Fashion, Opinions

Will Fashion Photography survive the Coronavirus?

words by: Natasha Marsh
Jan 25, 2021

Fashion photography used to be about escapism. Photographers would take pictures of women for magazines like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Instyle and create illusions about elitism, travel, luxury and lust. Today’s fashion images capture gender roles, power and politics.


Although there are many team members involved in outfitting the photoshoot, a fashion image is hardly about the clothes – specifically because few can afford them but are drawn to the fantasy. With the pandemic, many industries including fashion had to step back and readjust. Confessions of overconsumption, non-ethical procedures towards garment workers and a call for transparency in sustainable claims have all yielded to closures of brands and magazines. Which begs the question: can fashion photography survive Coronavirus?


It’s important to note that fashion photography was declining and shifting long before the pandemic. With the digital boom and the social media rise, large scale productions quickly went from week-long ordeals to a couple days. Budgets were slashed and teams were asked to wear a lot more hats. It started to get particularly bad for photographers around 2018 when big names like Mario Testino and Bruce Weber were accused of sexual harassment and assault.


COVID-19 has only acceleration the decline. And it’s getting harder and harder to normalize a $1 million dollar watch or a Valentino gown when people are unemployed, poor and not given similar opportunities. Brands and magazines who are producing extravagant, fantasy content are being shamed and accused of being tone-deaf. In today’s day and age, quality of a photograph has been downplayed with 10 to 20 second TikTokers doing something obnoxious or interesting recorded on their phones. It’s turned the younger generations into their own personal photographers.


But fashion photography is not dead, it’s just receiving a facelift lead by image-makers like 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, who photographed BeyoncĂ© for Vogue in 2018 or Quil Lemons, who photographed Spike Lee for Variety working to make everyday Black people the new fantasy.