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Is Fashion Photography Art?

In June 2005 I was contacted by Helen Mitchell, MA Fashion Journalism student at The London College of Fashion. She asked me some questions for a research project she is doing on the artistic legitimacy of fashion photography. Here are her questions and my replies. On the left is a photograph of me taken by fashion photographer Paul Jones, based in Manchester.

Q 1. Do you think that when fashion photographs are displayed in a gallery we appreciate their artistic qualities more than when they are in magazines etc?

Yes, because when they are in a gallery they have been picked out for appreciation by curators. We take them more seriously, and appreciate their finer qualities.

Q 2. Would you say that art is defined by its accreditation, i.e. the prestige awarded to it by institutions, such a museums?

It is an important factor. Artists can struggle for years with no recognition, then they have an exhibition and suddenly become highly regarded. I'm not sure I'd say it's defined by accreditation, but it is a major factor - and shouldn't be!

Q 3. Do you think it is possible for fashion photography to be seen as a reliable expression of our culture when fashion publishing controls so much of what is reflected and represented of the world around us?

Well, it is a give and take kind of thing - Fashion photography influences peoples perception of fashion, which influences how they dress and choose clothes, which in turn influences the photography. I'm not sure that any photography is a reliable expression of our culture, as it is subject to the whims of fashion itself. It can be both a trendsetter and also be out of touch with what is happening in the real world. Fashion photography can be fickle and superficial. It can also capture the mood of the age in a powerful way. Maybe we can only judge 20 years on.

Q 4. Is fashion photography art?

It can be art depending on who is doing it and what is done with it. A lot of it is definitely not art, it is a branch of 'industrial and commercial' photography, but in the hands of an imaginitive and creative practitioner, it can transcend the mundane and become art.

If you're doing a research or journalistic project on any aspect of photography, I'd be pleased to answer your questions. Please contact.

Search imagesofcities.com on the subject of fashion. Be prepared for some quirky results!

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2007-01-29

Aidan O'RourkeAidan O'Rourke has been active in photography and online media since 1995. He has documented the development of the local area in his Eyewitness website (1997-2005) and as a contributor to books, publications and the Manchester Evening News. He runs his Eyewitness photography walks in Manchester, Liverpool and other locations. He offers one-to-one tuition in Photography and Languages. He is a high-level speaker of German and can offer photography walks and tours through the medium of German. Visit www.aidan.co.uk

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