Art versus commerce: The unending battle between fashion and commercial photography, and what parameters define these in their own right. Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that fashion photography is more about the overall photograph that creates and communicates the image of the persons involved in the project, rather than concentrate on (read advertise) individual pieces of embroidery. Unfortunately, most shoots featured in a lot of local fashion magazines seem to be intent on focusing on just that.
Simply by having a model smile and sell a garment by having a photograph that focuses on its individual aspects has always come under the arena of commercial photography whereas fashion photography is more than that. Having said that, there has always been and continues to be a decent amount of very good work coming out of the fashion photography arena but only in small pockets.
Local photographers seem to like the flavour of doing group shows, and after the 15X4 exhibition which saw the likes of Amean J., Arif Mahmood, Izdeyar Setna and Tapu Javeri photograph a set of 15 personalities comes the numerically-titled 188.8.131.52. exhibition; titled such because it includes eight photographers, on the eighth of the eighth month of the year 2008.
The participants of the exhibition incorporate almost every prominent photographer from the Karachi fraternity, which includes Amean J., Arif Mahmood, Izdeyar Setna, Kohi Marri, Rizwan-ul-Haq, Yousuf Bashir Qureshi, Shamyl Khuhro and Tapu Javeri. The concept: How does each photographer interpret fashion in his own way? The result: A brilliant combination of images that reflects not only diversity predominant in each of those styles but also individual thought behind them. Where there are some who have concentrated on the traditional medium of how fashion photography is perceived but played around with light and the emotion being communicated by the model’s body language, there are others who have chosen to have their image shrouded in metaphors.
Another feature prominent was how where one photographer, Arif Mahmood, chose to stick to the traditional medium of shooting on film and then (perhaps) altering it to suit his perception, you have the rest shot on digital but all used in very different ways. In short: Technology, its impact on photography and how it is used has also come into play here.
With Arif’s photo concentrating on the illusionary aspect of fashion where only a teasing hint of the model and outfit is visible, Rizwan’s contradictory image has the model covering her eyes despite fashion being a visual medium; Tapu, who I’ve always considered as the La Chapelle of Pakistan, has created an escapist fantasy out of his image; and Izdeyar choses to work on a post-modern image replete with strong silhouettes and so on.
Photography is a visual art and best left to the photographer to decide how the image should turn out. The exhibition which opened at the Commune Artistes’ Colony is a reflection of how fashion photography would be if photographers were allowed to experiment with their (fashion-related) projects.