Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Backstage at Helmut Lang

On Day Two of Fashion Week I got the chance to shoot backstage at Helmut Lang. These are my photos from that event. I chose to present them in black and white for one simple reason: that has become the convention on street style websites. You know you've entered into backstage territory when full color gives way to grayscale. So why are backstage photos so often presented in black and white? I think there are essentially three reasons: 1) Black and white is steeped in a history of photojournalism, and it lends an apparent weight of authenticity to backstage photographs; 2) there is something kind of romantic about backstage photos that black and white helps enhance. The prosaic reality of models getting made up and dressed is thus transformed into a Felliniesque fairy tale full of rising starlets and fading supermodels; and 3) the lighting backstage is typically terrible. Colors look faded. Skin tones look dead. And if you're not shooting with a flash (as I wasn't), you have to revert to a high ISO that gives the photos a grainy look. Black and white makes those flaws into an asset.The grain looks intentional, the harsh lighting cinematic.

I liked shooting backstage, and I hope I get a chance to do so again. You get a very different impression of the fashion industry than you do out on the streets. Backstage you see the models in their various stages of becoming. You see them morph from girls into mannequins. And you see how ordinary and mundane their lives are, no matter how glamorous they seem from the outside. Models read books backstage, sneak in a quick meal. They sit still for an often uncomfortably long time while make-up artists and hairstylists convert them into someone else's vision of beauty. They often look flat-out bored backstage. And yet that boredom, captured in stark black and white, reads as much more literary, like ennui or existential angst. 


  1. These are some fantastic shots. With on the street photos, I can very easily tell or guess who or what a photo belongs to, but it seems that you abandoned your trade go-to moves for a more standard presentation. I mean to say that you succeeded to the point that these rank among the very best of the industry standard.

  2. @simbarashe wow! thanks, man. that's quite a compliment.

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  4. These are truly gorgeous photos, especially the last three. Black and white will always be my preference for portraits, as it removes all other distractions and leaves the subject's face as the focus of interest.


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