London Fashion Week
This little personal project is one of my favourite shoots and it is so for numerous reasons. It is a visual snapshot (excuse the pun but there are many in photography. Your experience of photography puns will come into sharp focus as you develop an understanding of them) of all the key elements that contribute to creative, effective and striking images. I was shooting shows and backstage for the giant fashion bible Women’s Wear Daily. There were gaps in-between shows and I decided to use the time to shoot a personal project and I gave myself certain limitations. I limited myself to being rooted to one spot the entire time. Under no circumstance must I move from my chair conveniently placed at the foot of the steps coming down onto the main arena that holds the tents at Somerset House. I was allowed to crouch, stand or spin around but not to move away. Every single image is taken from the same little advantage point. The following are some of the reasons this is not only an exciting project but also an exercise in creating dynamic images. The philosopher Louis Pasteur (no he didn’t invent pasteurized milk) came up with the phrase I often apply to when working as a photographer. And that is that ‘chance favours the prepared mind’. Choosing the spot that I was to be glued to for the next few hours had to be thought through and carefully considered to allow for good angles, great light and giving me a clear shooting field.
Timing is crucial and we have the great Henri Cartier-Bresson to thank for coining the much-used phrase ‘the decisive moment’. In all these images it is the spilt second capture of the person running, stepping, tripping, glancing and gesturing that creates the power the image. A second later and the moment would be missed. A person in flight, feet off the crowd rushing to the show makes for a dynamic image. It may be a feather flying off their coat, the way a skirt folds in their haste or just their anxious expression. All these moments contribute to the energy of that image.
Then there is the composition. Now another reference to the great Henri Cartier-Bresson is due. Henri believed it was unprofessional to crop an image and that the power and strength of the image must be created in its execution as a whole, as seen and shot. Postproduction cropping and altering of any sort was just not the purists approach. This is a subjective opinion and I applaud anyone that never crops their images. In this case I have gleefully and intentionally cropped and I have done so to create very tight, compact images that I feel accentuate the rushed and hasty environment that is London fashion week. People are boxed into the tight space and are rushing to escape the confines of that stressed environment. I feel that in this case such cropping has helped improve the images.
Light. Now there are many phrases that are used to describe the use of light by photographers. The most often used is simply that photographers paint with light. The most useful lesson I learnt from many years assisting great photographers is how to use light and the importance of light in picture taking. In most of these images the light is consistently sharp and crisp. Blessed with this awesome light the figures are bathed in the laser sharp light that brings out all the detail of their wonderful attire. Backlighting is beautiful and here it gives the impression that the people are posed models and have been carefully placed when in fact they are snapped by a secret assassin watching from afar.
The subject matter of these images gives this set its charm. You are bound to have a wonderfully eclectic group of subjects at any fashion show and over this period I was witness to all variety of fascinating subjects. All the workers are evident whether it be the models, the stylists, the editors, the photographers, the security guards, the caterers, the journalists, the guests, the foreign press, the show offs and the shy. Boys dressed as girls, girls dressed as boys, the casual, the smart, the anti smart, the chic and the scruffy chic, the peacocks and those dressed to suit the demands of their job. All of whom contribute to making this city one of the coolest on the planet. I am reminded how wonderful it is to live in a city where people can express themselves freely and be who they want to be. Keen viewers will spot a few familiar faces and if you work in the London fashion scene you will recognise many friends and colleagues. Amongst these pictures you will spot my old boss and previous editor of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman and the very talented street fashion photographer Scott Schulman. You may also spot the wonderful conceptual artist Duggie Fields who is always a pleasure to photograph.
This set inspires me to get out and take pictures. Its never been published and should anyone ever read this blog post and consider a place for these images please get in touch.