Fashion photography has a dimension that is unconcerned with the chronology of history. Together with the stylist, the photographer can lend fashion meaning and a timeless modernity – sought-after qualities that simultaneously contradict the constant cycle of change that is emblematic of fashion.
By the Editorial Team
Photography can recreate reality according to the escapist and imaginative conditions of the fashion world, provoking thought and feelings that move beyond the realm of what’s visible in the image.
When we started Contributor in 2008, people compared fashion to a dinner at a fast food restaurant. We didn’t think we were there quite yet, even though the industry cut corners to move forward as fast as possible, leaving behind the true interaction between people. We believed in the importance of the basics of atelier work, of how sharing your creativity with others can lead to overturning your world and pointing you in new directions.
The photographs of the 20th century would function as memories in a frame or an album, whereas the digital image doesn’t really exist; it’s just a series of letters and numbers. The development of digital technology means that the photograph is no longer fixated in time, as it was in the era of Roland Barthes’ critical analyses of the analogue image. When Barthes suddenly died in 1980, he had just finished writing his autobiography “Camera Lucida”. The starting point was a photograph of his mother as a young girl in a winter garden. “She is dead and she’s going to die,” was Barthes’ description of the feeling of looking at a photograph of someone who has since died but in the image is frozen in time, very much alive. The camera always captures a moment that is forever lost, and Barthes emphasized the link between the analogue, chemically developed photograph and death. Would Barthes had the impulse to write “Camera Lucida” if he had first had to find the photograph on one of his hard drives?
Sometimes we forget that it isn’t reality that becomes available through photography, but rather representation. In “On Photography” (1977), Susan Sontag wrote that people in industrialized countries strive to be photographed. We feel that it validates us, that we become real. Today we know that fashion photography per definition lies. With computer-generated imagery you can create something really extraordinary that challenges conceptions of truth, time and nature. But despite the infinite possibilities facilitated by the digital lie, looking at fashion photography is still often a process of identification with images of fetishized artificial femininity and masculinity.
Today, too much editorial work is driven by a kind of regime of clarity; it’s all centered on straightforwardness, control and a focus on specific garments. The boundary between the fashion establishment and the experimental seems to become more and more defined. At Contributor, we have a hard time seeing the point of crystal clear messages. For us, antitheses to the stripped and rational are very important.
The notion that fashion is either too commercial or too superficial was one reason why an artist such as Man Ray didn’t preserve many of his negatives of fashion photography. And when writing about his magazine work in “Pages from the Glossies”, Helmut Newton stated that “These pictures are taken for a very definite purpose: to influence, to sell a product, in short of propaganda.” But fashion imagery has its depths. It can be about much more than selling clothes. Through styling, poses and settings, artists can create stories that continue outside the picture. In the documentary style that we love at Contributor, the photographer participates, as well as observes and narrates.
Fashion photography continues its pursuit of the right feeling, often in a borderland between good and evil: true and false; reality and fantasy. Sometimes with a statement that “youth is wasted on the young,” as a rendering of a certain symptom of nostalgia for a short period in life when everything is lived with an intensity and energy which we are unable to ever experience again. Fashion photography is an ongoing process. It’s about exploration and continuous questioning of boundaries, norms and established truths. You never know what’s going to happen next. Soon you’re already on your way to another story.
Exploring fashion through art and photography since 2008, Contributor invites the viewer into a three-dimensional world of inspiration and creativity. In bringing together some of the most interesting artists today, we highlight experimental approaches to photography. At its best, fashion imagery can be an agent for change and we want to arouse a more general interest in new ways of looking at everyday situations and the making of pictures.
Contributormagazine.com is an online publication that chronicles the portfolios of the artists contributing to the site. In the same spirit as the website, the print issue of Contributor is published twice a year in keeping with the seasonal cycles of fashion. The publication is both aimed at professionals within the fashion industry and a broader audience interested in fashion as a creative field. Contributor is committed to supporting emerging careers while providing a space for some of the most distinguished artists in fashion to work outside commercial expectations.
Celebrating ten years of beautiful, thought-provoking and singular work, Contributor is available in selected stores worldwide. The production team behind Contributor includes Editor-in-Chief Robert Rydberg, Creative Director Martin Sandberg, Publishing Editor Antonia Nessen, Executive Editor Magnus Magnusson and Fashion Editor Hilda Sandström, working alongside editorial partners. Contributor is a nonprofit publication. All proceeds are reinvested in the website and magazine.