The world is changing; that’s no way we can ignore this. Until now, 2020 was far from a typical year and surprises are still to come. Natural disasters, social conflicts, political discussions, climatic changes, and the pandemic make the front pages of all the newspapers. Under these circumstances, the covers of fashion magazines have started to reflect the real world rather than stylish fashion outfits. Editorial content has changed as well. Vogue UK, for example, dedicates more and more pages to anti-racism, viewpoints, and news. What is in store for the future of fashion photography?
Fashion Photography: Whereto?
In January 2020, Vogue Italia chose to publish illustrations instead of fashion photos. The magazine made an open statement in favor of sustainability and used illustrations for the issue’s cover and fashion editorial. Why spending so much money on photo sessions when you can use art? This wasn’t a singular example. Vogue US used illustrations for the July issue too and Vogue UK used landscape photographs and artworks for the August issue.
Alasdair McLellan, Vogue UK, August 2020
Did the pandemic cause this shift?
Was it only due to the pandemic? It’s possible, as summer fashion shows were called off, photo sessions were canceled, and traveling became almost impossible. However, the pandemic isn’t the only reason. More and more voices claim that the fashion industry has a heavy carbon footprint and promotes unhealthy habits and consumerism. As a result, fashion magazines are forced to publish more than fashion editorials, beauty products, and advertising. They need to reconnect with their audience at a deeper level and start caring about the environment, sustainability, eco-friendly products, and social issues.
Fashion photography won’t disappear but it will probably change. Instead of going to an exotic beach for a swimsuit photoshoot, you’ll probably go to a hospital to photograph real people at work. Instead of focusing on the latest fashion trends, fashion photography will be forced to become less commercial and more documentary. Portraits will get more attention, whether they are models or ordinary people. Using photographs that were taken for reasons other than fashion magazine cover won’t be such a surprise anymore. Why not using photos from a fashion show or street photos?
All these changes reflect in the way photographers work. Instead of having exorbitant budgets, sophisticated lights, and a clear story to tell, they will have to manage in unknown conditions and find inspiration on their own. They’ll be forced to be creative and experimental. Engaging with their subject and getting to know their story is a must-have when photographing non-professional models. It may be harder than expected but it’s definitely more exciting to watch.