In the 1990’s realistic themes and portrayals of people became prominent in fashion photography. According to Burbach, this shift in aesthetics was relevant to the close relationship between fashion and art photography, and the promotion of a realistic representation of the human condition found throughout post-modernist media. Burbach also reiterates the idea that the fashion world will periodically attempt to shed its zealously commercial image (as seen within the glamorous and unrealistic standards of the 1980’s), and will consequentially enter into the realm of art. (i)
One of the more contemporary examples of this is the the influence of punk street style in photojournalism. In 1978 Vogue published Not Another Teen Punk Book, which featured staged portraits of punks in London and inspired the avant garde magazine i.D. in 1980. i.D. showcased people spotted and photographed on the street rather than models in staged settings, shifting focus onto ‘fashionable’ ordinary people. This idea of living a fashionable lifestyle was presented as more democratic (although this is not necessarily the case when one considers the process, selection and production) and promoted a refreshing sense of a realism, devoid of the ‘superhuman’ supermodel and paved the way for a new way of seeing.
This new found style of realism in the 1990’s became deliberately ‘anti-glamour’; a rejection of the idealisms of beauty, gendered binaries, class and luxury so heavily prevalent within 1980s commercial photography. This new construction was critiqued for the artlessness, the unstaged and the semi-conscious nature, which was often seen as superficial and tasteless. The major photographers of the time, such as Corrine Day, Juergen Teller and Nan Goldin, were critiqued for presenting ‘unstaged’ works, and later associated with the promotion of “Heroin Chic” idealisms. These kneejerk criticisms were unsurprising for the proponents of ‘anti-glamour’, coming as they were from critics blind to the impetus of the images. They therefore continued what they saw as a rational and logical progression into representing beauty, that attempted to act as an alternative to the dogma habitually featured in magazines. (ii)
Corrine Day was one of the first to significantly impact this zeitgeist, with The Third Summer Of Love series shown in The Face in 1990. The series presented model Kate Moss as a young frivolous girl in simple and relaxed clothing, and although near nude in some images, it wasn’t staged in an overtly sexualised way nor was it attempting to reference a form of high art. The lack of grooming; presence of playful gestures; and unaffected poses created an intimate and sincere moment.
The use of photographic techniques and the voyeuristic friendship that Day and Moss shared resulted in this realistic and congenial product that bordered art documentation and fashion photography. From this gracious and optimistic innocence Day’s style makes a U-turn for harsher realities, heavily focusing on themes of loneliness and feelings of urban isolation. In her 1993 Vogue series Under Exposure, Moss is photographed alone, half dressed in a marred and used apartment. Leaning towards a much more serious narrative, there are connotations of poverty, inadequacy alienation and discontent. A grim reality is apparent, insinuating an awkwardness and disdain for youth. A clear juxtaposition is made when compared to the glossy glamour still prevalent in Vogue, even more so when related back to an institutional agenda. Although fashion photography is generally concerned with creating fantastical ideals to aspire to, documentary and snapshot style photography challenged situational and staged practices/productions. In its voyeuristic veracity however, these images may perpetuate this alienation and unattainable lifestyle by promoting themselves as reality when they are situational to the photographer and subject. (iii) Although the narrative of these images may be discomforting, and their context may confuse their intention, this should not devalue the artistry nor idealisms promoted.
Brubach, H. 1997, ‘Beyond Shocking’. New York Times Magazine, no.24 pp.24, JSTOR, viewed 16 August 2014
Fashion and Power, (n.d.). Blogspot, viewed 16 August 2014,
Kismaric, S, & Respini, E 2008, ‘Fashioning Fiction in Photography Since 1990’, Fashion As Photograph: Viewing and Reviewing Images of Fashion, pp.29-45, JSTOR, viewed 15 August 2014,