Jimmy Moffat On SVA's Rising Stars
Tomorrow marks the opening of SVA’s MPS Fashion Photography 2014 Graduate Exhibition hosted at our very own Milk Gallery. The exhibition, curated by Art + Commerce’s founding partner and managing director Jimmy Moffat, as well as W Magazine’s Edward Enninful, features the work of 13 of the graduate program’s culturally diverse photographers who thrive on expanding the dimensions of visual expression in fashion photography. We talked to Moffat about the state of fashion photography, how he and Edward Enninful chose the images, and why he thinks the SVA MFA program is truly one of a kind.
What are some of the recent innovations within fashion that have influenced photographic trends?
I’m not sure I think of fashion as innovating as much as observing, interpreting and anticipating how people look, initiated by the creative visions of the designers. I believe that fashion mirrors and, at times anticipates contemporary culture. With that said, I think one of the most compelling ingredients therein is gender identity and transformation.
How can fashion photography communicate with and be appreciated by an audience outside the realm of fashion?
Fashion photography is communicated the way it is disseminated. In magazines, editorially and as advertisements, as well as all the printed forms of those images from billboards, to subway posters, to counter cards. Then on digital platforms and in every way social media is published, even in books and in exhibitions like this one. Fashion photography can be appreciated in so many different ways. There are as many different kinds of fashion photography as there are genres of novels or kinds of music. There are fashion photographs which are essentially portraits, offering the viewer all the values of any portrait study, whether it’s depicting a celebrated figure of the time, portraying a vision of beauty, capturing the essence of an individual or placing a person in a particular moment or conceit. There are fashion photographs which suggest narrative and which create references to society and culture. There are fashion photographs which create a look to be emulated, aspired to, laughed at or rejected with disgust.
Can you talk about how this exhibition came together and your role as the curator?
Every year we hold an exhibition of the work of the previous year’s graduates. In the past we have allowed those graduates to choose their own images. This year, for the first time, we decided to work together with the photographers to curate the show. Hopefully they have benefited from the process, and hopefully the show is a more consistent, and better representation overall of the best of these bright young photographer’s work. When we made the decision to curate, I invited Edward Enninful to help. Edward is not only one of the most supportive figures in fashion, always helping and nurturing talent, but also of course, one of the most creative visionaries in the industry.
It is not often we see fashion photography and the world of fine art come together. How does the role of fashion photography change when it is taken out of the editorial context and brought into a fine art/gallery context?
Fashion photography of course, is created for the magazine, the website, and the ad campaign. Much fashion photography does not exist well taken out of it’s context. Typically this would be the kind of fashion photography which is solely a sales tool, a catalogue of a fashion product for sale. The other kind of fashion photography, which considers other purposes, is great to take out of context and to be examined for all it’s intentions.
Fashion photography, outside of publications, often lives on a digital platform, making it very accessible to broad audiences. Can you talk about the different ways in which people can interpret and connect with the work?
Well, I think the answer to this is simply in all the ways the work is seen.
One of the strengths in photography is it’s ability to surprise viewers and allow them to experience the artist’s vision. What is surprising about this exhibition?
Without getting into individual pictures or bodies of work, I think what is surprising to see is the variety and combination of images put forth by this very international, diverse group of young people who are brought together by their commitment to and passion for fashion photography.
As the curator of the exhibition, how did you select the images from each student? What were you looking for?
We really chose what we considered the strongest images, which would work together in the best way within the spatial confines.
How does this MFA program differ from other MFA photography programs? What do you think is the unique strength of the SVA Program? How are the students selected for admission?
Really, we are the only graduate program in fashion photography in the United States. We are lucky to have a continuously growing constituency and an ever increasing application pool. We choose students based on their ability to display, through their submission of images as well as written statements, and where possible, in-person meetings. Gauging that they fundamentally have a personal vision which they are expressing and wish to refine, and expand through the medium of fashion photography.
The SVA MPS Fashion Photography 2014 Graduate Exhibition will run from January 20 – 30 at Milk Gallery 450 West 15th Street, New York, NY 10011
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