As fashion week wraps up in New York, shifting to London, Milan and then Paris, a dedicated corps of photographers is always on hand to capture not only the looks on the runway, but famous faces at the after parties as well.
It is grueling work. At the runway shows, photographers are crammed into a confined space, elbowing one another for the best shot. The job requires long hours and tight deadlines, and is seemingly never-ending, noted veteran entertainment photographers Stephen Lovekin and Andrew H. Walker of photo stock agency Shutterstock.
“I think globally there are over 40 ‘fashion weeks,’ each year,” said Lovekin, who, with Walker, joined the agency one year ago following a deal with Penske Media Corporation, parent of WWD and Variety.
Although the two photographers work at the same agency now, they have known each other for many years — working together at Shutterstock competitor Getty Images. And their career starts were exceptionally different.
Lovekin’s beginnings were at MTV as an assistant and set photographer, “and by default the guy with the camera,” he said, “which led to covering events — such as Lollapalooza in 1994.” From there, he nailed a variety of gigs such as doing shorts for “Saturday Night Live.” Then he found his way to fashion and celebrity photographer Patrick McMullan before landing at Getty. Lovekin acknowledged that the transition from set photographer to covering events and entertainment revealed stark contrasts.
“It was definitely a thrill at first [switching to entertainment] – where you are not doing the same thing twice,” he said, but added there are times when he does feels a bit “overexposed” and “there are moments when you feel like you’re in ‘Groundhog Day.’” But the challenges of producing standout images in an age where everyone with an iPhone is considered a photographer keep him on his toes.
For Walker, his entry into the business was more “accidental,” he said. “I started out as an art director,” Walker explained, adding that he got a break when a colleague needed a photographer for the 2002 Video Music Awards. “It turned out that the guy needed an actor that looked like a photographer, like paparazzi,” he said. “I was livid.”
But instead of playing the part, he actually shot the event, and the next day he brought the images to the client, who was impressed, and that eventually led to a gig with McMullan and then Getty – and now Shutterstock.
Shutterstock was founded in 2003 by photographer and programmer Jon Oringer. Its bank has more than 100 million images that include royalty-free images as well as videos, illustrations and graphics. In 2009, it acquired Bigstock. In 2012, the company went public. In 2014, the company acquired WebDAM, and then Rex Features and PremiumBeat last year. And aside from the licensing deal with PMC, Shutterstock inked a deal with he Associated Press earlier this year as well as BFA, whose clients include Chanel, the CFDA and Ralph Lauren Corp., among many others.
In its most recent quarter, the company’s annual sales jumped 23 percent to more than $460 million as profits rose 5.2 percent to $24.4 million. Shares of the company are up about 87 percent for the 12-month period, trading at around $60. The stock’s 12-week low is $25.44 and the high is $62.82.
“I don’t feel like I’m stuck in an old paradigm here,” Lovekin said of his position at Shutterstock. And that’s likely a good thing given how the industry has changed, and been transformed in some respect by social media. “But fashion photography still has a clear delineation,” Walker added, “even as access to the runway has changed.”
On the creative front, both photographers noted a greater demand for more imagery that features double exposures, motion blur and better use of filtration.
Regarding how the fashion industry has changed, and the move toward more “see now, buy now” strategies as well as an increase in consumer-facing events by designers, the photographers said the marriage of “fashion and experience” was inevitable. “But it has to be real,” Walker said. “When an event or show feels contrived, it is not seen as authentic and consumers know it.”