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THE DIGITAL IMAGE AND THE LIMITS OF CONTROL

Photography by Dido Fontana from didofontana.comPhotography by Dido Fontana from didofontana.com

I got an email today from an enterprising young Italian photographer named Dido Fontana who shoots in 35mm and Polaroids. His work is showcased on his eponymous website didofontana.com. His mission statement on the website (which also has a shopping page for his new book) declares :

"Raw, sexy, provocative, explosive, anti-fashion!
Born in Italy in the early 70s Dido Fontana grew up surrounded by his dad’s camera and art works, doing himself art with different media, readying the big giants, lifting weights and looking at every kind of imagery.
In this way in his mind increased an extraordinary heterogenic plethora of images you now can find in his photos which represent not only a figure and where there’s no message but a world.
His soul is baroque and his eye is damned and voyeuristic but his style is raw and sexual, fashion and anti-fashion at the same time.
But first of all it is direct and pure, without alternations or embellishments."

As I went through the vast reservoir of images on didofontana.com the thought occurred to me that we are truly living in a revolutionary time when it comes to image making. Whether you shoot with a cost-effective digital camera or you scan your film generated images and upload them up to a website, that gush of self-generated imagery on the internet is unprecedented. In many ways this multiplicity of imagery is destroying the limits of control inherent in the trade called fashion photography.

To be a fashion photographer once demanded piles of money for cameras and assistants, light banks, studios and labs and prints and retouching. It once demanded years of toiling in the trenches as an assistant or at the bill-paying day job before been given access to one of the few fashion bibles that could expose your work to a large audience. To have a lucrative career you needed an agent since the agents controlled all the relationships and all the work. To have a consistent editorial career you had to negotiate the balance of power of those autocratic magazine editors who filtered what you were allowed to publish in their commercial books. And if you wanted to veer into "fine arts photography", trying doing that out of the wrong or an obscure gallery. The right gallery was even more restrictive and controlling that those fashion tomes.

Penn, Avedon, Newton, Bourdin, Meisel, the five touchstones that have defined contemporary fashion photography have had to all battle against a lifetime of restrictions to forge their legacy.

But what of fashion and even anti-fashion photography in this new era? The imagery of our times is so abundant and overwhelming and frantic that I can't even start to process it yet. The fact that so many people are documenting and exploring and expressing varying visual ideal creates a kind of white noise that drowns out the classical compositions that still drive those corporate fashion titles. What if the defining imagery of our times is not being found in the magazines but in the throw-away snaps taken for Facebook, or on dating sites, or on personal blogs or for taht matter, on Twitter. What if this new kind of documentary digitalized photography is that next and inevitable evolution of what Corrine Day, Juergen Teller and David Sims , Craig McDean and Terry Richradson forged in the grunge 90's? That is namely, fashion sold via reality as opposed to fairytale and fantasy?

Within that chaos I find great hope that things and people and ideas …marginalized subject matter, un-commercial concerns, obscure sub-cultures will find the celebration and the veneration that they are chronically denied. I rejoice in the facts that the "looks" of the last five years...street looks, goth/surf/skate/punk stylings, club looks, after-school looks, hip-hop looks, kids-going-out-the for the night looks have all being exhaustively expressed and chronicled. All those skinny jeans and fringed hair cuts, all that emo, all that nudity all that sweat and grease and life has been captured, if not in the pages of glossy magazines. Or even better I find great beauty in this idea that everyman has the right to upload his vision of life so that whosoever stumbles across it can make of it what they will.

For provoking that train of thought I thank you Mr Fontana.

Taste is a dictatorship.

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