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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Michael Creagh: Fashion In B&W

The peculiar palette of photographer Michael Creagh

michael creaghOne look at Michael Creagh’s portfolio is enough to see he’s not like most fashion photographers. He’s as skilled as any at making beautiful photographs, but his work showcases a simpler sensibility. To an outsider, Creagh’s style might appear to be defined by technique. Much of his portfolio is in black-and-white, and his color work incorporates a limited palette. He works primarily in the studio, and while he unifies his projects with visual continuity, he flexes creative freedom throughout by mixing action with still life, color with black-and-white, wide-open space with close details. All the while, his work retains a distinctive style. This is possible, he says, because that style isn’t really based on technique.

“I think it’s hard to define style by things like studio or color,” Creagh says. “Style is a question of worldview. What do you feel about beauty, about space? What should a woman look like? Be like? If you were a major art director and you had the privilege to assign a shoot to one of two greats, Bruce Weber or Peter Lindbergh, what would the differences be in the way they addressed the men and women and the clothing? It’s hard to break down those questions with just lighting and color or black-and-white.

For young photographers trying to develop a style, I suggest exploring your own feelings on the most basic subjects, like how you see men, women, light, the world. Your tastes and interests will lead you.”

Creagh’s interests have led him to make beautiful fashion photographs, regardless of technique. Though his tools don’t dictate his style, a digital workflow has provided him the freedom to make creative decisions that deliver a particular look to every job. It’s flexibility, as much as anything, that’s reflected in the nuances of his portfolio. It’s what allows his work to be dynamic yet remain consistently unified around his personal style—his fashion worldview.

From a business perspective, the flexibility of digital means that Creagh works more creatively, too. Instead of choosing between color and black-and-white before a shoot, as a film photographer might, he’s able to shoot digitally and choose a finished look in postproduction. This versatility allows him to pitch ideas to clients who might hesitate to commit to an approach that’s out of the ordinary. That translates to a more extraordinary and dynamic result.


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