Fashion Photography

The first-ever fashion shoot can be traced back to 1856 when Pierre-Louis Pierson photographed Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione, a Tuscan noblewoman. Pierson clicked as many as 400 photographs of the Countess in her official court garb. Over a period of time, this style of photography has developed its own aesthetic with the beauty of clothes, accessories, and models, enhanced by the use of exotic locations, storylines, and/or stylized photographic techniques.
Fashion Photography: Tracing its Journey
The style of photography as we recognize it today emerged in the first decade of the 20th century when halftone printing allowed fashion photographs to make an entry into magazines. French magazines Les Mode and La Mode Practique were the first magazines to showcase this style.
In the early twentieth century, Paris was one of the best cities to work in for anyone who wanted to make it big in the fashion photography industry. Some of the biggest names in the field then were Horst P. Horst, George Hoyningen-Huene, Edward Steichen, and Cecil Beaton. These were the stalwarts who helped develop this mostly-rigid form of photography into a creatively-fulfilling art form. But the scene soon moved from Paris as the threat of World War II reared its ugly head.
In the late 1930s and the early 1940s, New York was ‘the’ place to be for anyone who was someone in the fashion photography industry. Photographers such as Martin Mukancsi and Louise Dahl-Wolfe were changing the face of the genre as people knew it then. Mukancsi was famous for introducing movement and fluidity at a time when most poses were stereotyped. Dahl-Wolfe truly traveled with the genre by making exotic locations an integral part of the shoots.

The end of the Second World War resulted in a revitalization of the fashion industry. Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and Norman Parkinson were some of the pioneers in the field of fashion photography. Each of them had their own unique style; Parkinson was known for taking photography into the streets, Penn made a name for his classic and simplistic portraits in an era when experimentation was reigning supreme, and Avedon opened up the industry by taking portraits of famous actors and artists.
In the 1950s, Italy shot to the limelight with its fashion centers Napoli, Rome, and more famously, Milan because it was also the center of fashion publishing. This was also the era when models became icons and immediately recognizable by everyone. Models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, and photographers like David Bailey, Terence Donovan, and Brian Duffy were responsible for landmark moments in photography. New techniques, grittier locations, adventurous poses; became the icons of the genre.
The seventies, after the craziness of the sixties, saw a more practical form of fashion emerge. Helmut Newton, Sarah Moon, and Herb Ritts were some of the go-to names in the industry if you wanted to do something truly outstanding. It was in this decade and the eighties, more or less, that fashion became more accessible. There were more magazines dedicated to fashion and in turn, more advertisements of fashion-related products.
In 1988, with Anna Wintour becoming the editor of Vogue, one also saw a change in the trends for cover photos in some of the biggest fashion magazines. While till then, tight head shots of famous models were preferred for the cover, Wintour’s first Vogue cover showed a 19-year-old Michaela Bercu, in a mix of inexpensive and haute couture clothing, in a casual and relaxed moment on the street. This was a photo that truly broke the rules.