From a practical point of view, fashion photography should aim at least at one target – to showcase a product. The so-called Product Placement. Fashion campaigns created by designers and maisons de couture normally have a fictional plot based on luxury, and uniqueness.
The photographs Glen Luchford shot for the Spring/Fall Gucci collection represent a paradigm of how a fashion campaign of a well-known brand should be created to convey the most significant concept in the imagery of the consumer – opulence. Lots of it, indeed, in the Spring/Fall season with the resurgence of some of the top models most representative of the 90’s posing for the Balmain campaign, under the keen eye of Steve Klein; the sharp shoots Steve Meisel took for Moschino, featuring megafamous model Joan Smalls as the star of the campaign.
Nevertheless, there are also some images resulting from apparently new ideas; images that stand out amongst all the wastefulness, such as, for instance, the daring decision that took the Artistic Director of Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquière, to feature Jaden Smith –the son of the famous actor Will Smith – as the star of the women’s collection. Or Marc Jacobs’ stance to keep on focusing his brand campaigns on celebrities, rather than models. As such, he invited to last year’s campaigns musicians like Kim Gordon, from Sonic Youth, posing with his daughter Coco; and the artist John Currin, posing with his wife, Rachel Feinstein, with the aim of bringing some familiarity and proximity in the images of people related to Jacobs wearing the clothes of the collection. The photographer David Sims behind the camera frames the characters and focuses on them.
For this Spring/Fall collection Jacobs has followed this line, and trusted the campaign again to David Sims, featuring some celebrities the likes of singer Gossip Beth Ditto and his wife Kristin Ogata, and the Director Lana Wachowski, amongst other celebrities and well-known faces in the fashion industry.
The increased visibility of campaigns focused on the characters portrayed and what they represent brings about a new way of interpreting brands by featuring well-known faces, rather than anonymous models. As a matter of fact, this statement can be argued, since many famous models nowadays are regarded at the same level as Hollywood actors, who have always been considered the paradigm of fame. This can actually allow a new interpretation of fashion photography, but deep down the essence remains there, untouched. Except for the fact that now is a young boy wearing girl’s clothes, visually there are no other additional novelties to the Louis Vuitton campaign. And the same applies to Marc Jacobs’ campaigns.
Fashion photography understood as signature photography, would regard photographers as the installers of new codes. But the truth is that this type of work must accomplish at least one mission, which is the above-mentioned role at the beginning of the article of Product Placement, which means that the images have to create strategies to showcase a particular product or to emphasize the experience that it promises. Therefore, it cannot be understood as signature photography as such in this case, because there is no warranty that the intentions of the photographer would coincide with the brand’s ambitions. In this regard, however, Tomas Maier, Artistic Director of the maison de couture Bottega Veneta, would stand up and defend signature photography in fashion campaigns, but within certain limits.
Nan Goldin shot the brand campaigns in 2010, the photographs resulting this joint effort seem to portray the best works of Goldin, given the certain frame a campaign for a fashion brand imposes, together with the intention of a maison de couture to have big names in the photography behind the camera.
Tomas Maier has trusted his campaigns to a series of famous photographers, such as Erwin Olaf, Alex Prager, Pieter Hugo, and painter and sculptor Robert Longo. The campaigns produced by all of them are not that shocking or defiant, there are still a series of photographs that picture some specific items, i.e. garments but the respond to Maier’s preferences in terms of art, not just as a spectator, but as an eager art collector as well.
As far as a potential new fashion editorial go, the aim will always be to accomplish the above mentioned targets of showcasing the product, this can be done in many ways and styles, but the underlying aim will always be there.
Maybe Nan Goldin can have the final say with her daring showcase for Spring/Fall for McQ, the twin brand of Alexander McQueen. What is fresh and new about these photographs is the fact that they go beyond the concept conceived by Tomas Maier, and interpreted by Bottega Veneta. With McQ, there are no artists wearing the clothes, the photographer chosen to do the job leaving aside the alleged aim of fashion photography – here the clothes are not the main purpose of the work.
Nan Goldin poses in front of the camera this time. She chooses how she wants to portray McQ’s clothes. McQ is fairly young as a brand, it was only launched in 2006 as a fashion brand closer to the consumer, fresh and more affordable.
In this shooting session, the photographer wants to focus on creating proximity and empathy with certain models – human connections are without any doubt the underlying subject of Nan Goldin’s works. A reference photographer whose works will always have a stark and direct human essence, sometimes even intimidating. The contrast between the images created by Goldin for Bottega Veneta, and the proximity in the shots taken for McQ show perfectly well this duality in one photographer with two different approaches. One responds to certain requirements that could be considered as basic when it comes to fashion photography. As for the other one, the photographs could easily be discarded if they functioned as a showcase of the product, in this case clothes. What cannot be denied in this campaign is the strategy to resort to signature photography as a means of building up identity. Is it the time now to paraphrase the issue and talk about Identity Placement, rather than Product Placement?