The bold new-wave of fashion photography

Photograph by Jessica Gianelli

In the age of the image, Central Saint Martins’ recent MA Fashion Image graduates are producing ever-more stimulating work. So take a pause from the memes and look at some proper good photos.

Scroll, scroll, scroll. That’s you, and the rest of us, all day long. Flicking through our feeds, inundated by images. Some bad, some great. Some shit, some hilarious. But what makes us stop and think? No, it’s not a meme. It’s a stand out photograph. One with emotion, with a story, that feeds our imagination and transcends us to another world for a few short moments. Or something like that.

Central Saint Martins’ MA Fashion Image Class of 2021 know this all too well. They’ve been at it for two years, learning the ins and outs to galvanise you – yes you – in your tracks and use your rotten brain for a few minutes. The work by the recent graduates encompasses religion, rave, decolonisation, language, family and, as far and wide as those themes are, their work is exactly that, too. Individually encapsulating in their own right. More than enough to stop you in your scrolling haze.

So in the age of the image, where a grid post is the ultimate currency, THE FACE would like to introduce you to the talented next batch of image-makers coming to a feed near you.

But, while we’re here, we thought we’d ask: what the hell makes a fashion image these days?

Raminta Cepontye

Raminta Ceponyte’s final project was a reflection of her moving to the UK at an early age from her hometown of Lithuania. It distanced me from my Lithuanian identity – an identity I have always intrinsically linked with the Lithuanian language, and an identity I felt as though I was losing, as I was losing its verbal component,” she says. Ceponyte explored this notion by capturing her mum, sister and Lithuanians who had similar experiences, in a series of softly-shot portraits styled in traditional dress. The process, she mentions, had her feel less lonely, knowing the negative connotations of language loss, in terms of shame and embarrassment”, was a shared experience.

What makes a fashion image these days?

We live in an age where we see an abundance of images daily and so it’s difficult to make an image stick. I’m interested in emotive work that has a lasting sense of energy. I’m drawn to substance, something that can keep your gaze for more than a few seconds and can be returned to and provide new information and emotion. This fashion image has the ability to transcend the current state and entice you with something that hints at otherworldliness whilst also being grounded in reality.

Jessica Gianelli

Liberate yourself, demands Jessica Gianelli’s final project: a collection of surreal shots exploring decolonisation, personal narrative and freedom. I used the making of an image as an act of catharsis, allowing myself and other Black women portrayed to create a new world for ourselves, where we could be presented by our own accord,” the 25-year-old explains. Kicking off with a deep dive into research, Gianelli emphasises the importance of the conversation that led into the creative process. Image making for me tends to come much later, acting much like a synthesis or digestion of all the information and experiences that have been taken in.”

What makes a fashion image these days?

I suppose a fashion image in 2021 is one that is relatable, says something about culture and about wider society.

Geri Dempsey

Just Like a Prayer, Geri Dempsey explored the hybrid nature of modern religion and our relationships with religious iconography: like holy water, The Virgin Mary and rosary beads, tackling various faiths and the concept of fashion as an embellishment within our daily performances. Being a young person with faith is essentially a subculture in the modern day,” the 26-year-old says. I wanted to examine the physical symbols that have almost lost their symbolism and exist simply as remnants of a faith that is practised much less than it was only two decades ago.” At times, Dempsey’s final images are haunting, presenting the consumer’s newfound desire for religious iconography through shadowy snapshots and holy water poured straight into the eyeball. Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone…

What makes a fashion image these days?

The people! What 2020 gave me was a nice refresh on how important a good team and collaborative work is. My style as a fashion communicator goes beyond the image itself, as I’m not always necessarily the image maker. What allows me to create fashion images is mutual trust and respect from a team I value.

Stephanie Francis-Shanahan

Raucous raves, football fanatics and saucy smiles made up Stephanie Francis-Shanahan’s end of year project, a photo book and a film titled Dream Baby: I am my own sunshine (1995 – 2002). Exploring radical happiness, childhood trauma, working-class superstars, social housing and collective joy as an emotion, the 25-year-old repackaged this through a technicoloured lens, all scribbles and abstract collages, to lighten up the darkest of lockdown blues. I wanted to translate this feeling of contentment to go back out into the world ready to support others, rave culture, dancing and football!,” says the 25-year-old born and bred Londoner.

What makes a fashion image these days?

It’s about making you smile and/​or what makes the world feel brighter even just for a moment. It is one that shows you a future of what can be and what we want to head towards. I see fashion as a way to bring myself joy when I get dressed, but I am fully aware that it should sit amongst life. For me it isn’t the core. It’s part of our world and it should always add to our feeling of being alive.

Silvana Trevale

Trevale stayed close to home for her final project, with a desire to weave her grandmother Rosa’s story throughout. She was my first connection to clothes.” says the 27-year-old. When I was a little girl, she used to make dresses for me with love.” Titled Cayetana, the project is a love letter to the women on Trevale’s mother’s family tree, celebrating her lineage with those who shaped her but are no longer physically close. With the intention to celebrate the hardworking, powerful women of her Latin American homeland, Trevale explores Catholic rituals, folklore tales, tarot and astrology while carrying the symbol of religion and magic throughout, via powerful portraits.

What makes a fashion image these days?

Considering the constant changes, chaos and everything that’s happening in the world, I believe that a fashion image in 2021 is one that carries storytelling and responds authentically to the realities around us. In my process, fashion images have become a medium of communication capable of conveying my personal journey.

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