Photographs themselves are an enormous modification of reality, and nearly all of the photographs that we see everyday are digitally modified from their originals. In this way, then, fashion photographs represent a kind of virtual reality, a reality that is not, and cannot ever, align with that which we know as real. The beauty of fashion is thus complex and problematic. But beauty itself is ephemeral and strange, its existence unverifiable and subject to change. The fashion industry is one whose foundations are built upon both photography and beauty. How then, can fashion, beauty, and the photographic image cooperate?
The boundaries between beauty and the uncanny can often become blurred, and an image may simultaneously appear aesthetically compelling and yet manifest closer to unease or horror than to beauty. Ambiguity and strangeness are utterly compelling to the human eye; we want to look, and look, and look again. Photographs are indexes of the real - to look at a photograph is to seemingly look past the photographic frame and into reality. However, we are not challenged by a photograph in the way we are challenged by reality; we can look upon a photograph without consequences. Photographs that are strange, then, present opportunities for looking upon the strange and also challenge us in our viewing of them.
In this editorial, the strangeness of beauty, fashion and photography is faced head-on, even validated, and this strangeness is thus easily identified by the viewer. And yet these images are still uncomfortable to look upon; grappling with their existence presents a struggle that goes past the simplistic beauty of the clothing and models. These photographs are dichotomous; they are ambiguous yet straightforward, their meaning lucid yet imprecise. This dissonance plays to the hypocrisy that is present within the fashion industry itself: the constant desire, and yet utter impossibility of achieving perfection.
- o.j. 2014