To Capture That Right LookIf fashion were about just clothes, there wouldn't be all those fancy fashion shows and magazine spreads. Fashion is often, in fact, rather abstract. It means the clothes we wear allude rather elusively to a certain mood or attitude. Often the clothes themselves don't mean much until some kind of styling is added. A pair of plain old jeans is just a pair of plain old jeans until it is made to look out of the ordinary.
Clothes are mere tools in the creation of a "fashionable" image, which requires attention to additional elements of creation of mood, such as the model and the background. A photograph can capture merely the fashion "look," but the art of the photographer creates the image. Depending on how he or she approaches the subject, a pair of jeans becomes sexy, chic or dangerous.
The breathtaking or (to others) disturbing images that characterize fashion advertising and magazines are doing what is described in the industry as "selling creativity." Those with the ability to make powerful images and succeed in the business are highly in demand and have almost immeasurable power － the power to read the demands of the moment and the whims of the contemporary consumer.
"I's" (pronounced as "eyes") is the first book of Korean fashion photography to be released. The large portfolio (37 x 27 centimeters), a collective production by 18 fashion photographers from the Korea Fashion Photographer Association, offers a comprehensive overview of the most current Korean photography and fashion trends. Names like Cho Nam-ryong, Choi Keum-hwa, Jean-Louis Wolff, Zo Sun-hi, Kim Woo-young and Kim Yong-ho have already reached celebrity status on the Korean fashion scene, and their works are familiar to avid readers of mainstream fashion magazines in Korea.
The "mook" (Korean jargon for a magazine-cum-book, i.e., a journal published only sporadically) is comprised of photographs in loose-leaf form. The first is a stark, simple black-and-white photograph of an unidentified stretch of ocean, followed by a melancholy portrait of the popular Korean actor, Won Bin. Next is a blown-up image of a white flower, which only upon close scrutiny reveals itself as artificial. The works by some photographers are of actual people or scenes while others are are conceptualizations. A beautiful woman sheds tear drops that are revealed to be crystal beads on closer examination. An extremely well-dressed model is portrayed in the guise of a thief. Part of a flawless female face is blurred by computer graphics. A young model is naked to convey a sense of innocence. Thread by thread, the fine details of a sweater are removed to reveal a curvaceous body.
Some photographs appear to be the result of the photographer being on the spot to capture a certain scene. The startling depiction in aesthetic terms of the photographers' subject matter, whether it be a person, object or scenery, conveys a world view, which in turn is derived from the gamut of contemporary life. As a body of work, this collection represents a concerted effort to portray images that find resonance in a contemporary audience.
The most successful fashion photographers are those who can accurately "read" the times in which we live. Thus in fashion photography, the key to relevance is versatility. The photographer seeks to deliver a message in abstract images through the mechanics of photography. While conveying a given concept or attitude, the photographer must often reveal aspects of current fashion trends, such as the silhouette of the season, the tone of make-up, the particular design of shoe heels. In the case of a particular store, fashion photos are taken and selected to make merchandise so portrayed attractive to its customers. The photos are also intended to create the mood a store wishes to be associated with.
This is no small task. The fashion photographer must achieve harmony between the complicated elements of model, make-up, setting, mood and expression. Furthermore, he or she must often pick the right moment when all these elements align to create the right mood within a split second.
The photographs often break free from commercial formulae to the arena of experimentation. In such cases, one senses the desire of the photographers to pursue creative freedom.
"I's" was created to clarify a misconception about fashion photography in Korea. Fashion photography is not all about promoting brand names. Both photography and fashion can be valid forms of art. They may stimulate, inspire and even absorb elements of, or mutate into other forms of art. The photographers contributing to "I's" want to declare fashion photography an independent art form and a clear medium through which to express their creative impulses, perceptions and imagination, while defining the identity of Korean fashion and photography. They hope that the book can offer inspiration and an analysis of current fashion culture and trends within the industry to its professionals and students who have so far had to rely on imported books.
The first issue of "I's" (Gimm-young Publishers, Inc.) is available in major bookstores in Korea for 18,000 won ($13). For more information in English, contact Lim Hee-keun at 02-745-4823, extension 305.
by Ines Cho