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Monday, January 7, 2008

Click Chic - Fashion Photography As Social Commentary

Fashion photography gets a display as social commentary through an exhibition at the School of Visual Arts in New York

maki kawkitaAs most any photographer profiled in these pages will attest, the dividing line between art and commerce is continually blurring. Photographic artists have long been sought to apply their talents to the commercial world of advertising and fashion photography, but the reverse hasn't always held true. Now, though, commercial photographers are finding acceptance in the world of high-art galleries and museums.

Museums and fine-art photographers—who sometimes disguised their own commercial interests—once looked upon the commercial worlds of editorial and fashion photography with a blasé attitude. In recent years, however, commercial photographers are finding more acceptance on gallery walls. Whether it's indicative of a more accepting art world or a higher quality of advertising and editorial photography, the effect is simple: There's increasingly little distinction between photographs made for art and those made for commerce.

To that end, a recent gallery exhibition was curated by Dan Halm at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Click Chic: The Fine Art of Fashion Photography was designed to “document the vitality of fashion photography as a vehicle for creative expression, formal experimentation and social commentary.” Highlighting the work of six photographers known primarily for commercial photography—Roderick Angle, Guy Aroch, Maki Kawakita, Ryan Michael Kelly, Chiun-Kai Shih and Sarah Silver, each an alum of SVA and each making a living outside of fine-art sales—the exhibition was designed to tangibly showcase the artistic legitimacy of creative fashion photography.

“My inspiration for the show stemmed from my love of the power of a really good fashion photograph,” says Halm. “I believe that if you look at a great fashion photograph outside of the glossy page of a magazine and placed it on a gallery wall, you shouldn't be able to tell the difference between fine art and the fact that these images were shot to appear editorially.

“Because they're originally conceived and created to appear in magazines and advertisements,” Halm continues, “fashion photographs are often considered disposable. I'm hoping to change that by highlighting some exceptional images that hold their own as works of art.”

Whether the images were created out of the photographers' personal motivations or they originally graced the pages of fashion magazines or billboards, the photographs in Click Chic clearly show the stylistic and formal similarities between the worlds of high-fashion and fine-art photography—probably because the photographers themselves don't choose to draw such distinctions.

“I've never felt like I was separate from the art community,” says fashion photographer and Click Chic artist Sarah Silver. “You walk into a room and you're a photographer. You can say I'm a commercial photographer or a fine-art photographer, but really, you take pictures with a camera. You don't have to draw a line anywhere.”


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