Anticipation! A single word frames every part of my being on this night and this event. I arrive with single-minded purposes and vigor only to notice the same energy in my contemporaries and counterparts. We see the long lines of the guests stretch down the street. Clearly visible is all of the emotion and anticipation emanating from the crowd.
What is it you ask? Why it’s the beginning of the DSquared2 Fall-Winter fashion show at Milano Fashion Week 2008/2009!
But my well of excitement stems from a different source. While everyone else is talking about fashion trends, fabrics and VIP guests, my single point of focus is getting the shot! Since I'm a fashion photographer and I see the entire evening in a completely different perspective than everyone else. I’m wondering what surprises the Design House has in store for me this evening. What is the show’s design concept? What type of hair and makeup is going on backstage? Will I capture a memorable moment there or under the lights? And finally for me, will there be any Haute Couture? I don’t know any fashion photographer who doesn’t like to shoot high fashion. Given the choice, this is all I would shoot.
My night commences before any of the guests arrive. I arrive early to tape off my area in the photographer’s pit at the end of the runway. At front row center, I have the best seat in the house as the models strut down the catwalk. Area secured, I immediately put together camera gear and rush backstage in anticipation of the night’s activities.
I’m not looking for the routine shot, but one with feeling, warmth, and attitude. I want to blend into the background unnoticed until the right moment appears, then pounce out like a predator to capture the shot.
Once security checks my credentials, I slip in unnoticed by the models and watch the organized chaos of the evening. It’s like this at every major fashion show. It’s truly amazing to watch. That it all comes together is no small undertaking, because it’s like trying to herd and corral cats. You have teams of models, hair stylists, makeup artists, stylists, and dressers. The designer is walking among the flock giving directions, like the conductor of an orchestra at the symphony. I watch as a model comes running into the room late and out of breath and a team of people descend upon her. There are no less than five people working on this one model at the same time in an effort to get her ready.
And so I shoot… I shoot the catwalk rehearsals, the hair, the makeup, the styling and even the team of five, as they descend upon that one late model. There is always a model who is invariably late. Someone else brings a bull dog, for good luck I suppose and I shoot the dog too as he stands in the food line waiting for a morsel to be dropped.
But now the ladies are lining up, and the show is about to begin so I rush out front to the photographers pit to changes lenses, change camera settings, and to break out the monopod for stability if the low light conditions warrant its use.
There’s a sea of photographers now, because 200-300 photographers cover Fashion Week. We’re all crammed together and ready to shoot as the lights go down low and the show commences. The majority, if not all of us, have our cameras set up in “AI Servo” mode to take continuous bursts of the moving models as they glide towards us.
The lights come up, my finger is poised on the shutter button and I ready myself and zoom the camera down the catwalk. As the first model appears, I fire, ready to make camera adjustments in a moment’s notice, based upon the model’s outfit, her walk, and my feelings.
It’s all about the image, as you know. How I capture the model is all about the feeling I have at the time I press the shutter button. I have to be able to react to the outfits that emerge on the catwalk, often without any prior knowledge of what they might look like so there are few precious moments to decide, because she’s walking straight ahead and the next model is hot on her heels.
I try to take as many different types of shots as possible. I tend to shoot a mix of artistic angles, which I feel are more interesting, as well as the standard straight shots to give the editors more variety and maximum flexibility. If shooting for the major magazines you tend to have to be dead center in the pack, but backstage is a whole other story, and it’s a modern marvel at that, with all the people running around. The models generally don’t mind you taking shots as long as they have their clothes on. It’s just when they’re changing that they generally frown upon the behavior.
Shooting Fashion Week requires preparation and forethought, because it’s really like organized chaos, especially when you’re shooting up to eight shows on any given day, in several different venues. From finishing a shoot, to fighting your way out of the venue, to downloading images to computer, to getting to the next show can take 10 minutes if the shows are in the convention center, or 30-plus minutes if the show is in an outside venue. There’s no way to attend all 95 fashion shows, so you have to decide which ones are most important for your assignment.
When all is said and done, I shot 48 out of 95 fashions shows and took well over 15,000 images, the best of which can be seen on my portfolio page at http://www.map6.com/.