Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Perception is Everything

A few days ago, on the SuperShoots forum, a model posted a recent image she posed for and called it "fashion nude." (The thread has since been removed.)

I looked at the image (it didn't do much for me) and tried to imagine how it qualified as a fashion nude? I replied to the model's post: "Color me stupid but how is that a fashion nude?" I asked.

Okay. Maybe that wasn't the most tactful way to approach the subject. I'm a little blunt at times. What am I gonna do? I can't help it. I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way. (© Jessica Rabbit.)

Well, that sparked a lively forum debate on what might constitute a fashion nude and what defined "fashion." Some of the thread's participants kept focused on fashion as clothing and accessories. Rightfully, if also less than tactfully, the OP (original poster) advised everyone that, if they thought fashion was just about clothes, they really didn't know what they were talking about. "End of story," she added. (I guess the same folks who draw me draw others in a similar manner.)

To be sure, fashion isn't just about clothes although clothes are, commonly, examples of fashion.

The OP then posted other examples of "fashion nude" and referred people to certain fashion rags, like Zink and others, where nudity is sometimes employed in fashion photography.

As mentioned, this all got pretty lively and started taking on flame war dimensions. I'll admit, I didn't help matters out much. I continued participating in the thread. And I did so in a somewhat smart-ass way, posting "glamour nude" images along with my responses and proclaiming them "fashion nude" as well.

Then the photographer (of the image the OP had posted to kick-off the thread) jumped into the fray, more than a little defensively, and things really took a turn towards ugly.

While I make much of my living capturing beauty, I can do ugly, keep up with ugly, hang out within ugly's city limits and go, toe-to-toe, with the best (or should I say the worst?) of them... "them" being the ugliest of them, I mean. (It's a gift, what am I 'spose to do?)

So yeah, I took the bait.

In the end, the OP deleted her original post which deleted the entire thread.

But the whole ugly experience got me to thinking about labels and perception and context and here's what I think:

It doesn't matter if a picture resides within the usual and customary definition of fashion or anything else. It's like art and beauty and so many other things. It's in the eyes (perceptions) of the beholders. One person's fashion nude image is another person's average glam nude pic and still another person's porn. It's all got to do with context. And the context of almost any image can be manipulated, impacting viewers' perceptions, to represent almost anything. Almost any pretty girl pic I snap, for instance, with the addition, as an example, of a few words of text, a brand logo, or that it might be published in a certain magazine, will alter viewers' perceptions and, as a result, allow that image to represent something other than its original intent.

So sayeth the grand, high, exalted, mystic ruler of the Pretty Girl Shooter blog who will, in his next update, try to refrain from waxing photo-philosophically... or some facsimile of "waxing" and/or philosophy.

The gratuitous eye-candy is Jenna from a shoot last week. They're not fashion pics. They're not art. They're nothing special. They're just your basic, simple, assembly-line pretty girl pics.

Jenna captured with a Canon 5D and Tamron's most-excellent 28-75 f/2.8 zoom. ISO 100, f/8 @ 160th. Three Profoto Acute heads with the mainlight modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome and the kickers with small, shoot-thru umbrellas hanging off them. I messed around with Nik's stylized color filters when processing the images above. Don't know if I like the effect or not. But messin' about with such tools sometimes leads to new and effective techniques. And, of course, sometimes not.


Bill Giles said...

Let's see, it's fashion if she's not looking at the camera and glamour if she is, right?

Stephen Cupp said...

OK call me dense, but I thought fashion was all about clothes, jewelry, and what ever other accessories the model has. What would a fashion nude be if it didn't include those things?

BlankPhotog said...

Who defines the intent of an image? The photographer, the model, the client? The viewer?

My money's on the market.

Anonymous said...

Fashion is about perception, and being "with it and cool." Attitude baby! The image to make those statements doesn't necessarily need to have any clothes in it.

jimmyd said...


Okay. You're dense.

Just kidding. :-)

Certainly, most people associate fashion with clothes, jewelry and all that. But think about the word in a different context: Think about it as an adjective instead of a noun. Think about stuff that's fashionable.

Things that are fashionable exist, of course, in the world of clothing and clothing accessories. But ideas and social trends can be called fashion or fashionable. Styles of music and art pop in or out of fashion. A brand or logo can be associated with fashion in a general way, not just as it pertains to clothing and that stuff. The world of fashion, things that represent fashion, is so much more than just clothes and clothing accessories.

Frank Wise said...

And you never even mentioned that the image was so 'shopped, it almost looked like a sketch or painting

Anonymous said...

I think it has to do with the over all vibe of the photo, I for one admire the work of J. Stephen Hicks who is a glamour shooter too but his photos flirt a lot with the fashion style and in the end it has to do with the mood the photo gives, like your photos there is nudity but you find in them taste and elegance (lighting, styling, poses, expressions, etc.) and what's the purpose of fashion photography?: a way to portray human elegance in a photo -regardless of how skimpy or how long is the clothing the model uses-.

People sometimes tend to loose their head trying to fit everything in tiny boxes with labels "fashion", "glamour","(another label you can come with)" when many of us dabble in a crossover between those "styles", it doesn't matter in the end how we label it the public will give any label they want based in the bias they have (T&A obsessed guy, religious person, another photographer, etc.).

By the way Jimmy this time you have me intrigued with both of the gorgeous photos of beautiful Jenna, Do you have the 7" octa on a boom :|????or are you shooting with the octa behind?? :o

My best wishes
your friend


jimmyd said...


I'm shooting with the 7' Octa behind me, with my ass sitting on an apple box.

Eduardo said...

@Jimmy D: what are the odds :P.. I have apple boxes too and more often than not I use them as lil' chairs haha :) thanks for replying jimmy :)


Steven De Jong said...

I saw the start of that thread but didn't catch the ending, I did chuckle when you started posting.
My lens has not arrived yet, hopefully soon, need to try this new fashion nude thing...

Riley said...

Well, I predicted this blog entry. What do I win?

Ed Selby said...

I no longer participate in "hot threads" on forums since I'm usually one of the ones throwing gasoline on the fires (if not the one who lit the match).

Anyway, on a recent episode of the Bravo TV shot "Make Me a Supermodel", they did a shoot of fashion nudes. The models were nude with the exception of a fashionable accessory. I frequently see this kind of imagery in ads from Cosmo, to Zink, to the Adam & Eve catalog.

Fashion nudes? Yeah, sure.

Court Jester said...

OF COURSE (a little like 'in due course')

Before facebook Disabled me and my posts I had started a facebook Group called 'Nudes clothed and unclothed'
As with all things mortal - the Group survives, but i am gone...
Great Post Great Blog & oh so true "Header"