Taking time off this holiday week? Make time for some fashion photography, and not by flipping through a magazine on the beach.
“Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911-2011,” just opened at the Getty Center in Los Angeles and features 160 photographs, costumes, illustrations, magazine covers and ads. The show runs through October 21.
“Once overlooked by collectors and museums because of its commercial origins, fashion photography is now recognized as having produced some of the most creative work of the twentieth century, transcending its illustrative function to yield images of great artistic quality and sophistication,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Museums, however, have been slow to embrace this genre. The time seems ripe to present a sweeping overview of the finest examples of fashion photography produced over the past century.”
Why do some fashion photographs transcend their commercial character to function as works of art, while others do not? In part, the answer lies in the ability of a fashion photograph to reflect two or more worlds: the perfect world inside the frame—where youth, beauty, and luxury reign supreme—and the harsh realities of the world outside it. The best fashion photographs remind us of other works of art or expand the boundaries of the genre, redefining what a fashion photograph is supposed to do, or be.
Beginning with 1911—the year Edward Steichen created the first “artistic” fashion photographs—and ending with 2011 with digital technology as a dominant paradigm, this exhibition surveys the rich and varied history of modern fashion photography. The show traces its trajectory from niche industry to powerful cultural force, and its gradual embrace as an art form.