How did fashion photographers of the 1960s and 1970s create their images and how can these be recreated using modern day technology?
My personal investigation is going to be looking into fashion photography throughout the 1960s and 1970s and recreating this in modern photographic work. I shall be investigating the types of processes and techniques photographers used during these earlier generations and looking into how artists recreate them using modern day technology, for example editing programs. I am going to study two photographers with their own different styles and look into vintage artists from the 60s and 70s as well as fashion designers and iconic figures for example Twiggy. I will also relate this back to the twenty-first century and discuss how modern artists, who have been hugely inspired by the 60s and 70s attempt to recreate similar processes. By the end of the project I would like to discover how important the 60s and 70s are to our current photographic era and how much they have influenced fashion and the style of artwork. I would also like to develop my own editorial skills and become confident in recreating similar images using both digital and film techniques and processes.
The period between 1960 and 1969 was the time of a teenage explosion and an emphasis on youth culture, a lot of people talk about a new ‘permissiveness’ during this period. In earlier generations, young people had been given fairly strict guidelines about how to behave in public, what was considered decent language, what books to read etc. however from the beginning of the 60s these rules were relaxed and almost anything was permitted. The main youth cultures and fashion, which relate to my project, revolve around boutiques such as Biba and the styles of the hippies and bohemians. Photographers such as David Bailey, Terence Donovan and Brian Duffy were inspirational figures because of their ability to capture the pioneering style and culture of the decade.
I believe David Bailey’s photographs, more than any others have captured the ever-changing faces of pop music. His 1960s pictures especially remain part of the iconography of that decade – which Bailey himself did so much to shape. The first camera that Bailey experimented with was a ‘Brownie’, for him this wasn’t very successful however the sepia and black & white grainy images are still classics. Bailey quotes Picasso to be one of his greatest influences;
"The first half of the century belongs to Picasso and the second half belongs to photography. These days everyone is called an artist from Madonna to someone who can hold a paintbrush, but it is Picasso who really started the whole thing off and made me want to go and take pictures." (1)
Bailey’s photography has developed and changed throughout his life in a steadfast way from black and white, minimalist to very graphic images with high contrast, and he has also shot using a variety of formats.
"I take the same approach today as I did when I started. I've always hated silly pictures and gimmicks, which is all I see these days, or, to put it another way, 'the Avant Garde has gone to Kmart." (2)
Both of these images are some of my Bailey favourites taken from fairly early on in his career. Figure one being of Mick Jagger shot in 1964 and figure two of Marie Helvin named “Nude, Trouble & Strife” which was taken in 1977.
Another reason for choosing these photographs out of his extensive portfolio was that they seem to sum up the time period I am studying in two pieces. I really like the simplicity of the Jagger image, in my opinion frontal compositions don’t usually work but Bailey has a way of making simple portraiture stunning. The image has a really intense feel about it which may be to do with the colouring and being in black and white which the tinniest sepia tints, I think the contrast may also be a contributing factor as the image seems to have just enough high and low lights which portrays the rock stars personality nicely. The image also appears to be taken with a large format film (figure one is squarer that figure 2 which means it is likely to be taken with a 35mm camera, large format cameras also capture greater detail in the image). So in comparison the Marie Helvin has a lot of similarities but also differences, black and white film is also used (mainly because colour photography wasn’t as popular) however, there are a lot more mid tones to create interest in the background detail (Bailey used a completely plain background in Jagger’s image, whereas Helvin’s is using a specific set or location). As with figure one , Bailey has focused on the use of shadow and tone on the human form however by capturing the female figure he creates a more erotic mood to the Jagger image which appears more advertising or photojournalism.
Bailey is a huge inspirational figure so I wanted to portray this in a single image, I tried to combine the ideas and techniques of figure one and two, to create figure three. The composition is inspired by the Jagger image, I tried to use similar costume and poses (frontal with no unusual angles) however I didn’t want to completely copy Baileys work so I tried to develop the models pose slightly, by angling the figures face differently. I also cropped the image to a more regular square to give the illusion that the image was taken on a larger format film camera. The black and white is more tonal (additional grey’s) than figure one, this is so I could incorporate the texture and pattern styles from figure two, I also added grain on Photoshop to imitate the texture of the models skin. This image was focused on the postproduction aspects as the raw was taken on a webcam as an initial idea. I would like to learn from Baileys techniques while using my DSLR for example using a lower ISO to create very sharp images like figure one (the higher the ISO the more likely it is the image will be grainy).
Sarah Moon worked as a model in the early 60s before becoming a freelance fashion photographer. She worked for various companies and magazines such as Elle, Vogue and Marie-Claire but Moon also did advertising work for the boutique Biba. There is a stereotype that the majority of successful fashion photographers are men however Moon seems to be different.
“Sarah Moon is the exception that proves the rule…creating some of the most heart-stoppingly beautiful fashion imagery that bucks every so-called commercial trend, from the need to establish eye contact – it is only rarely there – to the belief that the most alluring fashion photograph must be glossy, even hyper-real.” (3)
Sarah Moon is famous for working in black and white photography, and she tries to stay away from overly commercial work.
“I don't really like color. To make it work for me, I have to mess with it. I believe that the essence of photography is black and white. Color is but a deviance” (4)
Figure four is a collection of Moon’s work. You could infer the images are taken on 35mm camera similar to Baileys figure two. Although the photographs are all portraiture only one has a full frontal type of composition likening to figure one by Bailey. There are a lot of similarities and differences within the compositions of the images however most of the similarities fall within the camera techniques and quality. The texture on the skin of figure two has the same grainyness as with Moon’s images. There is definitely something unique and almost magical about this style of vintage photography. You seem to be able to capture more personality and feelings through the black and white tones whereas colour seems to distract from this atmosphere. Moon’s images definitely have a different atmosphere to Bailey’s, one reason for this could be the use of severe cropping. The portraits are all very close up to fill the image which leaves little room for distractions. This seems to add to the personality of the image, Moon’s photographs are portrayed with a slightly more glamourous style whereas Bailey’s have a different edge and a touch of loneliness (this degree of feeling and atmpophere is something I would like to develop and interpret in my own work and conclude in my final pieces).
Moon's first photographs were portraits of friends, who also happened to be models and her work grew from there. Early into her career, she was working for Barbara Hulanicki, creating images for Biba, which were quoted as,“wistfully lovely” (5)
Biba started life as a mail order company created by Barbara Hulanicki and her husband Stephen Fritz-Simon. Biba opened its first store in 1964 on Abingdon Road, Kensington. Quickly Biba aquired a following thanks to the boutiques individual and fresh approach to fashion and the logo soon became synonymous with London’s fashionistas. In the mid 70s Biba eventually shut down due to financial difficulties however in the twenty first century it is back.
The Sixties – Edward Grey (ISBN 1-85210-723-5)
The 1960s (Fashions of a Decade) – Yvonne Connikie (ISBN 0-7134-6437-2)
David Bailey Rock & Roll Heroes (ISBN 0-500-27906-3)