Fashion is ephemeral, art is eternal. –Oscar Wilde
Made for consumption in magazines and advertising, fashion photography – like fashion itself – is a reactive genre. To hold our attention, it is perpetually shifting shape in the face of social, political, and economic changes. The pace of these changes has ushered out photographers who were unable to keep up, ensuring that the field is ruled by a handful of the most creative and innovative practitioners.
Guy Bourdin / Man Ray
This exhibition, Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography, 1911–2011, explores some of the ways photographers whose careers have been closely associated with the fashion industry have shaped evolving notions of style and beauty. Drawn from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection and supplemented by loans from private and public sources, Icons of Style features more than one hundred sixty photographs presented alongside a selection of costumes, illustrations, magazine covers, videos, and advertisements. Material from a range of media provides a rich context that reaches beyond the magazine page to represent how fashion infiltrates everyday life.
Neal Barr / Hiro
Sarah Moon / Sheila Metzner
Ray Kellman / Richard Avedon
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.