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Elizabeth Landers | Campus Chic Report

Fashion photography

Published: Monday, November 19, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 08:11

Perhaps one of the most glamorous products of fashion, easily disseminated to far corners of the globe, is fashion photography. Major magazines with deep pockets like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar have travelled the world, shooting editorials in Peru or along the Great Wall of China. The idea of going on−location inspires envy as copy editors and stylists, used to working in the confines of a metropolitan area, dream of exotic spots and a little relaxation. The result: richly textured shots with a local, authentic flavor. You can’t fake that. Unfortunately, however, this is not the norm for most fashion shoots, whether they are editorial or commercial. Oftentimes, the main components required of a fashion shoot are a lot of stamina and long 12−hour days on your feet to create the perfect Target advertisement or Ralph Lauren perfume ad.

This is exactly what the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston wanted to show when it organized two fashion photography demonstrations earlier this month. Local artist Tracy Aiguier has been shooting fashion−based photography for more than 20 years and is a staff member of the School of Fashion Design in Boston. This past Wednesday evening, Aiguier recreated the studio setting of a fashion shoot and walked the public through the creative process. With the audience formally seated to her left and a glass wall to her right, Aiguier made the staged scenario interactive for passersby in the museum as well as those who wanted a step−by−step demonstration.

“My M.O. is to keep it simple,” said Aiguier, as she watched the finishing makeup touches being applied to the model, a young woman from the Dynasty Modeling agency. “I prefer to build up the shoot as opposed to eliminating from it.”

As the smell of hairspray hung in the air, Aiguier explained the lighting and backdrop set−up, as well as the exact qualities of her Nikon camera, which she joked was “obsolete as soon as [she] bought it.” There was no stylist on set, which subtly affirmed the amateur setting. The model zipped into a red columnar gown made by a local Boston designer that screamed Zac Posen with its Hollywood glamour, paneling and fishtail detailing in the back. Aiguier began snapping away, talking out loud in a stream of conscious manner as she worked.

In photo shoots that I have previously worked for website product shots, editorial covers and lookbooks, there was always a certain rushed urgency. Especially when a brand is shooting product shots, the day can drag on forever, as each perfect frame needs to highlight the flattering qualities of the clothes and each piece must be wrinkle−free and smooth. Models get tired and even faint — yes, I’ve heard of this happening a few times — the lighting gets overheated and the photographer becomes more demanding with time.

Though I only stayed to watch the presentation for about 30 minutes, I do wish that the model had spoken about the tricks of her trade. During the shoot, Aiguier gave her instructions and an assistant with a blow dryer gave artificial oomph to the model’s hair and dress hem. Typically, the better the model, the less direction a photographer needs to give them. Awareness of limbs, subtle movement and eye intensity translates to stronger photographs. Modeling, though glamorous, is often written off as an easy job fit for someone with a pretty face. Talking about the model’s role in a shoot would have added an interesting second perspective.

Regardless, the audience was completely entranced. Aiguier’s interactive style opened the lens of fashion photography and in a sense, unraveled some of the spin. Mario Testino may conceive the sexiest images today, but some of us want to know how those came about.

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Elizabeth Landers is a senior majoring in political science. She can be reached at Elizabeth.Landers@tufts.edu.

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