Culture

So You Want To Be a Fashion Photographer

Thomas Werner discusses his new tome, The Fashion Image, launched with a little help from Mario Sorrenti

“Fashion photography often reflects who we are,” Thomas Werner mused while discussing his new guide for young photographers, The Fashion Image: Planning and Producing Fashion Photographs and Films. For the author (currently an assistant professor of photography at Parsons, formerly a photography consultant for Coach), fashion—and subsequently, fashion images—are inherently tied to culture. “We frequently dismiss the ways in which fashion pushes our boundaries, and also takes [a message] to a broad audience,” he said. “Fashion has the power to reach millions of people and address social issues, for many people define, and for other people reflect who we are, and at least ask you to question.”

Featuring work from a number of artists (including Richard Avedon, Inez & Vinoodh, and Mario Sorrenti), The Fashion Image is a comprehensive introduction to the industry. It explains not only the job of being a photographer (including building a creative team and what to expect from clients), but also the history of both the medium and fashion itself. “I think that’s important to understand: just the social context of fashion and its importance in our culture,” Werner explained. “It defines many of the eras in which it exists, and defines who we are, our morals, our technology. And when you view it through that lens, it becomes more substantive. So it gives the image-maker a context through which to view the rest of the book.”

Recently, to support the tome’s launch, Werner moderated a talk at Parsons with Sorrenti, in which he invited the storied photographer to discuss his career for an audience of industry professionals and students.

“He called up our office, and he said ‘we’re doing this book, would you be interested in giving us a print—giving us a picture for the book?” Sorrenti told FU after the event. “We continued speaking, and he asked me if I would be open to doing this talk today, and I thought it would be great—always happy to talk to students, and to help students out.”

The conversation ranged from Sorrenti’s early days of couch surfing with Kate Moss (before the Calvin Klein “Obsession” campaign that launched both their careers), to balancing art with commerce, to the evolving nature of his job in the digital age.

While many are wringing their hands in worry over the future of print media, Werner simply sees it going in a new direction, with niche audiences and more independent publications. If anything, he believes the digital world has created an array of new opportunities for those just entering the industry.

“The online space has only helped. And in terms of younger photographers, I have people who have graduated from Parsons who are either doing e-commerce, or some shoot just social media,” he explained. “If they can put together three or more clients like that, it’s a living. You don’t need to be an influencer—there are a lot of ways to monetize or create in an online space.”

The Fashion Image is available now from Bloomsbury Publishing.

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