Terry Richardson is probably not someone you should aspire to be (a quick Google search of “terry richardson scandal” should clue you in). He’s actually a really good photographer, though. His bright, overexposed photos might make you disagree, but hear me out: amateur is in (cue Heidi Klum saying, “One day you’re in and the next day you’re out”). More and more editorials in Vogue and Nylon and even tween magazines are giving up the crisp, perfectly lit studio shots for more one-shot-and-you’re-done kind of look. The yellowish tint and the washed out photos are becoming the norm: if you need an example, check out Marc Jacob’s perfume ad “Daisy.”
We can see it more and more in the work of Juergen Teller and Ellen Von Unwerth (both of which produce NSFW images, so be warned now). It’s almost mirroring analog photography, and to be honest, some is actually analog, where the photo might turn out with a purplish tint or slightly over-exposed or under-exposed. As anyone who has lived in the days of analog photography (not me), we can understand that photography does what it wants and we have to accept it or not. It’s the nature of the film beast. It’s the emulation of the techniques of olden days that captures the readers. We are desensitized to the beautiful model with beautiful lighting in a beautiful location doing beautiful things. We aren’t used to seeing a model in a field, in a room, in everyday surroundings, with a flash lighting every object and making harsh light in some areas and deep shadows in others, or even with a toy look. It’s almost like a regular person took the photo, but maybe with a little more experience than just pressing a button. I’d like to think so.
Designers are just not into the beautifully composed photos anymore: that’s for like, Better Homes and Gardens and Reader’s Digest. I guess it lends to the subversive advertising of nowadays: less and less is sticking with the reader, so images need to be out of the ordinary to garner any attention beyond a snicker at the haute couture and how I would never wear that in public. I once took a photo of a friend for my portfolio, and I thought, “I’m just going to use flash because I have nothing left to lose,” and I shot my flash straight at my subject during bright daylight. If you have to know one thing about photography for the rest of your life, it’s that flash during bright daylight is a big no-no. Like, you just don’t do that. It washes out the subject and makes the foreground brighter than the background, and completely loses the detail in the person’s face. When I clicked on the image and it appeared on my camera screen, I was pleasantly shocked. While the photo probably made the Camera Greats roll in their graves, it stood out. I remembered it. I captured that image months ago. I can still remember the minor details of the photo. I can’t tell you what the other photos looked like, but I can tell you how the model’s face was angled and how bright the photo was overexposed.
That’s the good thing. Photos are becoming more creative. While it’s vitally important to still possess the knowledge to take a classically beautiful photograph, it isn’t the only industry standard anymore. It’s creating this new market of if you have an idea and you can implement it then go for it. I remember watching this web series, “Model Files” and the lead character, Preston, was directing a photo-shoot and he humorously picked someone off the street in Times Square because “amateur is in.” I like that. It may piss some people off (shout out to the photographers before who paved the way for me to completely ignore their warnings of how a photo should be) but it’s interesting. It’s eye-catching. And I think that’s what a good photograph should be.
Banner Image Credit: Ellen Von Unwerth