An interesting perspective on teamwork in fashion photography.

"......When you shoot for fashion versus more of your traditional portraiture, do you ever become annoyed having to work with a team of stylists, beauty, and production people?
Working with stylists and beauty team has its function. I'm not necessarily frustrated with that part, as much as I am with the current state of fashion photography. I think, with the advent of digital photography, the dictatorship aspect of photography became democratized and over time became a group effort, which I think is bullshit. I'm sorry, but photography is a dictatorship; it's not a democracy. At the end of the day, I don't sit here and tell the hairstylist to move the hair a little bit this way when they're working. I'm sure as fuck not going to have someone tell me what to do with photography. With that said, as a photographer it's your responsibility to fulfill the needs of your client. You don't want to be a dick about it; there are plenty of people who do that, which, I think, is equally bullshit.  ........"

From an interview with Norman Jean Roy, fashion photographer.  It's a rocking fun interview and you can read it all right here: http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/01/norman-jean-roy-digital-ruined-fashion-photos.html

Make sure you click on his slideshow.......it's really, really good.


  1. I read that piece this morning..

    The old Stan Freberg adage: “Everyone’s an Art Director” got more pronounced when we went from a wet smelly Polaroid to a tethered 26” monitor.

    1. everyone's opinion is equal. Tell that to the surgeon....

    2. Do you know many Anesthesiologists? :) Everyone has to get along or life gets very difficult.

  2. As I'm sitting here thumbing through the beautiful book that is "Woman in the Mirror" by Avedon, I can only chuckle at the thought of someone attempting to tell him what to do.

  3. he is right on the money, and unfortunately this is a 'process' affecting today many other industries as well as photography; clothing, cars, furniture, computers, electronics, cameras, are nowadays 'designed by committee', and end up being 'safe', boring, disturbingly homogeneous.

    'safer' for the marketers, uninspiring for all.

  4. This is quote sums up how I want to use "digital film":"I always shoot to card and never show anyone. I usually give myself a day or two before I look at the session. It's the same thing you would do with film, you shoot your film, it goes to the lab the next morning and you get it back that afternoon. That space in time between [taking the photograph] and looking at it after is a really important thing.

  5. Wow, powerful stuff that makes me think more deeply about even the relatively simple things I do. When I used to race cars in the SCCA there were guys who drove fast cars and there were guy who drove fast. Those two groups didn't always intersect and this interview confirms the difference in the realm of photography. Love his take on Hillar Swank and Johnny Depp. Two very different and very illustrative of his skills and vision. Overall I prefer Steve McCurry's style but great article and work none the less.

  6. I call BS on that. He's entitled to his opinion. Photographers need to stop being introverted loners and start being part of the creative community. Having multiple specialty talents on set does not preclude communicating a vision and leading the team. That's called leadership. Hollywood has figured it out. And so can others. A quality fashion photograph (as opposed to a glamour shot often mis-labeled as a fashion photograph) takes a lot of skills, and I'd love to see a photographer that is truly as much an expert on fashion, fabrics, fit, design trends, hair, make-up, and everything else as he is with the camera. All you do end up is with a mediocre pile of shit if you attempt that. Portrait photography is a different genre. That is akin to comparing doing a front-line war documentary with a film camera vs. filming Lord of the Rings. One is best done by a single crazy person, the other one does take team effort but with a strong team structure and proper leadership.

    1. The fallacy with your argument is the narrow description of fashion. There are many great fashion images in the history of the genre done by a photographer mostly alone with a model. Bert Stern, Irving Penn and Art Kane show that much good work can be done as a loner. Yes, someone should select the wardrobe. Yes, someone should do make up and yes, a stylist is wonderful....right up to the moment of shooting but as soon as the camera comes out all those things should recede for some gifted photographers. If the photographer is really more comfortable in a group environment then the work is not really his or hers but belongs to......a committee.

      Comparing movie production and camera work is nonsensical. A good photographer can work alone and many have done so, even in advertising and fashion, for decades. This current obsession with teams is a trend. LIke Nehru Jackets and love beads. You may love it but that doesn't make it permanent. Not by a long shot.

      The essence of leadership is different from the essence of art. Don't let experience in the corporate world ruin the things that make an arts business so different.

