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March 19, 2004

Contemporary and Classic Fashion: The Good and the Ordinary

I wish I knew for certain that I had a "system" for making photographic discoveries on the web, beyond my usual network of fine blogs, news sites and friends...but sometimes you just discover stuff, and have no idea how you did it. (Doesn't help when the computer crashes midway through a random walk around the Web).

So I just discovered this agency representing fashion photographers in Italy...and found that they represent an impressive stable of photographers who I'm mostly unfamiliar with. Perhaps I've seen a few of these folks' work without attribution in a random fashion or lifestyle magazine...and perhaps the work wasn't really worth noticing in that type of encounter. But the Salvioli agency has done a nice job hosting their photographers' work online, and the work displays very well, without a lot of clutter or distracting multimedia excess.

The work on display in this site *is* commercial work, though some of the categories are cryptic enough to imply that some of it might be part of a fine art portfolio as well. It's mostly studio or heavily produced and lit location work. In general, the sort of stuff that might make the hobbyist or fine art photographer sniff at the slickness and soullessness of it all. But anyone who's read my site for a while knows how much I enjoy the contradictions of talented photographers applying themselves in a commercial setting, and fashion is one of the more interesting (and treacherous) intersections of fine art, commerce, and pop culture.

With that said, most of the work at Salvioli's site is tasteful and is distinguished by the striking use of form and color. No playful transgression a la Helmut Newton, David LaChapelle, or Ellen von Unwerth. And a lot of it is fairly standard, but there's some good to great stuff, too. Best to browse through all the photographers with the expectation that most of the work explicitly reflects commercial expectations, but that creativity pops up in unexpected and pleasant ways.

Gianpaolo Barbieri is a long time fashion photographer and photojournalist whose track record in the world of fashion speaks for itself...he produced the cover for the first issue of Italian Vogue in the 1960s, has collaborated with many of the leading designers in fashion for over 40 years, and has seven books to his credit. Some of the black and white and standard fashion work he has on display online has almost too much spit and shine, and some of his hybrid photojournalism/fashion stuff (somewhere else...I can't find the link now...he has some black and white work of tribes in Madagascar) is rather dull, but the portfolio "A History of Fashion" (and I presume the book of the same title) is very good.


Gianpaolo Barbieri image, from A History of Fashion

Brigitte Niedermair's fashion and personal work have a quirky airbrushed style that evokes Joyce Tenneson.


Brigitte Niedermair image

I've heard of several female models who have gone on to be photographers themselves (the most prominent in my memory being Sarah Moon), but haven't encountered many male models who have done the same...until I saw the work of Robert Jaso, a one time French male model who now does fashion work seemingly inspired by Barbieri. He has a very nice online portfolio with a great eye for color...both the fashion and jewel portfolios are worth visiting.



Robert Jaso, images from "Jewel" series

Most of the work on the Salvioli site is almost "old-school" in its high gloss, hypersaturated color, and classic poses and compositions, but if your taste runs to more muted, snapshot style contemporary fashion (a la Teller and Tillmans), Ralf Uhler on the same site is worth checking out.

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