Tropical Holiday, Elegance Magazine, Kuala Lumpur 1991
Photography is in the first place about how something is photographed, not about what is photographed. It shows a personal vision on the subject. Photographs are ‘quotes out of their own context’, to use John Szarkowski’s words.
In my favorite pictures the context is clear. Things that are written about a picture – explanations of what it is you are looking at – however impressive they may be, come in second place. If a writer already has to adhere to: ‘Show, don’t tell’, what about photography – the creation of images – in which pictures have to be explained?
Despite of its possible illustrative powers, a picture that needs a separate leaflet to explain itself, cannot be seen as a universal means of communication, and makes a photograph ineffective. It indicates that it’s meant for a small, selected audience only, spectators who are familiar with the subject.
When in fashion photography the narrative only concerns the clothes the models are wearing – design, shape, color, availability – the pictures probably only appeal to people interested in fashion. To reach a wider audience, a realistic approach that focuses on the depicted persons themselves because of the emotion they evoke or the exceptional situation they’re in, close to what’s actually happening, is probably more interesting.
In that case models don’t have to pose, perform all kinds of gymnastics, or act like they’re engaged in something and look into the camera at the same time. They only have to do something real or show some emotion, which is not as easy as it sounds. Through that they will grab your attention, causing the spectator to identify with the subject and finally become interested in the clothes that are shown.
Excerpt from ‘Nothing is Real’, Chapter 4, Staging and Directing