      Sometimes leadership means telling everyone else to get out of the room while you work.

      A different opinion. Neither is absolute.

    2. The work doesn't necessarily belong to a committee just because more than one is involved. If you wanted to take the argument to a bizzarre extreme, the ultimate fashion photography would have to be taken with a mannequin, because what is the model doing thinking about expressions or brining some of her own expertise to the end result?

      Also, who is to say that the photographer is always the alpha in the pack? I recently assisted on a shoot for a print editorial of an a a-list fashion magazine. The photographer was just one of those team members dismissed in the original opinion (even though she is very talented in her own right). In many big-name editorials they stylist is actually the primary creative person, the photographer brings a certain skill to the process, just like the make-up artist. The photographer is not by default the alpha personality.

      And yes, there are many good example of historical images, considered fashion photography, that if examined closer by today's standards may be more thought of as portraits. It does come down to the definition of fashion photography, which is used very loosely by many folks. And not that anyone has the the authorative definition.

      In the end discussions like this rarely are being won. I may have used strong words, but they were in reaction to a story written with strong words. Anytime someone dismisses a trend, or what others do, or how they do it, there is usually more to the story. If the OP hates the way fashion photographs are done today, shoot them a different way, or shoot something else. In the end, the jury consists out of his satisfaction on what he accomplishes, and in how the consumers of his images see them. Sometimes someone gets much success but hates what he/she does, sometimes someone loves what he/she does, but no one else care for their work, and once in while the two align. Shoot more, argue less.

    3. Wag more, Bark less. One of my favorite bumper stickers. But I will still disagree. If the photographer is not the alpha member of the team then it's not really about photography and said photographer is nothing more than a technician. If an image doesn't spring from the head of Zeus (like Aphrodite) then it's not a creative project to being with. It's a team assembling a package. A retailing exercise with a camera.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Well, it may not qualify as photography for you then. It's still a creative process with a compelling image as end result. And even if it's the stylist's creative vision that the photographer helps translate, that still makes it creative process. Photographers don't have an exclusive right to being called creatives.

      Tell Grace Coddington that she is nothing but a unimaginative cog in a retail machine rather than a person with a creative vision, and she might very much disagree with you.

      And is the creative director in an advertising shoot also just totally lost without the heavily support of Zeuss??

      And no, just because it wasn't your idea doesn't make you a technician. Otherwise the vast majority of photographers uploading on flickr should start calling themselves technicians rather than photographers, because many a shot to be seen there has been taken before. Not every image on flickr is a creative original. Many are reincarnations of other people's ideas. That would annoy quite a few of your readers and they may lose interest in buying books, because technician sounds a lot less sexy as a place to spend all that money from their day jobs.

      There are genres where the photographer has an undisputed primary role - such as landscape or photo journalism. Though even there, there are alternate and equally viable mediums. You can paint a landscape, you can write about a story.

      But then people got into photography for different reasons. For some it may be that feeling of the being the only one. For others it may be the creative process, for others it may be the end result, regardless of how you got there. To each his own, just respect the others. I think that's what was grinding me about the original story, that this narrow take on the topic.

    6. When I hear the word "process" what it means to me is that some activity that could have been done with spirit and inspiration was instead dissected and parsed and broken down (like modern production) into little steps that can be handled by interchangeable, trained workers. No part rises above. It may the future of photography as mass production is the future of all commerce but it's inherently not the creative or enjoyable part of the creative process no matter how much you want to spin it.

      Breaking a manufacturing operation into it's discreet parts and simplifying them is how we invented outsourcing and all kinds of other wonderful things. I think you are mistaking efficiency or team work with art. I don't think we'll ever agree on this. I have friends who like to watch football on TV. I think it's absurd and a total waste of time. But we agree to disagree because we have other intersecting interests.

      You're hell bent to separate the photographer from ownership in the process. I'm hellbent to keep him/her there. The rest is just semantics and debate class.

    7. I think the 'fallacy of your argument is the narrow definition of' process. It is not limited to production line, or just relying on trained but otherwise inferior labor (i.e. operators). Any time you use a camera, your approach to a certain genre, your way of working with a portrait subject - all involves a process. A sequence of steps, a method, you have gotten to appreciate that will get you to your desired result, rather than just random trial and error.

