Fashion photography has one big problem, but it’s not Photoshop
What do you think of when you think of fashion photography? If you are aware of the stereotypes surrounding fashion then it is certainly something of the kind of young, sexy models in revealing clothes. In this article I try to explain why fashion is so much more.
The stereotype is not new. In the 90s, young supermodels like Kate Moss emerged. The concept of a supermodel – a successful young model who works for big shows and campaigns – was also reinforced in Peter Lindbergh’s work in the 1990s. His work showed models in a relatively new way: independent, strong, but also feminine women with whom people could identify. However, when I look at the work of prominent fashion photographers like Lindbergh, I have a hard time finding examples of older models. They are usually young female models and old male fashion designers. While sexism is certainly at play here, I won’t explore that in this article. My focus is Ageism: the underrepresentation of older age groups in fashion photography and advertising.
Fashion photography, in its simplest form, is advertising. People take pictures of a model wearing an outfit to sell that outfit to the person who sees the picture. These images are largely and always have been tailored to young people. Young people are the vehicle for trends, and trend is synonymous with fashion. This, of course, adds to the idea that young people are stylish. Those who are no longer young are not stylish.
Many commercial advertisements encompass different groups, races, and nationalities. Benetton ads are the best example of this, and I would be hard pressed to find a large branding campaign that wasn’t, at least to some extent, multicultural. This has not always been the case. With the emergence of anti-racism movements, fashion photography diversified. Nowadays it seems like an obvious step: why should fashion photography target a small group of the population? The more people can identify with the picture, the better for the company sale and the overall success of the advertising campaign.
Age Discrimination Statistics
While this capitalist concept obviously seems easy to understand, it is apparently only limited to issues such as racism. Age discrimination is rarely an issue, neither by fashion photographers nor by fashion advertisements. In fact, the opposite is being done: the fashion industry celebrates the youth and only the youth. The mental health effects of antiaging propaganda can be seen everywhere. Many women over 40 feel forgotten about fashion trends and no longer relevant.
Much is lost when this significant population is left out of fashion advertising. The International Longevity Center has calculated that without older models, the industry will cost the industry £ 11 billion over the next 20 years. In fact, people over 40 have started spending more on clothing in recent years. Between 2011 and 2018, they bought 21% more clothes and shoes than before. The purchasing power of this age group is so great that some believe that by 2040 people over 50 could be the main target audience for advertising.
If statistics aren’t enough to convince fashion photographers to be more inclusive into their work, let’s talk about beauty. As a fashion photographer, you need to know what beauty means to you. Ask yourself: What do I find beautiful? Often the answer can be found in your portfolio. For example, one of the things that I find beautiful is bold colors. It’s my working style, very relaxed. I look for this color in lights, clothes, makeup and so on. I am able to take pictures that I think are beautiful by using color. In my opinion, fashion photography is about fashion, not the model; Therefore, a photographer fascinated by beautiful young women cannot hide behind the mask of fashion. Portrait and nude are just as much genres as fashion.
My projects with models over 40
Since I love color, I can apply it to any model who poses for the camera. I photograph them my own way. Let me tell you a little about my first experience with an older model.
The original idea was inspired by Maye Musk. A good friend sent me her pictures and asked if there were any options. I felt inspired and agreed to work with this idea. The photo shoot taught me that fashion is for everyone. People, all people, love to feel beautiful and to see other people look beautiful like them. The photo shoot was published by a magazine that happily accepted it.
One of the most important things I learned from this photo shoot is that fashion should be for everyone. Simply put, fashion starts at birth and ends the moment you die. As a fashion photographer, I am thinking about how I can include more and more age groups in my work to round off my portfolio. With the wide variety of clothing available, it should go without saying that fashion ads also show different models.
Positive momentum in recent years
There is hope as some effort is being made to normalize aging in the fashion industry. I say normalize because it’s still unusual to see an older model on the cover of Vogue. Nonetheless, models like Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren have featured in L’Oréal campaigns, while Julia Roberts is prominently featured in Lancôme.
Why is that on Fstoppers?
I’m assuming this question is in the comments so I’ll answer it before it’s asked. I wrote this article to shed light on a problem that fashion photographers can go a long way toward solving. By organizing test shoots with older models, you can help reduce age discrimination in the fashion industry. Find out what you think is beautiful in your other work and try to apply that to a photoshoot with an older model. In a way, this article is a call to action for fashion photographers. Ultimately, photography should be a voice for change, and photographers can be the agents of change.