Behind the Mirror

I love shooting fashion. What we wear and how we choose to present ourselves is one of the most complex of human endeavors. From the intricacies and complications of design, to the vagaries of changing purpose and taste, to the individual desire to express oneself in a particular manner to both familiars and to strangers, fashion is fascinating.

Shooting fashion is about 180 degrees from the documentary style photography I usually do. Shooting on the street, the observer is presented with the choices others have already made, and has no role in modifying either their presentation or location. With street photography, you get what you get. 

Fashion photography is contrived. The studio is an unnatural place to be, and people make different choices when they know they are going to be photographed. The subject is also contrived, in that it may not be the person in the clothes, but the clothes themselves, or the jewelry, or some other object. The placement of the model, the lighting, the mood and the moments captured are all unnatural to varying degrees. Because all these concerns (and more!) require active attention and balance, fashion photography is extremely difficult.

What I strive for in all the photography I do is to capture the moments between the moments: the entre les temps. I avoid posing (to the point of actively discouraging it) and instead try to help my subjects to express themselves within the context in which they find themselves—even if that context is a bit contrived. One of the best opportunities to capture those rare moments isn't in the studio at all: it's when the subject is behind the mirror.

The arc of fashion is roughly: a mood or choice -> a decision about self-presentation -> the selection of the fashion that will achieve the mood or choice -> the preparation of the self -> the presentation of the self

It's the penultimate phase that's the rarest to see, and often the most revealing. It's the transformative phase, when a person goes from a private state to being in public view. It's delicate and intimate, and often makes for lovely images. 

More than anything, though, it's a reminder that great moments happen all the time if you're looking for them. It's easy to focus on the "purpose" of a photoshoot, or an event, or your presence at a place, but by predefining that moment it's easy to miss the other goings-on. No matter why you're shooting, keep your eyes open and look for the entre les temps. You won't be disappointed in the moments between the moments.