Sitting in my seat at the Oscar de la Renta spring 2013 fashion show the other day, I was suitably excited for what is consistently one of the most beautiful events of each New York fashion week. As editors and buyers found their spots, the photographers at the end of the runway got themselves in position to take the images that would soon be beamed to sites such as style.com and Getty in order for those in attendance as well as those who weren’t to easily study the collection at a later date. With that in mind, many sat back to enjoy the spectacle, perhaps take some notes and leave the photography to the professionals.
Sadly, the woman next to me did not want to rely on the experts. As soon as the show started, she whipped out her iPhone and began snapping away, reaching across me to take blurry shots of every model that passed. In addition to the fact that she was verging on invading my personal space, her entire approach baffled me. The images that she was furiously trying to capture were of appalling quality, surely no photo editor would allow them to feature in any editorial piece, nor were they detailed enough to serve as reference shots. On top of that, I wondered if she had even seen the clothes with her own eyes or had her entire impression of them been defined by their appearance on her touch screen phone.
Unfortunately, my seat neighbour’s snap happiness was not unique this fashion week. At nearly every show or presentation, there was someone with a phone or iPad taking poor quality images of not only the clothes on show but also of themselves. And this trend hasn’t gone unnoticed by the professional image services.
For the first time, Getty dispatched four photographers armed only with phone cameras and Instagram to document the shows. While these images will amount to less than 1 per cent of Getty’s entire coverage of the week, it’s clear that there’s a market for more informal shots. Earlier this month, photographers from the Associated Press documented the political conventions using their iPhones and a number of major publications have launched sites that feed their editors’ phone snaps to websites for readers to follow.
While I can see the possible advantages in some contexts of a reporter being able to file an instant, candid shot of an event, I just hope that the first person to lay eyes on the image is a well-trained photo editor. And those who snap away to only add a catchy caption to a low resolution image before uploading to one social media site or another can only really be seen as adding not to news but to their own ongoing virtual vanity project.