“I still think there are a lot of very interesting and very talented photographers, but I think it’s very hard to see the good photos inside [all of the noise],” curator Olivier Saillard told FU during Paris fashion week, referring to the daily onslaught of visuals the average person is now subjected to via social media. He continued: “I think to make or to realize or to create [a] good [photograph] is probably to not create one,” he said with a laugh. Well, that’s just not the world we live in.
Many online-based enterprises now operate on a “feed the beast” mentality, and a platform like Instagram does so to an extreme degree. It’s birthed a whole new job market of “digital influencers,” changing not only the blogging game, but the modeling game as well. Like it or not, this is now a major part of the industry.
But does taking and posting pictures make one a photographer? And to that extent, does posing for pictures correspond to talent on the other side of the lens as well? These questions should be asked as more and more Instagram models are getting some pretty big photography opportunities.
Love magazine recently announced that it would be running a contest to find a cover model through social media, and that the finalists will be photographed by Kendall Jenner. The It girl, despite having an extremely popular online prescience, and a few years of professional modeling experience under her belt, has no known training in photography. Ditto for the Hadid sisters, who, as W magazine pointed out, have both recently picked up photography gigs for W (Bella, shooting her friends) and V magazine (Gigi, doing some fashion week reporting).
It seems that since digital cameras were invented, the idea that anyone can pick one up and become a photographer has been promoted and perpetuated. It’s an encouraging sentiment for armatures and enthusiasts, but let’s be real—it takes years of training and practice to be a pro. The frustration that comes from celebrities nabbing magazine jobs does not all boil down to them jumping the line, it also comes from knowing that they likely are not lighting their own sets, will have someone helping them adjust the focus, and will not sit with the retoucher to go over the raw images. And, no, despite what Apple’s most recent ad campaigns would like you to believe, shooting on your phone and using Instagram editing options is just not the same as what the pros do.
This It girl-turned-photographer phenomenon can be tied into the Vogue editors’ recent rant about fashion bloggers. It is indeed frustrating to have years of education and experience, and to climb that career ladder, only to be lumped in with a group of people that have seemingly skyrocketed to the top without paying their dues.
To be completely fair (and not to cause yet another “insiders vs. outsiders” brouhaha), amateur does not equate to untalented. Many models over the years have turned to photography, as far back as Lee Miller, once the muse of Man Ray, who became Vogue’s war correspondent in the 1940s with her images of cities in ruin. Ellen von Unwerth and Sarah Moon both modeled before picking up cameras, and more recently, both Helena Christensen and Daria Werbowy have explored the medium.
Jenner and the Hadids (great band name, incidentally), have been on sets for a few years now, and have worked with some of the best fashion photographers in the world. There is no way they haven’t picked up some tips on how things work. And for all we know, they could be consistently going the extra mile, asking questions and seeking advice. Additionally, their social media experience should not be discounted—social media is increasingly important in marketing. And it’s not as easy as one believes to create an online following, let alone one that engages its audience and can turn a profit.
Did these ladies get their recent shutterbug gigs because of their fame? Yes. But are they right for the job? They might just be.