FlashBak: Historical Photographer – Edward Steichen
This FlashBak is going to be slightly different than other. The photographer featured today is Edward Steichen. He worked for Condé Nast between 1923 and 1938 and was referred to as the best known and highest paid photographer in the world. However a decade before working for Condé Nast, he made history with a dare to promote fashion as a fine art by the use of photography.
Steichen photographed a series of gowns designed by couturier Paul Poiret, which were featured in the April 1911 issue of Art et Décoration. These images are regarded as the first modern fashion photographs ever published. Many of the works were based on fashion illustrations of the time, but this was the first time fashion photography as we know it today was in a magazine.
I am very excited to share and discuss these images. I will keep the words down to a minimum and lets the photographs speak for themselves. Let us get into it!
Art et Décoration // April 1911 // Edward Steichen – (Click the images to view them larger)
The first thing that I noticed is that these photographs don’t vary far from the types of fashion images I see in modern fashion magazines. The posing, the styling, the expressions, etc. all seems to mimic current work. The models are obviously much more covered up with hair and makeup that’s not nearly as extreme, but it makes sense for the era in which this photo shoot happened. I love how each image speaks volumes for the fashion of the time and the portrayal of feminine beauty.
I love the simplistic nature of each picture. There isn’t an enormous produced set around the model with bright colors or extreme features. Each image features a woman, the gown, and an open environment to draw the viewers attention to the clothing. They show the real purpose of fashion photography, to showcase clothing. Too often fashion photographers get caught up in being “new” and “shocking” or confuse nudity and sexuality with fashion. The point has always been to show the clothes and to create an environment to accentuate them.
Steichen’s work is very inspiring, and I see myself incorporating many characteristics of his photographs into my shoots. Reviewing the roots of the industry always inspires me in moving into the future of fashion photography.
I would love to know your thoughts on this series. Do you know of any other works from Steichen that you find inspiring? Leave a comment below; I would love to know what you all have to say!
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