Updated: Mar 30
Iconic fashion photographer, Marcus Ahmad shared some of his insights into the creative world of imagery over the last century. He explained that in spite of photography’s relatively short history it was a rich genre of images that have become icons.
Influences and famous photographers have each brought their own unique style into the foreground. Reflecting on the past, Marcus showed us the innovative use of nature by Erwin Blumenfeld. This was a daring adventure in the 1930s as all previous images were staged in a studio. The work took on a whole new look with natural light and some inspirational backdrops.
He went on to share some black and white images made famous on the front cover of Vogue Magazine. This was stark with no grey elements, just blocked black and open white to create the image. A side glance of the models makes us wonder what was going on outside the photograph offering a ‘vivid narrative’ explained Marcus’s words.
...makes us wonder what was going on outside the photograph...
The 1960s saw the rise in fame of David Bailey used a hat as a graphic device to frame the face. With a hood like form this image offers another story with modern scrunches on the wrist, a natural backdrop and studio environment all show something a bit different for that era.
A new organic form was created by the American photographer Richard Avedon. These 1960s images were constructed long before computer technologies. A cut and paste approach was really just that. The elongated necks with faces and eyes that popped out of the images were surreal. One image had eyes closed but looked like they might suddenly open.
Helmet Newton was drawn towards strong women. In the 1980s he used the narrative behind the image to play out in his photographs. The stance, position of the shoulders and the angle of the hat were strategic in the composition. Questions are raised with eyes hidden by hat brims.
In contrast, Sarah Moon uses fast firm to open up her imagery with a grainy look. Almost a painting, these pictures have a place of their own. Again the eyes are often hidden while the hat brims extend beyond the shoulders to focus of the hat.
...these pictures have a place of their own.
Men in fashion photography have become less prominent. Bruce Webber brings this gender into focus with a hat that offers more questions than answers. A great strategy to become noticed, the viewer wants to see more. Marcus explained that magazine images are fleeting. Advertising use a predicable form with a twist. The idea is to hold the viewers attention for a little longer so that the idea, brand or advertisement lands.
A huge influence on Marcus was Nick Knight. From imagery to detail, he has it all. This floral garland round the face has so much to share. Each flower is exquisite, the detail is tangible. The soft lipstick offers texture in a frame work of floral shapes shades. There are so many questions; why those flowers? Did the order come from the shape and face form? Who picked the colours? and more. Was hay-fever a problem for the model?
The whimsical style of Tim Walker can be seen is his images. An assistant to Nick Knight, he has amazing training. Using felt hats, a confident vibe, his images have a light floral touch. This peach blossom background and playful elements were all new for his time. The red image with a tall crowned hat, a matching cloak a textured red background all work with one hand showing to depict a new story. A famous form of swim-hats and telephones stand in the hall of fame too.
A cacophony of light shows up in Rodney Smith’s work. Precise details add to the drama. This New York Photography demonstrated a scene in Manhattan, the clock and the pocket watch resonated within the picture. A viewer could generate more questions than answers. The light and shadow formation formed a grid across the composition; Marcus commended its complex formation and strategic planning. The teapots held their own story with linked to the surreal too. Further examination of his work reveals wild creatively form oversized lampshades to hay stacks there was no end to his repertoire and imagination.
Marcus values hats in fashion photography as an element to frame within a frame. There is a keen focus to look for depth. This hat can conceal the eyes or mouth to increase the ambiguity of the story within the photograph.
Fashion photography is transient, seen in magazines which are then discarded. There are opportunities to reflect society at that moment in time and have a political edge as they link to events at the time.
Marcus’s advice to young fashion photographers,
"If you want to shoot fashion, do not photography fashion. Do something
different that resonates with you. Look at what you see."