Fashion photography was born in the second decade of the 1800.
This kind of photography started to be known thanks to the rise of fashion magazines, such as Harper Bazar (1867) and Vogue (1892) , which used photography to present clothes to the large public of readers.
Vogue , in particular , launched some of the greatest fashion photographers : first of all Adolphe De Meyer , who is also considered the first fashion photographer.
From this time till the end of the 30′ Paris remained the center of fashion and fashion photography. The French city attracted some of the most famous fashion photographers of the time , mostly coming from Germany , such as Horst P. Horst and George Hoyningen-Huene , both working at Vogue.
In the same years were appearing other important names in the world of fashion photography,such as Edward Steichen and Cecil Beaton.
The first one was born in Lussemburgo and emigrated in the United States , where he began to work, becoming the director of the MoMA in New York. In 1928 he also immortalized Greta Garbo , making one of his most famous photographs , which appeared in the 1955 cover of the magazine ”Life”.
The second one was born in London but he also moved to New York , where he worked for magazines such as Vanity Fair and Vogue.In 1964 he also won an Oscar for Audrey Hepburn’s costumes of the movie ”My fair lady”.
As noticed , more and more fashion photographers were moving to New York so that the center of fashion moved from Paris to the American city. Big names found their fame in the big apple : for example the Hungarian photographer Martin Mukancsi. He is reminded because he was the first to introduce movement in fashion photography which , till that time , was made up of stereotyped poses.
During the fourties, one of the biggest names was Louise Dahl-Wolfe , who worked for Harper’s Bazaar. She was the first to use natural light for fashion photography , to choose exotic locations and to be a pioneer of colours.
After the second world war, fashion had a great recovery and in the world of fashion photography appeared names such Irving Penn , Richard Avedon , Norman Parkinson and many others.
Norman Parkinson worked in London for Vogue and was the first to shoot outdoors , in the streets of his city.He is attributed the sentence : “A photographer without a magazine behind him is like a farmer without fields ”.
Irving Penn became famous for his portraits such as those of his wife , the model Lisa Fonssagrives. He portrayed her in many takes , which became icons. His photographs are simply recognizable because he had a really classic style, in contrast to the sperimental one of the avant-gardes of that time.
Richard Avedon was born in 1923 in New York. He had been deeply hit by Martin Mukancsi’s work and began to work for Harper’s Bazaar , Vogue and Look. However , he is not famous only for the particular and very personal style of fashion photographs but also for the portaits he made of famous artists and actors and even those of his father ( a collection which he also exposed at the MoMA in 1974 ) . One of his most famous fashion photographs is that of the model Dovima with the elephants,where she is portayed with a Dior dress on (1955).
From the Fifties , even the Italian fashion style begins to be known over the world and Italy started to attract purchasers from the rest of Europe and from America. The major fashion centers were Napoli,Rome and Milan. However , Milan was a little more important because fashion publishing was located in it. The Fifties are also the years when a new type of model emerged. Models became icons and their faces began to be recognized by everyone. The first to became famous were Twiggy ( also photographed by Avedon ) and Jean Shrimpton.
The photographers who inaugurated this tendence were David Bailey,Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy : together they created the visual component of the so called ”Swinging London” : party, have fun , ambitions and make love.
David Bailey became famous thanks to his portraits of the Rolling Stones , the Beatles and other famous characters of the time , such as Andy Warhol and Catherine Deneuve.
Terence Donovan worked in London for both masculine and feminine fashion , using innovative locations and techniques.He he set the trend for positioning fashion models in stark and gritty urban environments and he often had the models adopt adventurous poses.
During the Seventies,after the Sixties’ explosion of formes,colours and hippy styles , fashion evolved towards praticality , with the invention of jeans. The most important names of these years were Helmut Newton , who presented an aggressive and erotic image of women , always keeping an ironic tone , and Sarah Moon,who is considered the first ”impressionist” in the world of fashion photography.
Going on, between the 1970-1980 the pret-a-porter exploded. Fashion became a real industry for a wider public and we assist to the multiplication of magazines and advertisings. The history of these years was marked by the work of Herb Ritts. He photographed Ck , Versace and Armani collections and he was even famous for his Richard Gere’s portraits.
Another famous name of this time was the Italian photographer Gian Paolo Barbieri , who signed the first Vogue cover of the italian edition , in 1965 , and made numerous campaign for Valentino, Armani, Ferrè and Versace.
In the ’90 explodes the shabby and minimalistic style. In America appeared the term ” heroin chic ” , which referred to the phenomenon of photographing pale and emaciated models. An example could be the Ck campaign with Kate Moss as protagonist and Mario Sorrenti as photographer.
Today the world of fashion photography is too wide to try to make a synthesis. Maybe we could divide it in two eaves : one more oriented to the commercial side, and the other one more interested in the artistic side. However the borders between art,fashion photography and commercials are fading .
The most important present fashion photographers are : Mario Testino, Oliviero Toscani , Annie Leibowitz ,Peter Lindberg and David Lachapelle.