Wednesday, 23 March 2016

London College of Fashion submission

Hi guys, so for this post I thought I'd do something a little different. I've recently been offered a place at London college of fashion to study fashion journalism and I thought I would share with you the piece I submitted. I'm in no way bragging - in fact re reading this piece has made me overly critical of my submission. None the lessI thought it might be helpful for anyone thinking of applying ,or in the process of applying, to see the type of thing you could submit. It's really just to try and draw inspiration from and to show you that you don't have to worry about producing something perfect. They are in no way expecting professional quality - clearly mine isn't at that standard. If you've read my creative writing piece "under the bridge" you may be thinking that they're pretty similar. You're not wrong, that's because they started off as the same piece but have slightly evolved into different pieces with separate subject matters. For this piece I wanted to go down more of a fashion route. Which meant discussing an issue that is relevant in the fashion industry today to show that I keep up with what's happening in the world of fashion. I also added a few images to this blog post from my photography coursework so that you wouldn't get too bored of my rambling but they don't expect you to add images to your work either and I didn't when submitting this piece.

How old were you when you decided what career path you wanted to take? For some people it can take a while to figure out - while others know from a very young age what they want to do with the rest of their lives. In the modelling industry the younger you are when you have your first test shot - the better. Starting from a young age allows years of developing a brand and becoming confident in front of a camera. However - particularly in the past 3 years - I've noticed the global debates questioning -at what point does young become too young?

Kate Moss - arguably the most iconic and influential model of the 1990's and early 2000's - was a mere girl when she first stood in front of the camera. Sophie Calle's aptly named 'fifteen' collection of photographs show a young Moss at the start gun of her career. These candid images of the fresh faced London girl show a timid creature unaware of the impression she would later make on the industry. They juxtapose the stark images she is possibly better known for - taken in her mid-twenties that are said to have defined the British pop culture movements of the past two decades. This poses the question: would she have made such an impression had she not have grown up in a studio?

Some would argue not - which is perhaps why today’s most desirable models are no older than their mid-twenties. Kendall Jenner, Edie Campbell, So Ra Choi and Tyg Davison- the list goes on. They're found on every advertisement worldwide - stamping the covers of major publications everywhere. Despite their young age - which in any other industry may see you stuck at the bottom of the ladder- these models are at the height of their careers and are the go to mannequins for major fashion houses such as Chanel and Marc Jacobs.

Arguably their supermodel status comes from their influential families or the millions of followers hanging on their every word on social media platforms - but what the internet gives it soon takes away. Initially, I had always thought that models in fashion were notoriously thin because of the media's influence. Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar - all major publications that practically handed you a bottle of diet pills and a bin to empty your stomach. Their models were the best form of torture for impressionable girls with body issues and the desire to look 'skinny'. While I realise that this isn't entirely untrue of today’s editions my research into "the effect the media has on models' place in society" for photography last year found- that although there are signs of body shaming in some (lower end) publications - the real critics were the readers behind the keyboards. A topic addressed in December's issue of Vogue.

Being an avid reader of Vogue and follower of supermodel Gigi Hadid, I was ecstatic to discover that in December the two forces had paired up. However it wasn't until I started reading the article that accompanied the images of Hadid that the novelty began to wear off. Gigi is a highly desirable model and the face of a multitude of campaigns including; Tom Ford, Levi's, Versace and Topshop (to name just a few). It's safe to say she is far from having a weight problem. I mean Victoria's secret doesn't hand out wings to anybody wanting to walk a runway. I'm sure cleanses weren't part of her New Year’s resolutions. So it's not hard to understand why the quote "online trolls... repeating that she was "too fat to model"" boiled my blood. Although not the typical UK size 4 found on catwalks - Gigi is only a size 8 yet she was penalised for being fat. Reading this - it's not hard to see why there are so many underweight frames in the industry.

Perhaps why last April, France decided to take action. Banning girls with a BMI under 18 from fashion shows in order to "combat anorexia". Threatening to charge agencies with fines up to 75,000 euros if they employed models that were considered "too thin faced". This was said to have changed the body image of fashion shows in France and was proposed to "have a symbolic impact on the fashion industry" overall” given Paris's role within it”. Other countries have since taken action or, at least, debated whether they should take action and ban models under the age of 18 from shows. Of course it makes sense that girls as young as 13 shouldn't be put under pressure to be "skinny" but isn't an adolescent frame the desired one of most fashion houses? Surely 15-year- olds already have these figures so there should be no pressure put on them. That just seems like common sense but this isn't exactly the case. Even the youngest of the models are told that they have to "reach bone". While a global titan like Gigi is able to brush off the negative feedback others aren't as lucky. The trolling movement is proof that it's so easy for people to share opinions with the world without thinking of the consequences - seen in Hadid's case. Being a 20-years-old size 8 model - it's evident she isn't too young to be walking in shows or too skinny so there shouldn't be a problem. Yet she was told she wasn't thin enough. So does that mean that we are to blame?

