A Journey Through the Evolution of Fashion Imagery

The century-old art of fashion photography has evolved gracefully and become an indispensable part of the world of visual storytelling. This captivating journey through time showcases the essence of fashion, with each photograph telling a compelling story in its own right.

The early trailblazers of fashion photography, such as Edward Steichen, favored a modernist approach that was straightforward and visually striking. Martin Munkácsi, in the 1930s, infused the genre with a raw, photojournalistic flair that added texture. In the 1960s, Richard Avedon empowered models to showcase their individuality, breaking free from the constraints of conventional norms that had previously limited them.

Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography
Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography

Conceptual Innovations in Fashion Photography

The 1970s brought a sexual revolution to fashion photography, led by Helmut Newton, who challenged traditional gender stereotypes and added a bold sensuality to his work. In the 1980s, Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts played a pivotal role in introducing male sexuality into the fashion photography landscape. As the digital age emerged, the horizons of fashion photography expanded exponentially. Teams like Inez & Vinoodh and Mert & Marcus pushed the boundaries not just aesthetically but also technically and conceptually, redefining what is considered acceptable.

The book is divided into five chronological chapters, each written by an expert in fashion photography or history, that covers the following periods:

  • 1911-1939: The birth of fashion photography and the ascendancy of modernist and photojournalistic styles.
  • 1940-1959: The heyday of fashion photography, characterized by the work of photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Helmut Newton, which captured the sophistication and glamour of the era.
  • 1960-1979: Fashion photography underwent an experimental and expressive phase, with photographers like Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts challenging traditional gender norms.
  • 1980-1999: The era of supermodels and the globalization of fashion photography.
  • 2000-Present: The digital age and the emergence of new trends in fashion photography.
Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography
Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography

One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography Research

The book “Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography” provides a comprehensive view of the evolution of fashion photography through a meticulously researched survey spanning a hundred years. It is thoughtfully divided into five chronological chapters, each of which is expertly curated by professionals in both photography and fashion history.

This book contains over three hundred photographs taken by famous fashion photographers, as well as works by lesser-known artists. In addition to the photographs, the collection also includes costumes, fashion illustrations, magazine covers, and advertisements, offering a comprehensive view of the field.

Some possible rephrased sentences are:

  • Over the past century, fashion photography has undergone significant changes, from its early days as a form of documentary photography to its current position as a high art form.
  • Fashion photographers have had a significant impact on our understanding of beauty and style.
  • Fashion photography goes beyond just selling clothes; it can also be a powerful medium for social and cultural commentary.
  • The book showcases a diverse group of photographers from various backgrounds and cultures, reflecting the broad scope of fashion photography today.


“Though the images are powerful in their own right, a hefty, 368-page exhibition catalog adds to the scholarship with thoroughly documented and illustrated chapters on the medium’s evolution.” – Los Angeles Times

“A historical roadmap through the world of fashion photography. The artfully curated book. Is more than a beautiful ornament meant to collect dust atop your coffee table.” – The Daily Beast

“This stupendous compendium makes an alluring case for fashion photography as art.” – Financial Times

“This coffee table companion to the upcoming exhibition is a comprehensive survey of developments in 20th-century photographic style and taste through that lens, and it’s gorgeous.” – The Globe and Mail

“An enlightening survey of one hundred years of fashion photography.” – Photo District News

“This impressive tome is an elegant exploration of where fashion, advertising, history, and art come together. A must-have for any fashion or fashion photography aficionado.” – Photographer’s Forum

Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography
Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography

About the Author

Paul Martineau, a respected figure in the world of art photography, is the author of this insightful work. With a strong background in art and art history, Martineau brings his extensive knowledge to the subject matter. As the associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, he has made significant contributions to our understanding of the medium’s history and legacy. His previous works cover a wide range of topics, from the early days of photography to contemporary artists. Martineau’s current project is dedicated to delving into the life and work of Imogen Cunningham, reinforcing his established reputation as a prominent curator and writer in the field of photography.


Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography” takes readers on a compelling journey through the evolution of fashion photography, highlighting the influences of changing aesthetics, societal norms, and technological advancements. This book is an ideal resource for photography enthusiasts, fashion aficionados, and those interested in exploring the cultural significance of fashion photography. It not only showcases the development of the art form but also the enduring impact it has had on the world.

Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography by Paul Martineau. Hardcover: 368 pages. Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum; 1 edition (July 10, 2018).

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