School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “Click Chic: The Fine Art of Fashion Photography,” an exhibition documenting the vitality of fashion photography as a vehicle for creative expression, formal experimentation and social commentary. On view will be nearly 50 images by six emerging and established photographers based in New York who have created distinctive bodies of work in fashion: Roderick Angle, Guy Aroch, Maki Kawakita, Ryan Michael Kelly, Chiun-Kai Shih and Sarah Silver. With cultural reference points as rich and varied as Art Nouveau, Buddhism, film noir, modern dance and Japanese Kabuki theater, they have made fashion photography their primary practice, applying a conceptual and formal rigor traditionally associated with fine art.
“Because they’re originally conceived and created to appear in magazines and advertisements, fashion photographs are often considered disposable,” said exhibition curator Dan Halm. “I’m hoping to change that by highlighting some exceptional images that hold their own as works of art.”
Fashion has been fertile ground for innovative photography for decades, but the lines between fine art and commercial photography have blurred in recent years as more and more photographers have found an outlet in both realms. The 1990s saw a marked increase in advertising and editorial work by art-world mainstays like Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin. “Click Chic” considers a group of formally-trained photographers who came of age since the 1990s and have worked mainly on commission for clients in the fashion industry.
The exhibition includes a selection of never-before-seen photographs created as personal work as well as images that have appeared in editorial features and advertising campaigns around the world. Both bodies of work engage the medium’s history and reflect contemporary developments in landscape, portraiture and still life photography.
All six photographers in the exhibition are alumni of SVA, where the undergraduate and graduate curricula integrate photographic genres, identities and ambitions, removing the traditional barriers between “artistic” and “commercial” photography.
Roderick Angle (BFA 1994 Photography) moved into photography from performing on the experimental music scene by incorporating visuals into concerts. The onetime protégé of David LaChapelle went on to photograph David Byrne, Luscious Jackson and Afrika Bambaataa, has shot for Pepe Jeans, Sony and Target, and has been published in Black Book, Surface, Details and Spin.
Guy Aroch (BFA 1993 Photography) has photographed some of the most recognized faces of our time for fashion, beauty and celebrity portraits. With clients like H&M, Sonia Rykiel, French Elle, L’Oréal, Esprit, Jean Louis David, Bloomingdale’s, Kenneth Cole, GQ, Interview, Nylon and The New York Times, he divides his time between New York City and Paris.
Born in Japan and schooled in Kabuki theater and traditional Ikebana flower arrangement, Maki Kawakita (MFA 2002 Photography, Video and Related Media) photographs fashion as well as pop-culture icons like Beyoncé, Paris Hilton and Missy Elliott. “Shakespeare said the world is like a stage in which we’re all players. I perform through the lens,” said Kawakita.
Trained in painting as well as photography, Ryan Michael Kelly (BFA 2004 Photography) finds inspiration in the work of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. Kelly was drawn to photography for its immediacy and got his start shooting model tests for agencies in New York City. He has done freelance work for Men’s Vogue, Japanese Vogue, Trace, Dune, Italian Vanity Fair, D, German Elle, British Grazia, Amica and Deutsch. Current clients include Ann Taylor, Theory, Boots, Fubu and Bloomingdale’s.
After shooting Jackie Chan and then-unknown Kate Moss early in his career, Chiun-Kai Shih (BFA 1996 Photography) went on to become US editor of GQ Taiwan and Taiwanese Vogue. For the past nine years, he has photographed exclusively for Condé Nast. “No matter if you’re gay or straight, you want to see people naked,” said Shih, who as a Buddhist had to overcome an aversion to nudity to shoot an early series entitled Hotel Nudes, edited by Bob Richardson.
Sarah Silver (MFA 2001 Photography, Video and Related Media) first came to prominence with fashion photographs of the Stephen Petronio Dance Company in which the dancers wear designs by Prada and Imitation of Christ. Today her clients range from cosmetics giants Avon, Clairol, L’Oréal and Maybelline to fashion icons like Proenza Schouler, Surface, Elle, V Magazine and French Vogue.