"Nonstop imagery is our surround, but when it comes to remembering, the photograph has the deeper bite....
In an era of information overload, the photograph..is like a quotation, or a maxim or proverb."
(Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others 2003)

28 September, 2009

Cowgirls in Corsets: Why the Picture Desk loves the Catwalk Shows:

So farewell then, London Fashion Week. The weekend papers made the very most of the last few gobbets of gossip –
i.a: "Doyenne Anna Wintour ignores wannabe Alexa Chung horror";
"Spell-binding Emma “Hermione” Watson all grown up now”

Meanwhile, the front pages featured the last set of opportunistic images before the entire circus packed its natty bondage ankle boots into their custom-made Louis Vuitton trunks and hot-footed it (Business Class, natch) to Milan.

Breaking news so far from the Italian shows?
“Armani explores the future with a “plastic fantastic” theme”
“Raunchy cowgirls in denim corsets at Dolce & Gabbana”
Sex sells at Emilio Pucci

Sex sells? Well, hold the front page. No doubt about it: fashion certainly sells. Picture editors have long been grateful for the bi-annual race around the globe, covering the collections. Unsurprisingly, heel heights, hem lines and super models make for a more appealing front page than the usual parade of grumpy, grubby suited politicos, sombre flag-draped coffins or sundry other sobering trappings of the War on Terror or the global economic crisis.

Much as the advent of colour television transformed the sport of snooker, fashion coverage in so-called serious newspapers started in earnest in the early 1990s, when the first full colour imaging technology began to transform the Front Page. We bid a thankful farewell to tiresome inky fingers but (imho) we also (pace The Independent) lost the bold statement of the impossibly eloquent monochrome news photograph.

Now fashion coverage is considered de rigueur for the most earnest of organs. During my years at the Guardian, the Women’s Page stalwarts would not have considered the catwalks a subject worthy of serious coverage. I do remember one brave Features Desk intern suggesting a fashion-related feature in conference one morning - to audible sniggers. To her credit, she stuck to her guns and, unlike fashion-phobics such as myself, is now still fully and lucratively employed. Only last week, I noted her byline above a piece explaining how to wear the Breton trends, elbow cages, sequins and snakeskin details which apparently “emerged” in London last week.

Now, fashion coverage appears to be a Guardian staple with this breathless round-up pretty much par for the course. If you can’t get enough from the paper or website, you can even follow Milan Fashion Week live as Observer fashionista Helen Seamons tweets live from the Front Row (hashtag #MFW)

Alongside such London Fashion Week scoops as the surprise arrival of Victoria Beckham, I was heartened to see some serious debate triggered by the audacious decision of Canadian designer Mark Fast to use size 12 and size 14 catwalk models. The heart, however, did sink to read that this brave move had prompted Fast’s stylist to resign.

I did find myself last week - albeit briefly - finding rather more respect than I have had to date for Kate Moss, Claudia Schiffer, Linda ($10,000 a day) Evangelista et al. I spent an excruciating two hours having my own photograph taken for a rare appearance as the subject and not the writer of a newspaper article. The photographer John Lawrence was charming, professional and exceptionally patient - as I gurned and grimaced in a bid to convince him that the dogs were far more photogenic than their reluctant owner. Everyone who has seen the piece seems to agree..

Before I sign off, I wanted to thank all this blog's readers - you know who you are! - for their extraordinary patience while this forum became precariously over-weighted with posts about social media and the real time web. I have now transferred these to the new Media140 team blog here. This forum will now return to its main, niche but nice, photo-journalism and fine art theme. To that end, I will also be confining my more personal postings - those cheery themes of elder abuse, assisted suicide, musings on mourning et al to a new forum at: ahappierending.blogspot.com. I do hope you will check it out some time.