of the world as the brands and models who parade its goods. That doesn’t mean that fashion photographers are any less crucial to the very existence of a global industry valued at an estimated USD350 billion. There are artists behind the art of fashion, and from among these photographers are a handful of iconic pioneers who have founded and consistently recreated fashion photography at a level of beauty which at times sets itself apart from the subjects of its photos. One look for example at a Javier Vallhonrat photograph can set you stargazing into a page as though it were a sky filled with enigmatic clouds; like an awestruck child you find faces in the holes between the spaces.

Acclaimed 19th Century photographer Adolphe Braun shot was has been described as the first fashion photograph in history. Born in France in 1811, Braun started a successful career in photography, focusing primarily on photographing art pieces and later, moving into other types of photography. In 1856, he published a book which included a photograph of Countess Virginia Oldoini, a glamorous Tuscan noblewoman and esteemed member of Napoleon III’s court. Countess Virginia di Castiglione, as she was known, had a reputation for impeccable style and was quite popular with her contemporary social elites. In Braun’s photo she was dressed in traditional court garb, and displayed it as the focus of the photograph, making her the first recorded fashion model in history.

In tribute to fashion photography, below are our top five photographers who have been chosen for braving fashion’s storms though the ages, bringing viewers a colorful platter of sites for sore eyes.

Glen Luchford - UK

Glen Luchford excels in multiple art forms, starting with fashion photography but extending also to film. He’s based in London and is in high demand by magazines such as Arena, i-D, Vogue Homme International, UK and US Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Interview, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. He received the respected D&AD Award in 2004 for best campaign after a two-year contract with Prada for which he used photography to advertise the brand in various media outlets worldwide. Luchford’s work has been exhibited at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Photographer’s Gallery, London and MoMA Queens as part of Fashioning Fiction (2004), revealing the closeness between leading fashion photography, fine art, and art appreciation.

David Lachapelle – U.S.

David is an American photographer and director whose surreal and sexualized style has garnered him attention and respect amongst the stars, and oftentimes some repulsion as well from critics who regard his work as too grotesque, or unsettling, in its expression. After studying at various art institutes, Lachapelle was offered his first professional photography job by none other than Andy Warhol for Interview magazine. He’s worked with Vogue, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, GQ, and much more throughout the years, and with an endless list of celebrities.

Mert and Marcus – Turkey and Wales

The Turkish and Welsh dynamic duo have pioneered the use of graphical and digital manipulation of images in fashion photography in fantastical ways, receiving widespread critical acclaim and peer-respect for their photography, much of which emphasizes female empowerment through the full embrace of feminine sexuality. Their photography has been heavily influenced by the work of one the industry’s founding fathers, Guy Bourdin, a French fashion photographer and longtime staffer at Vogue Paris whose photographs have won numerous awards for the controversial and yet beautifully-delivered narrative of their content. Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott have worked for Vogue USA, Vogue Italia, W Magazine, Pop Magazine, Numero, and Arena Homme Plus. Some of their major clients are top fashion labels such as Louis Vuitton, Missoni, Giorgio Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Fendi, Kenzo, and Miu Miu.

Steven Meisel – U.S.                      

Graduating from Parsons New School for Design, Steven Meisel is a trained American photographer whose fascination with female beauty started a young age, propelling him for example to stand in front of Melvin Sokolsky's studio at the age of 12 waiting for an appearance by the famous model Twiggy. He eventually made his way into Vogue and Harpers Bazaar by way of his sheer talent and passion, and today shoots campaigns for a series of world renowned brands such as Versace, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, and Calvin Klein. Meisel has also shot Prada campaigns each season since 2004. His good friend Madonna has been the star of his photo shoots for magazines such as Vanity Fair. He’s also photographed Madonna for a spring campaign by Louis Vuitton at Splashlight's Skylight Studio. He now has his own studio in New York City.

Nick Knight – UK

"I don't want to reflect social change - I want to cause social change," once said Nick Knight. As one of the most coveted fashion photographers of all time, his work has been exhibited at various art museums across the world such as the Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum. He’s worked with top models, celebrities, fashion magazines, and film producers and has started the world’s first fashion-film institute as a trailblazer for using motion picture to promote fashion. Aside from his massive talent, Knight is also exceptionally intelligent and has used his wit to challenge notions of beauty through art.