      Do you use a light meter (in camera or hand-held)? That's a process. It's a process that helps you arrive at a properly exposed photo with some level of prediction.

      I think the distinction we're talking more about here (and Salty's comment below speaks to the same) is photography as a pure art form vs. photography as a creative profession used in commercial contexts. It's not limited to fashion photography. In food photography you rely on the food stylist. And any time the purpose of the image exists before it is taken (true for all commercial photography, regardless of genre, including stock photography, event photography, etc). there are demands and principles figuring into the creation of the image that override pure art for other reasons.

      If you want pure art, create the image first, then figure out what it's for. Go shoot a sunset, Yosemite Falls, etc. Or in a closer relative, shoot something where the client is the subject (e.g. portraits) rather than a 3rd party.

      I know ideally every photographer would like to be a pure artist. But the reality is, very few could make a living doing so. And there are many opportunities to create successful and unique images in a commercial context, and find pleasure in doing so.

  7. Let me begin by saying that I’ve only seen real fashion photography as an assistant. Most of the women I’ve photographed were in business suits in their work environment. From what I’ve seen (and it’s been a couple of years) the artists in the fashion world run the show. The photographers, who are hired as mechanics, follow directions. It’s usually about money. I don’t think Albert Watson needs much direction.

    The Red camera is challenging many “photo mechanics” in the fashion biz. With a Red, all you need is a crew to light the set and a camera operator. I suppose the client might direct the model? The AD or “client Editor” picks the shots. It’s a real money saver too. Given a 20 minute session with a model and a garment/look – at 24 FPS, that’s 28,800 frames to edit – there has got to be a good one in there somewhere. The Red for stills gives new meaning to spray and pray.

    “Cinephotography® marks an evolutionary approach to photography..”


    my 2 cents


    1. Photography is definitely evolving as technology changes.

      Two comments on this though:

      You say a lighting crew. Well, that lighting crew has to be overseen by someone with understanding of light. And that realm usually falls to the photographer (or in movie speak director of photography). The role of the photographer may be evolving more towards that of DoP in cine land. He/she may no longer be the camera operator or the person plugging in the lights. But instead it is the person that does the visual design and capture of the scene. That's the photographic skill of the future.

      I actually think this is an exciting development. Photographers in the past were possibly more of a technician then they have to be in the future. Who cares how to set your camera to f/2.8, or that you avoid camera shake at the inverse shutter speed of focal length? Those are means to an end. The creativity is in envisioning the end result, not the technicalities of getting there.

      I've blogged about that shift several months ago: http://blog.allklier.com/2012/09/photographers-visual-assets-experts-dp.html.

      And regarding the Red. I think that direction is a dream of bean counters and camera designers. And it may well work that way in some documentary realms, or the take-out for the movie trailer. The camera provides the ability to capture a frame at the same quality as a still image, which past motion camera didn't do. But as someone who works with both video and still, and has seen individual frames, and shot with models both in front of still and motion cameras I can tell you that the concept of shooting fashion stills with a Red is not as easy as it may sound. It's actually very hard to find a frame with an expression and lighting that is as good as a still shot because the subject interaction, the visual focus on a single moment, the feedback loop, and the lighting is in a different realm. By the time you lit the set, shot enough footage to know you may find something, and do all that, you've spent more time and money doing it, then if you just used the traditional method.

      The parallel would be to say, we don't need a stinking light meter. Let's just write a piece of camera firmware that iterates through every possible permutation of exposure settings. Surely one of them has to spot on. Yeah, a few hundred frames later, and you missed the moment.

      That being said, I do think we will see a stronger trend towards using motion for fashion, which has been evolving steadily over the last 2-3 years. There are some, albeit few, memorable pieces and a lot of junk. No one really has cracked the formula for what works when you try to sell to a target demographic of the successful 35-50 year old business woman yet portray that with a 18 year old model which hasn't even half the life experience. They may be able to show clothes well in aspirational settings, but they cannot carry the story. And as you move from still to motion, you cannot overlook the story. The same way that a performance of a Janice Joplin song by a teenager on American Idol never really sounds believable, because the performer cannot be authentic not having had the same life experience. Just doesn't compute.

  8. Just in case the name was new to some on here ..




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