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Magazines Tap Into the Originals

PARIS -- Fashion's retro mood has stretched to photography.<P>Legendary lensmen such as Richard Avedon, David Bailey, David Hamilton, Harry Peccinotti, Hiro and Francesco Scavullo are once again shooting fashion editorials at leading magazines in...

PARIS — Fashion’s retro mood has stretched to photography.

This story first appeared in the June 4, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Legendary lensmen such as Richard Avedon, David Bailey, David Hamilton, Harry Peccinotti, Hiro and Francesco Scavullo are once again shooting fashion editorials at leading magazines in addition to scooping up fashion advertising assignments.

Avedon is shooting fall campaigns for Dior Homme and Jil Sander, and David Hamilton, famous for his soft romanticism in the Seventies, will again work with Nina Ricci next season. Swinging Sixties legend David Bailey shot the spring-summer campaign for Paris house Barbara Bui.

Fashion magazines are now looking to old-timers for editorial shoots, too. In recent months, Paris Vogue has featured Japanese still-life master Hiro, American Will McBride, best known for his documentary work in the Fifties and Sixties, and Peccinotti, who was creative director of London’s Nova magazine in the Seventies. In the U.S., Harper’s Bazaar has used Hiro and Francesco Scavullo, who first shot to fame in the Sixties. Scavullo will have photos in Harper’s July issue.

Meanwhile, Peter Lindbergh, who had not shot for Bazaar since 1996, has returned to the magazine as a contributing photographer. His first shoot will appear this fall.

So what’s pushing fashion tastemakers to turn to the old guard? Observers say it results from both a return to traditionalism and fashion’s constant nostalgia for the past.

“After Sept. 11, nostalgia was so important,” said James Aguiar, creative director at Nina Ricci. “I felt it would be right even before those events. And then it was just amplified. There’s security in seeing familiar images.”

Aguiar explained that Hamilton had done ads for Ricci some 30 years ago, lending legitimacy to his choice to bring him back.

“We wanted something very romantic,” he said. “There’s been a lot of imitation of Hamilton’s photos by the younger photographers. But when you can have the real thing, why go for an imitation?”

Stephen Gan, creative director at Bazaar, agreed that real gold is better than ersatz. “Who does a Hiro photo better than Hiro? Who does a Dick Avedon better than Avedon? Who does a Scavullo better than Scavullo?” Gan asked rhetorically. “A lot of photographers today use as inspiration these photographers’ work, so why not use the real thing? I don’t think it’s about nostalgia, I think of it as turning to a great signature that has never gone out of style.”

Hedi Slimane, designer at Dior Homme, said he turned to Avedon as a way to “pull back from pure fashion photography. For Dior Homme, it was a necessity because it was creating an institutional image. It was not a time for fashion.”

Slimane mused that the comeback of iconic photographers underscores a move toward classicism. “Also, it may be the return to a certain aestheticism after some years of realism in contemporary photography,” he said.

Carine Roitfield, editor in chief of French Vogue, asserted that a large proportion of young photographers today have turned to the past for inspiration, paying indirect homage to names such as Hiro and Avedon.

“The original is always better than a bad copy of the original,” said Roitfield. “In many ways, it’s a return to roots. Memory is very short, especially in fashion. I think that’s a shame. To go forward, one must know what’s in the past.”

The resurgence of established photographers may also signal the end of the race to be achingly trendy. Editors say no amount of cool can replace good photographic training and personal vision — key to making a strong, memorable fashion image.

“Fashion photography had become too self referential,” said Milan Vukmirovic, creative director at Jil Sander. “There was too much fashion and not enough technique and personality. Everything looked so much alike.”

Vukmirovic asserted that established photographers, such as Avedon, create images that transcend mere clothes. “An authentic photographic voice can sublimate the personality of the house,” he said.

Yorgo Tloupas, creative director and publisher of the car and fashion magazine Intersection, featured Peccinotti in his spring edition. He hopes to use Peter Knapp, the art director at Elle in the Sixties, for his fall issue.

“There is a real return-to-the-sources thing going on,” said Tloupas. “Before this, people didn’t want to work with these established names — they just wanted new blood.”

But now, he said, nostalgia is at work. “You see it everywhere today. There’s retro design in cars, furniture. I think we’re getting to the point where we have to ask ourselves, `Is this really new or is it just the next marketing gimmick?”‘”