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The dictionary, or Wikipedia rather probably defines fashion photography as a medium by which clothing and accessories are displayed as products to sell.  And of course while at its very base is a devotion to the marketing of clothing, some photographers (and stylists, MUA and hair stylists) break into the impossiblly difficult industry with a new approach.  These photographers have influenced my work because of their conceptual approach to photography, employing elements of theatricality, surrealism, pop and fantasy.  Here is a list of 5 Contemporary Conceptual Fashion Photographers.

(A great site to see many of these photographer's portfolios is art + commerce.)  I wish I could post their photos next to their names.

1.  David La Chapelle

He has a very unique, surreal and funny style.  His images really stick in your head because of their bright colors and distinctive compositions.  Even though he shoots celebrities, he creates characters of them, where each is a puppet in LaChapelle fantastical world.  LaChapelle has four published in books of his photographs, including LaChapelle LandHotel LaChapelleHeaven to Hell, and Artists and Prostitutes.  I haven't seen all his book, but I think Hotel LaChapelle is preferable over Heaven to Hell as the latter has too much Pamela Anderson.

2.  Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin

An amazing husband and wife team from the Netherlands.  There work lies somewhere between fine art and fashion photography.  They’re best known for images that can be interpreted as both critical and slightly disturbing, and started digitally manipulating their images at an early stage, allowing them to explore questions about gender and sexuality, reality, the superficial, and identity.  They are now hugely successful and their work can be seen in just about every major fashion magazine, monthly.

3.  Ellen von Unwerth

With German roots, this powerfully dynamic photographer has been on the fashion scene since the early 90's.  What makes her a bit different than the rest of the artists on this list, (besides the erotic femininity her subjects exude) is that she directs music videos as well.  The most well known ones are "Electric Barbarella" by Duran Duran in 1997 and "Ain't Nuthin' But a She Thang" by Salt n Pepa.  She is currently represented by Art + Commerce.  (A fit name, I think.)

4.  Guy Bourdin

Although he actually isn't alive (He died in 1991), Bourdin must be on this list because his formal daring and the narrative power of his images exceeded the bounds of conventional advertising photography. Shattering expectations and questioning boundaries, he set the stage for a new kind of fashion photography.  He was deeply influenced by Surrealism (Man Ray was his mentor, while the film maker Bunuel and the painter Magritte were his contemporaries) in addition to composing images full of mystery, sensuality and violence.  He was probably best known for the work he did for Jourdan’s ad campaigns between 1967 and 1981.  

5.  Francois Lepage

Lepage is most likely the least known of all these photographers, as I just discovered a campaign he did in the Italian fashion magazine called BMM last July.  His overly saturated images usually have just one lifeless looking figure against some kind of architecture, but his gimmick that I find fascinating is that he keeps the spotlight in the frame, as to expose the contrivances of images.  Check out his website



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