The Function of the Photographer: Creating a Culture Around the Model

The Function of the Photographer: Creating a Culture Around the Model

The 1960s saw a rise in the number of jobs available to young, single women, that finally began to give them a voice in society. This allowed them to move away from the perfect housewife image that rendered them as passive and powerless, devoted and submissive to their husbands. It was the so-called ‘working girl’ who set fashion standards at this time. Single and self-sufficient was a look that many fashion photographers sought to capture as women grew more independent. Therefore, photography in this period shifted stylistically, giving expression to the Single Girl ethos. The focus was on encapsulating the characteristics of the Single Girl, and she was seen as active to convey this new ideal of youth through the image of diet and exercise.

Model Lesley Hornby, widely recognised by her celebrity name, Twiggy, was discovered and defined to be the perfect Single Girl of the ‘60s. She steered the fashion industry away from the conventional tall, skinny, long-legged model look by her petite and adolescent appearance. Society began moving towards the ideal of models who were no longer masked by anonymity but rather became marketing entities for their faces and characters portrayed, as opposed to just their bodies as a display of clothing. The shift in femininity towards the Single Girl attributes stated that in photography, she must be captured to look strong, independent and active, whilst also distinctly young and thin. She must possess these physical appearances whilst also maintaining economic independence.

Twiggy, 1966. Photo: Getty Images

Twiggy embodies the ideal image of the Single Girl by her wide doe-eyed stare, short haircut and petite body, which is accentuated by her schoolgirl-like clothing. Her distinctive look presents her as anything but a glamourous model, allowing for her iconic image to create a movement that steered away from the stereotypical model look. Described as “boy-ish” and “anti-woman”, Twiggy’s appearance in the spotlight at that time made it evident that there was no longer such a demand for the typical stereotype of the hourglass-figured, glamourous female image that Marylin Monroe carried in the 1950s, as she became a product of the ‘60s who projected a more prominent look for the female representation. The new femininity inspired by Twiggy’s slender female body empowered women to dress in a more unprejudiced manner, instead of conforming to the previously traditional and unrealistic feminine ideals.

Twiggy, 1966. Photo: Barry Lategan/SHOWstudio

It was Barry Lategan’s infamous test shot photograph of Twiggy that landed her in the spotlight, becoming one of the world’s first international supermodels at the age of sixteen. In it, she has a wide-eyed gaze that renders her young and is emphasised by her short infantile haircut and patterned jumper. The image manifests this shift in glamour, conveying the function of the fashion photographer and the model both as powerful instruments, working in conjunction with each other to create a dynamic new image that breaks the conventions of what is expected of the female gender.The sense of realism carried within the Single Girl image that is captured by the active and almost candid facial expressions conveyed by Twiggy have paved the way for fashion to be able to capture the reality of everyday life through photography. The Single Girl image manifested a more realistic feminine ideal, creating a shift in glamour that steered more towards a genderless outtake. It was a powerful conception that represented the model with agency, achieved by capturing a more natural beauty ideal that was attainable in 1960s. Twiggy’s appearance rejected the fantasy image of women in which they were depicted as compliant. Photographers like Barry Lategan merely captured the changes provoked by the 1960s Youthquake, a movement that was influenced by youth culture, establishing change in the fashion industry by the involvement of music and pop culture. The term Youthquake referred to the teen-dominated fashion and cultural movement originating from London. The manifestation of The Single Girl image by Twiggy sheds light on the debate of whether the photographer or the model acts as a crucial role in constructing new depictions around fashion and gender. Whilst the photographer has the ability to turn the model into a celebrity through the art of imagery, perhaps they cannot construct an influential image around gender and rising cultural identities without each other.