It seems fashion photography has an endless obsession with Instagram these days, but Patrick Remy is not quite on board. While he loves the new voices and experimentation that have entered the field, the author and art director worries that the social media platform causes viewers to miss key details—he would rather examine the power of a photo as it hangs on the wall.
Perhaps his new book Antiglossy: Fashion Photography Now, which features the work of 30 contemporary photographers who are challenging the traditional glamour narrative, will convince readers to once again slow down when viewing a fashion image. Upon looking at the list of creatives, one will first notice fashion favorites like Juergen Teller, who has worked with seemingly every brand and celebrity under the sun, Glen Luchford, AKA the major name who recently photographed Harry Styles with baby animals for Gucci, and Ruth Hogben, the SHOWstudio filmmaker who has often collaborated with Lady Gaga. But there are also some outside names in the mix, like Todd Hido, who has used his background in landscapes to create an eerily chic series of models in and around motels, and Joanna Piotrowska, who captures models in architectural poses in black-and-white.
“I like the idea of these photographers putting their perspective into fashion,” Remy says of what he loves about these creatives’ work being in the mix. “I think it's a new way to show fashion, because all of these photographers have open minds.”
Because the field of fashion photography is so diverse today, it’s no longer easy to define trends or a clear-cut way to success, but that’s exactly what Remy wants to celebrate. Over two decades into making books about fashion photography, he loves the versatility of modern cameras and the way today’s creatives are pushing boundaries rather than making references. Beyond the stylistic differences, the current pool of photographers is more representative of a range of countries and the younger generations, and women are finally getting a better chance to shine following the effects of the #MeToo movement.
“In the end, the photography is more respectful of models, and there is less of a sexual aspect than there was about 10 years ago,” Remy says of how he thinks the field has changed. “I think we’ve just seen the beginning of #MeToo, and it will continue to change in the years to come.”
From a kitschy, cat-filled cover by Charlie Engman and starring Chloë Sevigny to stunning Kaia Gerber portraits by Charlotte Wales, Antiglossy is truly capturing the voice of a fast-moving era. Remy talked with L’Officiel USA to give more insight on what makes a good fashion photo today, from putting images first to the importance of a good team to the necessity of evolving.
Charlotte Wales, POP / 34 / Spring/Summer 2016
What sparked your interest to explore the new wave of fashion photography through this book?
My first book about fashion photography was in 1996, a long time ago. It was called Fashion Images. And from time to time, I revisit the concept of exploring what is fashion photography. My last book on the topic, The Art of Fashion Photography, was about five years ago. The idea behind that was I think fashion photography is very ephemeral. You throw out magazines; after a month it goes directly to the trash. My idea is to update, to give another dimension of the image in a book. In a book, it's completely different from a magazine, and the idea is just to look at the image. There is no caption, and we are no longer thinking about the dress or the ad or anything else. The focus is really on the image. And in the five years since that book came out, I think things are going very, very fast in fashion photography, at this moment, and the idea is to ask, "What is fashion photography?" But you know, a book like this is always a long project. I started three years ago.
What were some of the biggest trends you noticed when putting together this book?
I think too much is happening in photography to pick a few overarching trends. Now, when you are a photographer, you can take a photo or film with the same camera. A film, or a video, or something for Instagram. And I think all the photographers are widening their universe. The universe of photographers is going in all directions. But now, when you flip through the book, there is really two trends. One: it's back to film, away from digital, back to argentique. And I think that a large part of fashion photographers are now working with film because the light is different, the colors are different. On the other side of trends is a push of the frontier of the digital image.
How do you think these new photographers' aesthetics align with the current fashion scene?
Photographers are typically in their own world, and I think in large part, the clothes are not so important. That’s what I like about fashion photography. First you want to be a photographer, and you make some images. But with fashion photography, the idea is very simple. It's to shoot some clothes for a magazine. But your most important audience is the people who go to your exhibitions. And in large part, except for some of the last generation’s photographers, like Steven Meisel and Mario Testino, who really live for fashion and clothes. And all this generation is working for image first, and after for the clothes.
Publications and brands are putting an increased focus on digital content. How do you think this has impacted how fashion photographers approach their work?
It’s the same camera taking two kinds of images. But in the end, the two are the same. When you shoot for Instagram, at the beginning you have one image. And it's always the same thing. One image, with movement or without movement, it's always one image. And my idea for this book is to take this image from the context, which can be Instagram or video or Facebook or a magazine, and to find something that would look good on a wall. Out of context of the magazine or digital medium, you can put only the photo on the wall like in a museum and think about whether it’s working. That's my point of view.
In the constant stream of images that we have today with the internet and Instagram feeds, what makes a fashion photo stand out?