Like I said I used to think that major publications were accountable for the lack of "normal sized" models but now I realise this isn't the case. Vogue seemed to applaud Hadid's influence on the catwalk describing her as "filling clothes in an enviable, womanly way". Balmain's creative director also added that "thanks to Gigi, we're finding girls on the runway that are beautiful and look healthy at the same time." Evidently they're supporting this step in the right direction. So why it is still considered a taboo to be a size 8 on the runway and why does Britain feel there is a need for a proposed legislation banning models under the age of 18 from walking major fashion shows? Clearly other attempts to change the type of models found at London fashion week haven't worked in the past. Although conceivably the voluntary code of conduct was perhaps too timid (hence the word voluntary) - all the same 14-year-olds continue to appear at London fashion week. According to Caroline Nokes - a Conservative MP - the legislation will "make sure that you weren't seeing 15 to 18-year-olds with a BMI of 15.6 being told they had to lose weight".

So surely this would suggest the legislation is more concerned with the BMI of the models than their age right? Only Nelson then argues a minimum body mass index wouldn't work because "it doesn't represent their body type". To me the whole things seems confused - they're aiming to reduce the amount of models with a low BMI and yet are targeting the young rather than those with an unhealthy body mass index.

While of course I can see the reasoning and I agree that BMI's don't represent body types I can't see why the younger of the models are being targeted. Yes I can understand that it would be disconcerting to see an unhealthy 15-year-old on a runway but banning them from fashion shows won't solve eating disorders. All teenage girls are impressionable but why should the healthy under 18-year-olds be reprimanded. Are we forgetting how old Kate Moss was when she started her career or Gigi Hadid? Gigi - I can't stress enough - a healthy size 8? Where would they be if this legislation had always been in place? I'm sure they would still be around but their careers would have taken longer to mature. Meaning they may have been coming to the end of their careers before they had really taken off. It's no secret the modelling industry has a certain cut off age in the other direction - of course with a few exceptions. So shouldn't Britain change their, oh so very British, way of beating around the bush and simply state they want underweight girls banned from catwalks not young ones? Personally I think this would be far more effective.

Annie Leibovitz inspired work

Annie Leibovitz is possibly one of my favourite photographers. So it should come as no surprise to you that when I decided to explore the title 'Romanticism' for my photography exam project - I immediately thought of her. Although, I found an excuse for using her in both my exam and personal investigation projects by exploring her influence in the fashion industry. Incorporating her into my personal investigation project was made even easier when I discovered she was inspired by photojournalist Henri Cartier Bresson (another photographer I used in this project).

Recently I came across a couple of her images whilst flicking through the pages of a magazine which reminded me of the images I'd taken last year. I thought that posting them on this blog would allow me to share with you the sort of photography that inspires, not only my photography work but also my writing (and the reason my posts were few and far between last year).

The idea behind this shoot was to create a fairy tale feel (similar to Leibovitz’s work) that seemed quite romantic. So I asked my friend Emma to model for me in the woods near my house on a Summer afternoon. Surprisingly, we managed to find a day that didn't result in us being drenched in the rain - allowing me to create a sort of hazy summer night feel.

I noticed that Leibervitz often used very light fabrics and materials to create a romantic tone to her images. So obviously the only choice of clothing for Emma was chiffon. It meant that her dress would be picked up with a breeze (or with her hand in this case due to the lack of a breeze) and the sun could shine through it creating a very magical feel to the image.

By keeping her hair down and very natural it made Emma look care free and didn't distract the viewer from the dress or her surroundings.

True to Leibovitz's style I wanted to make the colours more muted. Turning the bright greens of the leaves and trees into pastel shades and her dress into a pale peach rather than pink.


Monday, 21 March 2016

Under the bridge

When we were young our parents warned us about trolls under bridges – they were the morals of the stories teaching us about the dangers of trusting or even talking to strangers. But as I’ve grown up I’ve come to realise trolls no longer reside under the bridges. They’ve found new homes behind computer screens and have evolved into the tech savvy assassins we’ve all heard of today.

In the past, I’ve had a tendency to shy away from most forms of social media – despite dabbling in the world of Blogging. Not for the want of being a social hermit but because I was terrified at the thought of being the target of these faceless critics.  They certainly made crossing the bridge to the online world a lot harder than expected. In my eyes putting anything out there meant that you were opening yourself up to criticism. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – if people think I could benefit from not using so many rhetorical questions in my writing - I’m willing to listen. But that wasn’t the problem. There is a very distinct difference between constructive criticism and ‘trolling’.

Being an avid reader of Vogue and follower of supermodel Gigi Hadid, I was ecstatic to discover that this month the two forces had paired up. The images showed a naturally beautiful 20 –year –old model worlds apart from the catwalk fascia.

When looking at these photos it’s easy to see why she’s making such an impression on the modelling world. Yet start reading the article that goes with them and you’ll find a different story. Gigi is a desirable model and the face of a multitude of campaigns including; Chanel, Tom Ford and Versace (merely the pacesetters in the pursuit to book Hadid). It’s safe to say she is far from having a weight problem. I mean, she recently earned her wings with Victoria’s secret – I don’t think she needs to start any cleanses in the New Year. So I’m sure you can understand why the quote; “online trolls… repeating that she was “too fat to model”” boiled my blood. They don’t just stop at us mere mortals they’re also targeting the divine (a little Victoria’s secret pun for those of you who noticed).

