Tuesday, 15 March 2011

London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week has been and gone once again until later in the year and along with the daily slog of shooting the straight up and down catwalk images for the newspaper I also managed to have a bit of fun along the way seeing old friends and soaking up the general atmosphere of a world so completely different to any other.


Up until a few years ago I used to cover the majority of the shows in Milan, Paris, London and occasionally New York for over a decade, but with the recession and budget cuts at the British newspapers this has now come to an end for the Fleet Street contingent of catwalk photographers.
The catwalk shows hold a special place in my heart as it was where my photography career started off as an assistant to Chris Moore the man behind catwalking.com . I learnt my trade with the original Canon Eos 1's, at the time unbeatable for it's fast autofocus, shooting on bulk loaded Kodak EPT 160 transparency film before moving over to Fleet St and national newspapers. It was a fantastic time and incredibly hard work , often 16 hour days for weeks at a time, 5am marking up spots with gaffer tape, shooting solo or as a second to Chris on "House shows" for the designer and spending my evenings bulk loading more film from 100 meter cans for for the next days shows,  up to 12 shows a day.

Balenciaga, Paris 2007
Although, contrary to popular belief there IS a skill to photographing catwalk well, watching the light and shape of the garments as the model swings her hips from side to side down the runway and adjusting exposure along the way. The No1 factor though in great photos is a great spot, the 1'x2' foot rectangle drawn with gaffer tape with your name on it makes all the difference to good catwalk images, and to get a good spot means getting on with the rest of the pack. Literally rubbing shoulders with the same group of photographers for a month at a time twice a year, plus the menswear and couture shows for the really hardcore makes the pack a very tight bunch, and "tourists" as strangers and part timers are referred to (like I now am) can struggle to get those prime positions .
Hussein Chalayan, Paris 2007


Kidman and Lagerfeld, Chanel, Paris 2004


Photographically though catwalk photography is not particularly rewarding and I've always tried to nip backstage between shows if I have the time to shoot something a bit different and this year on a show I didn't need to cover for my fashion editor I tried out a Cokin starburst filter from the other end of the runway to catch the model walking back with the bank of lights in the background. Although there was a bit of flare to deal with the image below worked really well for me along with a handful of others.

Bora Aksu, London 2011

In the past I've also shot a few frames on my medium format cameras, a Fuji GS645 and Rolleiflex 3.5F,
both beautiful cameras which really make you think carefully before you shoot, which in these days of shooting digital is actually great for the photographic side of the brain to take a step back occasionally and get back to basics.

Matthew Williamson, London 2010 


Catwalk photographers, London 2010
here's looking forward to the next season of shows .....

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