My Voyage of Self Discovery
As a fashion photographer, one of the hardest things any photographer will ever have to do is to find his or her own style. In my earlier works I was very influenced by the people I worked for. Patrick Demarchelier for one – I found Peter Lindberg and Richard Avedon had influenced me the most.
In my formative years of fashion photography I had to teach myself the mechanics of lighting. To do so, I would pour through magazines and study the catch lights in the subject eyes. And then try to replicate the look in my early test shoots. This was the way I would teach myself, while honing the blade of my craft until I found my own voice and vision.
When scanning these images in the other night for an upcoming lecture I realized again, the greatest photographs you will make are the ones you make for yourself. Living in Milan, and armed with nothing but an all manual 35 mm camera fixed with a 50 mm lens and Tri-X film, I set out to do just that.
I learned early on that I preferred to create my images as I saw them through the viewfinder. I never cropped my photographs and the clients knew that because I made all my prints with the natural black boarder left by that frame of film. It showed me and my potential clients that I had the vision to capture exactly what I saw in the moment, and how I saw it. Finally, it showed I could tell a story early on without even so much as a make up artist or wardrobe stylist. It was just myself and the model, and often a last minute ‘let’s go shoot something.’
As is often the case when you are shooting for someone else, i.e.; a magazine, an ad agency etc. compromise is introduced and you lose much of your creative control. This ranges from the way you might light or shoot, even down to the final image selections.
If you find yourself getting to that point, it’s important to remember we still have to make a living with our chosen craft. So I would tell you as I tell all working photographers, have a personal project going that is yours and only yours. It may become a book one day or at least the beginnings of one. But most important, make it something that will feed your creative spirit and satisfy the hunger and passion you began with. (All images circa 1986 Milan, Italy © Jerry Avenaim Photography)