Initially, I had always thought that models were notoriously thin because of the media’s influence. Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar – all major publications that practically handed you a bottle of pills and a bin to empty your stomach. Their models were the best form of torture for impressionable girls with body issues and the desire to look ‘skinny’. While I realise this isn’t entirely untrue of today’s issues, my research into ‘the effect the media has on models’ place in society’ in photography found that although there are signs of body shaming in some (cheaper) publications. The real critics were the readers behind the keyboards. Vogue seemed to applaud Hadid’s influence on the catwalk describing her as “filling clothes in an enviable, womanly way”. Ok. So… maybe this hasn’t prompted Vogue to start using models that are any bigger than a size 10 for their covers. And… Gigi is only a tiny size 8 – but taking the publication’s reputation into account it’s a step in the right direction. Albeit a baby step but a step all the same.

So in that case are we the ones to blame? All signs are starting to point to yes.

Of course I don’t mean me and you specifically but ‘we’ as a society. When looking into this subject for photography I found that sadly ‘body shamers’ aren’t a new breed of offenders. There have been pests (with cameras) who have made a profession out of hunting people down and pointing out their flaws since 1955. In case you haven’t guessed I’m talking about the ‘birth of the paparazzi’. Otherwise known as the birth of the cockroaches because let’s face it that’s what they are. They hunt people down to catch them at their most vulnerable moments and rip into their flaws – sound familiar?

So maybe they aren’t completely the same. I mean trolls don’t get paid but surely that makes them worse. They do it for fun! And… I guess the paparazzi at least stop at those who have an army of beauticians at their disposal. So I guess we could argue they are simply setting a level playing field right?  I mean, who hasn’t had an embarrassing photo of them looking a little hung over surface on Facebook. Surely it isn’t wrong to want to find something in common with those we look up to in the public eye. Wrong.

Since when did we decide it was ok to publically shame someone for not having a perfectly flat stomach or flawless skin? Despite Photoshop’s attempts to deceive us – even the vainest elite have their flaws but tearing them down shouldn’t be justified because we feel lied to. Spending hours looking for holes in other people’s lives only to publically humiliate them is inexcusable! Why is one better than the other? They both tear people down. Some simply celebrate their beatings with a title and a pay slip.

But fear not, there is hope.

There are now forums that allow people to post snapshots of their life online without being ridiculed into taking them down. Unfortunately for me I didn’t discover these havens filled with fellow hermits where negative/ troll like comments are actually banned until 3 years ago. But better late I suppose. They allow even the most cautious of us to bypass the bridges and fly over the trolls. Personally, I used these websites as a metaphorical pool to dip my writer’s hand into and through them I found several new fashion bloggers (including my current favourite – Luanna Perez).

A journalist for ‘The Guardian’ once remarked “print is dead”. While this is perhaps an exaggeration most people do tend to get their fix of news from their phones rather than newspapers. It was clear to see that the world of fashion was no exception. They had definitely embraced this platform of writing and exploring different blogs meant that I had more of an understanding of fashion writing – a field I’m now looking into as a degree. After that I realised that in order to improve my writing I would have to commit myself to my ‘real’ blog. The first time in a long time I’d ridden without my stabilisers on.

Maybe I’d been too harsh. Maybe the internet wasn’t actually the scary place I’d convinced myself it was. So far for me it hasn’t been. In fact I’ve now completely embraced my inner internet socialite. Posting, not only on my blog, but on Instagram and going back to Twitter. I know, somebody stop me before I take over the internet! I realised that social media is a great way to get yourself out there. I don’t mean in a middle-aged-get-back-on-the-saddle-after-your-divorce-has-gone-through sort of way. I just mean it's perfect for promoting writing or finding people to collaborate with. I'd had an epiphany. A sudden realisation. I finally understood why so many people used social platforms. Everything made sense.

And then all of a sudden... Everything made sense! I noticed trolls popping up on some of my favourite blogs with their (oh so original) "you're so fat", "you're ugly", "you should die" comments. Even though they weren't aimed at me it still felt like a personal attack. "You didn't forget about us did you?" I could almost see them typing. I was so naive to think I'd managed to avoid them but this time they didn't scare me. This time they looked pathetic. In fact, I realised that the only reason they seemed big before was because I'd built them up to be a higher authority. So I guess our parents were right we shouldn't talk to the trolls. We shouldn't even acknowledge their existence because doing so fuels the fire.

I know, easier said than done right? I guess this post is proof of that but we are heading in the right direction. The trolls are now being prosecuted. Whether you think this is a step too far or not I'm sure we can all agree it's satisfying to know they're starting to sweat. It's inevitable that seeing their species being fined or sent to prison has made them listen. Potentially even scared some of them into leaving the keyboards behind and taking a much needed trip outside (said in the least mum-like voice possible). While there will always be somebody who can't help but share their negative opinion with everyone else -trolls shouldn't be feared. They're nameless, faceless cowards who knock people down for reasons only they know. So let’s leave them where they belong. Alone.