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Fashion photography: How four trendsetters changed the industry

World’s best fashion photographers from Newton and Leibovitz to Testino and Hassett

Some artists have the ability to change tastes as we know it. WorldGuide looks at four photographers who have set the trends in fashion.

Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, on the street and in spirit bottles as well, even haute couture in some of them because it’s difficult to find another name for the artwork that was blown and sculptured by two famous glass makers. Nichola Burns and Brodie Nairn created a lace-like case of crystal waves that gently embraces another part of the piece that looks like a bottle with a platinum stopper, hand-crafted by Hamilton & Inches. Previously they were working with such high jewellery and watch making brands as Patek Philippe, Rolex and Chanel.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, a moody baby girl was born. She was called “Fashion”. From a very young age she was an out-of-the-box baby, but suffered a lot because life wasn’t too kind towards her creative nature. In spite of everything, she survived. Finally, in 1839, the Lord had mercy on her and invented photography. She then had some helpers – some great photographers – who began spreading her story all over the world with their wonderful pictures, each with their own unique style. We’d now like to tell you about these gifted trend-setters.

Helmut Newton – challenged using provocation, elegance and decadence

Source: Flickr, glldas_f. Licensed under CC BY 4.0.

One of the most famous among them is Helmut Newton. Newton challenged conventions and created a provocative, hybrid photography that embraced fashion, erotica, portrait and documentary elements, producing a highly stylised interpretation of elegant and decadent ways of life. Newton turned his attention to making powerful, confrontational nudes. His work on fashion, nudes and portraits often mixed. In each of his pictures the women are strong, even in their moments of weakness, which is something possible only within the power of genius.

During his career, Helmut Newton was hired by several international editions of Vogue. He also contributed to magazines such as Oui, Playboy, Queen, Nova, Marie-Claire and Elle. He died in Hollywood, California in 2004. Shortly before his death he established the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin, Germany and donated approximately a thousand of his works to his native city.

Mario Testino – portraits from Kate Moss to the Royal Family

Lara Stone (in a John Galliano for Christian Dior Haute Couture gown) photographed by Mario Testino for „Vogue” – December, 2007. Source: Flickr, The Coincidental Dandy.

The next great photographer is Mario Testino. Born in Lima in 1954 to a traditional Catholic family, far away from the worlds of fashion and Hollywood, Testino moved from Peru to London in 1976. Then a miracle occurred when Her Royal Highness, Fashion, noticed him. Today, this Peruvian photographer is known worldwide for portraits of the most famous faces – from the Royal Family to Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Madonna. Having also shot campaigns for the likes of Burberry, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Versace, he is in very high demand. British Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman said in her contribution to his book, Portraits, that Testino’s work makes you look better than you could imagine, „not in your wildest dreams, but at the remotest end of possibility.”

Alongside his 35-year career as a photographer, Testino has realised a body of work as a creative director, guest editor, museum founder, art collector/collaborator and entrepreneur. In 2007, he formed MARIOTESTINO+, which today is a team of individuals who support Testino in growing the breadth of his creative output.

Annie Leibovitz – one of the world’s best portrait photographers

By Robert Scoble from Half Moon Bay, USA (Annie Leibovitz at her SF exhibition). Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Annie Leibovitz is widely considered to be one of America’s best portrait photographers. Many of her images have a huge place in our culture today, including the 8 December 1980 image of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, five hours before he was shot and killed. She photographed Queen Elizabeth II for her official Virginia state visit and the controversial Miley Cyrus topless Vanity Fair cover.

Annie Leibovitz started her career as a staff photographer working for Rolling Stone magazine. Later she was named the chief photographer of that magazine, a job she would hold for 10 years. While working for Rolling Stone, Leibovitz learned that she could work for publications while creating personal works at the same time, which for her was most important.

She sought intimate moments with her subjects, who “open their hearts and souls and lives to you”. In 1991, Leibovitz’s collection of more than 200 photographs was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, the first woman with that honour. In 2015, Leibovitz was the principal photographer for the 2016 Pirelli calendar, taking a drastic shift from the calendar’s traditional style by focusing on admirable women as opposed to sexuality. The 2016 calendar included Amy Schumer, Serena Williams and Patti Smith.

Ben Hassett – bold, intense colour and an often disturbing sense of beauty

Source: Flickr, The Coincidental Dandy.

HRH Fashion is an old infirm woman, just like our civilization. But thankfully, her sense of beauty is still as young as ever. She always notices new helpers, the talented and promising ones. For example, Ben Hassett, a gifted photographer and filmmaker raised in London but now living New York. His works look like pieces of fashion because they contain uniqueness and depth characterised by the fine arts and boldness so necessary for fashion photography. His works are in high demand for his sense of composition, attention to detail and characteristic and even disturbing images of beauty. Ben Hassett is a regular contributor to Vogue magazines worldwide, does photo shoots for Numéro, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, and has created iconic ad campaigns for Calvin Klein Cosmetics, Bulgari, YSL Beauté, Lanvin, Burberry, L’Oreal and Christian Dior Beauté. His life and work have been profiled in The British Journal of Photography and Playboy. He got me hooked with his vibrant and intense colours. Or maybe I like red hues too much.

It’s obvious, Her Royal Highness is moody and capricious, like every woman, but she adores arts and truly recognizes devotion. In the next chapter we’ll tell you about her other heroes.