LFW: What it is like to be a photographer at fashion week
Sep 24, 2020
Fashion week has changed significantly during the global pandemic, no more so for the catwalk photographers capturing the collections. Shutterstock fashion and entertainment photographer Anthony Harvey tells FashionUnited about what being a London Fashion Week fashion photographer entails and the current impact of Covid-19 on his work.
Harvey who has been covering fashion week for 20 years, and has shot models like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell, discusses his career, the dynamics in the photographers' pit, what makes a show special, and how to capture the perfect shot.
Q&A with Shutterstock photographer Anthony Harvey
How did you get into fashion and catwalk photography?
As a press photographer in London, you can cover a wide variety of jobs and events from the world of news and entertainment. Fashion is part of a press photographers calendar like the BRIT Awards or the BAFTAs—you know that you are going to have a fashion week to prepare for in spring and autumn and that you are going to be hopping across the capital covering numerous shows.
I got into the fashion photography realm by working for the leading photo agencies in the world who required me to be able to shoot the catwalk as well as my everyday press events.
What makes a show special?
I think the best shows are the ones that are different from the norm, the ones that instantly stand out on the page. This could be because of the over the top outfits, weird and wonderful headgear and make-up, something quirky or an unusual location like a church.
Over the years you learn it is going to be special when you hear that a certain supermodel is walking the runway and you look forward to what outfit they are going to wear hoping it's enough to make tomorrow's papers.
Do you remember the first show you photographed? How have things changed since then?
I can’t remember my first show; I have been covering London Fashion Week for 20 years, but many things have changed over time. Access has been harder to get for the big shows, the introduction of mobile phones and social media has given photographers different challenges to overcome and the space we work in keeps getting smaller.
How has pit photography changed, since Covid-19, with social distancing?
The fashion looks the same, the set is the same, but it feels like the soul has been taken away. In the pit, photographers are given the same spots, however, there are less of us due to the need for social distance and travel restrictions not permitting our friends from overseas to attend. Like so many things, when the audience is taken away and the atmosphere, anticipation and buzz are lost, you can feel the difference.
How do you find the right spot in the photographer’s pit? It always looks so competitive, is this even more difficult due to Covid?
Ideally you want to be front and central with a clear line down the runway. It is normally a first come first serve basis and spots are marked up before shows. When there is a main hub, the markup is days before the fashion starts and you know your spot for the week.
Having a different brief can also determine where you want to be—if you are shooting every outfit you like to be central, but if you are looking for something different then you like the freedom to be able to move around and float on the outskirts of the pit. Covid has reduced the number of photographers allowed into shows, so there is not as much pressure to arrive early, and the pens are also slightly more spread out for social distancing.
How in general has your job shifted in light of the pandemic?
My job is unrecognisable at the moment due to the pandemic. The normal events that I cover have been postponed or cancelled and I am adapting to cover different jobs. The entertainment world is big—big stars, big crowds, big events, big productions—and these have all had to be put on hold. The events I have covered have been on a much smaller scale, with social distancing, masks and very limited access.
Without a centralised LFW hub this season, how do you get your images uploaded as quickly as possible?
As photographers we are used to editing on the go. Working without a hub means we do more remote editing, sending to an editor off-site or editing ourselves once the show has finished.
Do you prefer to shoot the catwalk or a presentation?
I prefer to shoot the catwalk, I enjoy the show with the lights, audience and atmosphere making each show different where anything can happen. You can get a lift from the audience and their anticipation of the show and you know when it's going to be a good one.
Designers like to come up with unique catwalk layouts does that make it harder for you to get the shot?
It becomes more difficult when the catwalk is not a straight line heading towards the photographers because you could have models coming from different directions, audience blocking sightlines and uneven lighting. I like it when designers step outside of the box and find unique and quirky venues that add another layer to the shoot.
What makes a good catwalk photograph?
I think a good catwalk photo captions the moment, the model, the outfit, the show and the atmosphere, making the reader feel like they were there. From a photographic point of view, you want the light to be right, a clean runway and an outfit that jumps out at you—the more outrageous the better. If you are lucky enough to have a supermodel wearing one of these outfits and capture it on camera, then the image can create a global reaction and interest that people talk about for days.
Are you planning on going to Milan and Paris to shoot? If you are or have in the past which fashion week do you prefer?
Due to the current travel restrictions, I don’t think I’m going to Milan or Paris this year. I have in the past covered both the Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks and have enjoyed the experience. If I had to pick a favourite, I would push for Paris—it has always attracted a lot of interest and celebrity following which I think adds to the job.
Images: courtesy of Anthony Harvey/Shutterstock