If you look at Instagram, you look at one image for maybe five to ten seconds, no more. And I'm not sure this allows you to understand everything. You forgot the image, you forgot some details. And this is part of why I prefer to work with magazines. When I start to work, I just flip through magazines. Because I think for all these photographers, through all these generations, images are first. The image starts in the magazine, in print, and after, it becomes a GIF, a video, blah blah blah, and something for Instagram. But if you shoot only for Instagram, it's so cheap. One thing that's very important in fashion photography: it's not only about one photographer; it's the work of the team. If the team is bad, your photo will be bad. It’s about the photographer, the styling, the model, the hairdresser, everything. It's the work of the group. And for Instagram, you have no budget, you have none of this, and you might end up with a cheap image. And for me, that's not fashion photography. It's what people want, but not really fashion photography.
Thomas Hauser, Kunst seidene Mädchen, Numero Berlin / 1 / Autumn/Winter 2016
The photos in your book break from the glamour of traditional photography, but they're far from minimalist. Instead, they're finding new kinds of aesthetics. What kind of impact do you think this has?
A few of the photographers in this book don’t primarily work in fashion. Sometimes, you’ll see some photographers who are big in galleries, who want to push the limits of their work and use the code of fashion photography for them. About 20 years ago, we asked Valérie Belin to do a shoot for L'Officiel Paris. It was so beautiful and everybody was like, "Who is this photographer?" But she's very famous, so I think they were asking because it was clothes-focused. It was great because she's very open-minded in front of the clothes, and she put her vision within the realm of fashion photography. This is all so interesting because if you're completely deep in fashion photography, you're not open-minded, and you can't stay in the business more than five or six years.
In your intro, you mention how the representation of women is changing with this new style of photography. The #MeToo movement has been going on for over a year now, so what are the biggest changes you've been seeing in this representation?
One thing that is interesting with #MeToo is that a bunch of big photographers are fired from magazines, so now, it's more open to younger generations. Without #MeToo, younger photographers would wait a lot longer to have a place in magazines. When you fire people and everyone knew their name, that opens things to new generations. Additionally, the field is more open to women photographers. I’ve always said that when I make a book, I don't care if it's a woman or a man. The most important thing for me is the photo. But I changed my mind for fashion photography because the way male and female photographers show clothes and models is different. Female photographers usually avoid an objectifying sexual vision of women. They have to fight for their place in the society of photography, and they have deep, strong visions that are different from some men. In the end, the photography is more respectful of models, and there is less of a sexual aspect than there was about 10 years ago. That's very interesting, and it's more open-minded. I think we’ve just seen the beginning of #MeToo, and it will continue to change in the years to come.
Can you talk about some projects in this book that you found especially striking?
It's not easy to say. I like Thomas Hauser, who is in his mid-forties and based in Berlin. At first, he was a painter, but he started to shoot some models in a very cheap studio with a cheap chair. It was very old-fashioned to photograph in a studio, but the work that came out was very strong. I published him four years ago in a book called Desire about eroticism and starting at that point, everybody liked his point of view. He started to work for McQueen and major magazines. He typically doesn’t use a stylist. It’s just him in front of the model, and sometimes he styles his shoots himself. From another point of view is Maurits Sillem, a young photographer from London. He tries to push the limits of digital and with the image reproduction and has developed a unique style.
The book features a series of photos that Charlie Engman snapped of Chloë Sevigny, including on the cover. What do you think Sevigny's reputation and aesthetic contribute to the Antiglossy concept?
The true world of fashion photography surrounds photos, actors, and moving images. And Chloë Sevigny is an idol of the millennial generation. She can be rough, she can be smart, and she's trendy. She can add a lot to fashion photography. And she's nice. And I like the photo, but it's so kitsch. We say in French it's like on calendars or posters. It's always dogs or cats. And someone said if you want to have success on Instagram, you have to put cats.
What do you hope to see in fashion photography moving forward?
I think you have to wait for the next book! I’ve started to collect a lot of magazines; I've met some excellent photographers. Since I finished Antiglossy a year ago, I’ve found a new generation that comes from everywhere. I think a large part of the photography in this book came from the UK and America, plus there are some Dutch and German photographers, but there's a new frontier coming from Italy, from Ukraine, from South Africa. It's more open, and they’ve done away with always making references. Before, in the '90s up to maybe 10 years ago, there was always a reference to the big masters of fashion photography: Irving Penn, Guy Bourdin. Now, there is none of that. The references now come from different fields. It can be a movie or just from everyday life. That's very interesting.
Do you have any upcoming projects you'd like to talk about?
I just finished a book for Louis Vuitton’s Fashion Eye series, about Slim Aarons and the French Riviera. I feel really great about it. It comes out in June.