Anyone who has followed the history of fashion knows that what is “in style” and popular changes constantly. This is true of the clothing, shoes, hats and other products that designers create, and it’s true for fashion photography as well. The kind of photos that the fashion industry prefers is highly variable. The photos change along with other trends. Just as with clothing, photography can run in cycles. “Retro” can become a la mode the same as 50s pedal pushers can.
But not all fashion is highly memorable and neither is fashion photography. Many of the photographers by top photographers in the industry from the 20s through the 70s are now in art galleries and desired by collectors. But is today’s fast-paced, every-changing era of digital images and the Internet producing it’s share of photographers like Steichen, Horst, Penn, Avedon, Newton and Bourdin?
Great photographers producing work that will stand the test of time are probably out there in numbers. The question is whether or not the way images are delivered and used will allow for their work to achieve some level of permanent acceptance. Is there somebody out there who will be honored with a retrospective at the Getty such as the recent one for Herb Ritts? I hope so. But we are in an age of constant change and impermanence, so this is in no way a sure thing.