Irving Penn got it right

April 11 2009, 0 Comments

lately i’ve been caught up in breaking into the commercial side of things. working on my “elevator” speech, putting out my first email promo, working on the follow up mailer and trying to get connected in the fashion world. things that, by all intents and purposes, should find me the business that i want. now a days most photographers can’t be general. most consultants will tell you that you need to target a specific clientele, a niche market. for me that niche market would be fashion. but here is the dilemma that i have been struggling with; how do you actually define what fashion photography is? you can look at W magazine or Vogue and see all of the crazy couture and the amazing glossy pages full of images from Demarchelier or Testino or Inez & Vinoodh, and say that’s fashion photography. but then you can also look at a guy like Terry Richardson who has a very candid/voyeuristic style, he’s known as a top fashion photog as well. and then you have Anne Leibovitz who doesn’t really consider herself a fashion photographer but more of a portrait photographer.

maybe i’ve got my thinking all wrong. maybe it’s not to be that specific. fashion is broken down into two things; first the clothing, second the person. the clothing is first and foremost but the model wearing it isn’t that far behind. they set the mood, they are the ambiance for the clothing. maybe it isn’t really the fashion that i’m drawn to in my photography, but more of the ambiance that the person creates in the clothing. which then makes me think that it’s the person in any situation that creates the mood/feeling that i like to photograph.

this journey into the business side of photography has made me start of desifer my myself and my photography. it has made me really think hard about what i do. sometimes second guessing what i’m doing. Irving Penn said,

“A fashion picture is a portrait, just as a portrait is a fashion picture.”

it’s not a new quote to me. i’ve seen it numerous times before, it headline A Visual Society’s blog. but it hasn’t really meant a whole lot till now. i’ve been so focused on making sure i stay in a niche market and work towards a target audience that i think i have painted myself into a corner. i photograph people. i photograph them in a style that is starting to take root in what i do. it lends itself to not just fashion, but weddings and lifestyle and portraiture and travel. it’s been month since i’ve started writing my elevator speech, i still haven’t finished it. i always get stuck on categorizing myself as a fashion photographer. i need to start thinking of myself as a portrait photographer. one who takes pictures of people, in fashion or life or anything else for that matter.

Leave a Reply




© Copyright 2013, Ian Sheh