Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Tiny Clarification

Just wanted to clarify my comments on fashion design and fashion photography: I'm for both.

Still, I think commercial work, advertising and that sort of thing is not -- despite a lot of claims made to the contrary, some by very fine thinkers -- the art of our time. I've studied the history of advertising and where photography fits into it, and taught classes where I've looked deeply at persuasion and the use of art, and I just don't agree that future art historians will feel fashion ads and political commercials mark the height of our era's art. They'll be studied as significant, as saying a lot about us, and as often pushing technique and style forward. Still, I don't think that type of work will be seen as the best of our time.

There's a fine line, of course, especially with the best work in those fields. Elliott Erwitt's portfolio mixes both "pure" street photography -- where a situation was found by chance and prepared luck -- with his advertising work, including images that are set up. That's fine.

Yet I'm adamant that there's a distinction -- that fashion designers can be brilliant, important and worth admiring, but that they don't address the same concerns as art. As well, while I like and admire fashion photographers -- and I think there's no reason someone can't be one of our best artists and shoot fashion too -- I don't think the boundaries and goals of the field allow exploration of the concerns of art.

Sometimes the point is to sell shoes.

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