Fashion photography on center stage as art

Associated Press
Published December 4, 2007

MIAMI BEACH - In Miles Aldridge's photograph The Pure Wonder, gold and jewels gleam around a blond's neck as she raises caviar to her pink mouth with a manicured finger.

The jewelry and that season's shade of hot pink for lips and nails were likely the focus of the image when it appeared in an Italian Vogue fashion spread.

But a new exhibit views that photograph and others shot for editorial spreads and magazine ads as art - not just devices to show off products.

More than 200 images from 20 photographers are on display around the pool at the Doubletree Surfcomber Hotel, temporarily replacing some of South Beach's usual sunbathing beauties. The exhibit, "In Fashion '07," coincides with the annual contemporary art fair Art Basel Miami Beach.

Fashion photography should be respected as an art form created under restrictions, said the exhibit's curator, Marion de Beaupre.

Designers or magazine editors can issue instructions for the models' hair and makeup, the clothes they wear and whether the spread will be shot in black and white or color.

Still, the photographers bringing their own approaches, influences and visions. "It's a real talent, it's a real art, like a painting or sculpture," said Francois Trabelsi of Miami Beach Art Photo Expo, which organized the exhibit.

Most of the images were published in magazines. One German photographer, Christiane Draffehn, is showing personal work: surreal images of figures encountering oversized plants, miniaturized furniture or angry starfish.

Unlike most magazine covers, famous faces are largely absent from In Fashion '07. The clothes aren't the point, either. Instead it's about the whole package and the emotions and thoughts it evokes.

Aldridge calls his fashion assignments "stories." By the time he began his career in fashion photography, he had seen plenty of beautiful women extolling a luxurious lifestyle. His contributions to In Fashion '07 - most published in Italian Vogue - feature glamorously dressed women in unguarded moments.