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Fashion photography: history and new trends

Credit: Gabrielle Chanel

If we talk about fashion photography, our memory immediately brings us back to the glossy images of magazines, with their bright colors and sinuous figures of men and women we admire.

 Fashion photography, however, sees its birth in very distant times, with the aim, since then, to arouse in the reader a desire for imitation.

Fashion magazines were certainly the first to discover the incredible power of images as a tool capable of instilling a desire to change one’s appearance. There is no doubt that these publications have definitely influenced the preferences of the public.

Since the 50s, fashion photography has become more and more a narrative element that winds through the images and that has as its purpose the celebration of the female body, giving voice, therefore, not only to the dress but also to the idealized body of the models, who in turn became real stars.

Fashion photography and its history

During the course of the twentieth century, a multitude of photographers followed one another, witnessing and creating new fashion trends alongside the great stylists. With the birth of important magazines, such as Vogue, prominent photographers of the time were increasingly hired to make various services to wealthy ladies, with the aim of transmitting to the viewer a message of ease and luxury.

Fashion photography has always been inspired by the culture of the period in which it developed. From decade to decade this culture has changed, creating, each time, real models to follow.

The ’20s were the years in which artists such as Adolph de Meyer, the first photographer hired by Vogue, focused their work on portraying women in diva-like attitudes, wanting to emphasize their role as unattainable figures. Fashion photography reached success thanks to these images, which made the reader live the dream, or better for some the illusion, of being able to reach a rich and wealthy life.

Moreover, it is impossible not to remember the great entrepreneur Condé Nast. In 1909 he bought the magazine Vogue, after having invested important amounts in the development of new printing techniques, and in 1913, he launched the famous magazine Vanity Fair.

Credit: Adolph De Mejer

“At its zenith, fashion photography is the heir to one of the most frivolous but grandiose projects: the creation of a testimony to the halo of desire that sustains the human need for happiness, serenity and lightheartedness on this earth”

Alexander Libermann

The 1930s created a veritable market of specialized models and photographers. Well-dressing trends are dictated by two major cities: Paris and young Los Angeles.


Credit: Maestri che hanno fatto la storia della fotografia di moda

With the outbreak of the Second World War came dark years for the fashion industry as well. In fact, the 40’s represented a moment of stalemate for the fashion market. Fashion photography in this precise historical moment is used to make propaganda in favor of the United States and the images made tend to send a message of hope, in an attempt to give the viewer something to believe in.

“A good photographer is a person who communicates a fact, touches the heart, makes the observer a different person.”

Irving Penn

The ’50s, years of post-war reconstruction, give the woman a new image: they abandon the canons in which until then had been enclosed, the locations alternate between indoor and outdoor, the woman begins to enjoy new freedoms, previously reserved only for men.

In this modern context appears on the scene of fashion photography an important photographer, William Klein, who will create a real watershed between the photography of the past, where the woman is often portrayed as a fragile being, and the one we know today.


Credit: William Klein

The 60s, known as the golden years of fashion, represent the real novelty in both photography and customs. They are the years of the sexual revolution, the miniskirt and the flower children. In photography, the nude appears thanks to the images of photographer Helmut Newton: the role of women is overturned, their revenge has finally arrived.


Credit: Helmut Newton

A role, that of the woman, which in the ’70s continued to predominate over that of the man. These are the years of color and photography made in the studio prevails again, clean, geometric and soft. The following decade is characterized by three elements: color, luxury and man-object. Fashion photography definitely returns to the studio. Among the most prominent exponents we remember Oliviero Toscani


Credit: Oliviero Toscani

Finally the years ’90-2000 an increasing number of aspiring reporters who, with the advent of digital, are always looking for new experiments, using photography as an instrument of artistic expression, renewing its language.



Credit: Guido Fuà

Various genres of fashion photography: how many and which are they

Fashion photography is a complex profession that branches out into several subcategories:

Advertising campaign: it consists in making photographs that describe in detail the concept of a brend or a specific product.

Fashion editorial photography: This is the realization of photographs for fashion magazines or online magazines. The fundamental focus must be the product that you want to advertise.

Still Life Photography: this is a catalog photography, where it is sufficient to capture the various products in the studio with lights and techniques that enhance their characteristics.

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