Saturday 27 May 2017

Paul Galvin: Flash of inspiration

Photographers and their stylish shots bring fashion to the masses, says Paul Galvin

Paul Galvin
Paul Galvin

Paul Galvin

If designers create clothes and stylists create style, then who creates fashion? Who feeds fashion to the fashion-hungry consumer? The photographer is the conduit between fashion and the masses. Magazines, despite the competition from online blogs and digital media, are still central to creating the brand awareness that powers the fashion industry.

Magazines need appealing, creative content to keep readers interested. Brands need to be aspirational to seduce the consumer. Both need the right photographer.

As a result, fashion photographers have become celebrities in their own right. From Ellen von Unwerth to Mario Testino and my favourite Hedi Slimane, photographers are fashion royalty.

I bought Testino's eighth book Let Me In in a bookstore near the Tate Modern in London. This is a brilliant collection of backstage, off-screen and off-duty spontaneous shots taken by Testino on shoots for Vogue and Vanity Fair, at parties and events.

He captures personalities such as Tom Ford and Stella McCartney whispering to each other, the normally reserved Gwyneth Paltrow doing yoga, as well as Beyoncé, Ewan McGregor and Adrien Brody. Testino's gift for capturing the spontaneous makes him iconic alongside those he photographs.

Ellen von Unwerth's work has a sensual, feminine aesthetic which features a lot of lingerie and corsetry ... and women, obviously. Her risqué style has raised eyebrows over the years but is memorable and bold, which is how it should be.

The photographers I admire most are the ones who recognise photography as art, who are spontaneous and daring and use artistic imagination in what they're doing. Ryan McGinley is a young New Yorker whose work is unrestrained, liberated, hedonistic and otherworldly in its essence.

He's as much an artist as he is a photographer. He shot campaigns for major brands such as Missoni and Levi's and magazines including 'W', before taking to the road on his own tour bus, with models he picked off the street, and travelling across America to shoot for a nude photographic series called 'Somewhere Place'.

The series is incredibly powerful and feral and has a dreamlike quality that owes as much to McGinley's creative vision as it does to his use of nature, reptiles, mammals and nudity. Standout shots include a male model with a snake wrapped around his neck and tied like a scarf. Talk about being a fashion victim.

My favourite fashion photographer is Hedi Slimane. The Frenchman trained as a tailor before working at YSL and Dior. He revolutionised menswear when he created Dior Homme with his clean, sleek suiting and minimalist approach to design.

Those of you who like the tailored suit and skinny jeans looks can thank this man for it.

He decamped from Paris to London to pursue his quest for creativity and independence. There he found himself in the middle of the indie music scene, which had embraced his clothing as its uniform.

The result was a photographic archive called 'Stage', where he followed bands such as Razorlight, Franz Ferdinand and The Libertines as they performed, capturing their stage outfits -- often clothes he himself had designed.

Pete Doherty became a subject of Slimane's work and reflects perfectly the insouciance of the Slimane man, embodying the silhouette and the louche attitude in one go. 'Stage' is available from Urban Outfitters.

In 2010, he released his last photography archive, 'Anthology Of A Decade'. This chronicles his time in Paris working with Dior, the seismic shift he nonchalantly brought about in how men wore clothes, his time in London at the heart of the indie punk revival, Berlin and its clashing cultures and LA's subversive surf world on the doorstep of Hollywood.

Meanwhile, a fresh face on the Irish fashion scene, National College of Art and Design student Alan Taylor, is a design talent to watch. He has modelled for Slimane.

Certain models will fit a brand aesthetic perfectly. One of my favourite campaigns is this year's Mulberry SS. It's decadent and romantic. The models, Linsey Wixon and Nimue Smith, are doll-like, almost porcelain-looking and very striking. Styling helps create this look but the model must have a certain natural appeal first for the photographer.

The Hogan campaign featuring Olivia Palermo appeals to the affluent, successful young woman of means. It is as much about the lifestyle it projects as the clothes and shoes.

Ireland is not short of talented photographers. Barry McCall is our Testino and shoots stars all over the world. Lili Forberg is the new go-to girl for magazine editors, celebrities and brands in Ireland. And watch out for Agata Stoinska and James Horan, who are also very creative and talented.

Say cheese for fashion's great creators.

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