As I spent much of this week scanning the materials I want to use for my exhibit, I reflected much on the nature of imagery and photography. Current magazines print mostly photographs, but magazines have been printed since long before the invention of photography. Early magazines included fashion plates, which involved an artist drawing the current fashions, engraving a steel fashion plate, and printing it. These prints were then hand colored. This was a very basic technology and required that the sketch have a certain level of simplicity so that it could be engraved into the steel fashion plate and easily colored. Photography allowed the images of fashion to be much more accurate and detailed. It also allowed the women modelling fashion to be in a certain place.
The location of the photo shoot plays a big role in developing the identity attached to the fashion. Fashion shoots took place in cities, in natural settings, and overseas. Each decision around setting meant something to the reader. Was the fashion meant for a city girl? A country girl? Fashions shot in the West, in places like California, were described in accompanying captions differently than those shot in the industrial cities of the East. This also made me think of modern-day Instagram influencers, who use backdrops to say something about their own identities when showing off fashions. Are they thrill-seeking travelers, relaxed beachgoers, or metropolitan workers? And if you wear the same clothes that they do, are you channeling those same identities?