Fashion Week in New York City, is the largest and most important fashion week in the Americas and one of the leading fashion week events next to Paris and Milan in the world.
Until the last season in September 2006 (Spring 2007 Collection) it was called Olympus Fashion Week, since that camera maker was the major sponsor of that event. The relationship between Olympus and the event production company IMG must have declined and as such did the service provided to us photographers. Mercedes-Benz is now the new sponsor for the NY Fashion Week.
I remember 5 seasons ago, the photographers (not video or reporters and other newsstaff) were handed goodie-bags that contained a lot of nifty little gifts... and was called the "Fashion Week Survival Kit." We even had backrubs from 2 to 4pm every day, when one of the major spa chains also sponsored this event and limousines to drive the photographers to fashionshows that were off-site (not at the tents at Bryant Park) and back to the tents after the show.
All that service and appreciation of the work of photographers went down the hill over the years, with less and less services offered with the total lowpoint last September, when we didn't even get sandwiches and energy drinks in the media holding area... and that can be rough. What I really missed most was the booth were the Olympus people were offering free camera and lens cleaning services... that was extremely useful.
Some may ask why the photographers even should have such ammenities... but here is why we are so important to the industry.
The photographers are the ones that bring the shows to the print publications (now also online publications) world wide... since this is an industry event and not open to the public... after the show is over... all that is left what the video crews have for newsreporting and what the photographers captured with their cameras.
The photographers who are shooting runway as media professionals at the major fashion weeks are pretty much the elite of runway photographers... to shoot real fashion shows... there is a lot of skills required and it's different from any other style of photography... it is so important to actually feel the models walk, there are many little things that you have to observe and anticipate to get the correct series of shots, but that's another long story... LOL
NY Fashion Week has been called "combat photography" and the "superbowl of runway photographers".
Besides all that glamour that you normally see on television, with all the celebrities etc. we usually don't see that much of that. There are usually two types of photographers at the show... the runway photographers who are standing and waiting on the media riser and not moving to keep their spots... Those are being let into the tents first... then comes the audience, the fashionistas, fashion editors, invited guests... and of course... the celebrities. The other type of photographers is what is often known as paparazzi, but are usually just photo reporters who capture the rich and famous for their magazines...
We runway photographers usually just watch the craziness from our spots and sometimes spot a celebrity when they are walking in, passing the media riser...
Anyway, often, especially when having backstage interviews with the designers, we have to be there at 8am... ready to work... and in the evening... when the last show is scheduled for 9pm... with the normal delays... it may not start until 10pm or later.
My first time, when I shot exclusively for BTE TV (not BET!) I did 65 fashionshows and backstage interviews during those eight days. The morning of the third day... Sunday... I came home at 1am, had to do admin stuff, having dinner at 2am and didn't go to bed until 3am.
Getting up at 6am, I was soo tired and exhausted, that I crawled into the bathroom... my eyes burning like fire and I am reaching for the toothpaste... unscrew the top and squeezed about two inches into the palm of my hand... and staring in disbelief at what I just did... telling myself that I really need sleep.
So many people are always excited about the after parties... and every designer has afterparties... but you know... if you are doing this fulltime, as a freelancer... the last thing I want to do is partying... if there is an early evening and I can go home at 9pm... I rather go home and trying to get some rest... after downloading the shows from my memory cards.
A lot of what we are doing is waiting... we spent hours a day waiting in line or the holding area, from where we go to the different shows.
First, we wait to get let in to the tent to settle on the media riser... there is a very specific pecking order... there is the most important team, that is what we call "house". This is the photographer and his team who is getting the really big bucks paid by the specific designer, such as Yves Saint Laurent, Ana Sui, Carlos Miele, Zang Toi and the other major players. House always has the best spot... dead center and different team members have different tasks, such as specializing in accessories closeups, shoes, full body etc.
Then there are the wire houses, such as Getty, Wire Image, Magnum and the others and magazines and television media and those represent and come from every continent... and we see each other all the time... overall... there is a pretty good cameradery going on and if you are liked and well respected... they make extra space and you can squeeze into that tiny spot, balancing with one foot on a step of a ladder and with the other one the gear box of another colleague.
If you are an ass... you'll get blocked from the good positions... and many newbie photographers often don't understand that concept.
I am just estimating, but if I look at the major shows at the tents, and look around... when it's packed and there are maybe 140 photographers squeezed together, there are maybe 30 locals from NY area and the rest come from all over the place... and if you consider how many tens of thousands of photographers are in NYC... then this is a pretty small ratio.
So, there is a lot of stress, it's nerve wrecking, your feet hurt, your back hurts, you have little sleep, you fight with the occasional rude photographer (newbie/outsider or simply born as an ass) but... why doing it... it's not just the money from selling the shows... for me personal... there is something... well... not magical... but... when the show finally starts... and all you hear is blasting music to which some of the worlds top models walk on the runway and everybody around you is just totally focused on catching the right moment and you hear the shutters clicking in burst and every few seconds by over a hundred photographers...
It is pure excitement... an adrenaline rush that is very hard to describe... and when all of this is going on... I am grateful to be part of that group of peers that is worldwide just a selected few.
I am loving it!
EDIT: Below are additional tips on shooting runway from an old thread:
Haha, and Fashion Week is very similar for us models. After parties? Forget it. When you've been at the event from 8:00 am and finish the show at 8:00 PM, partying is the last thing you want to do...especially if you have to do it all over again the next day!
Someday, I want to actually get to watch the shows and enjoy the whole week! I see all the designs backstage on me and the other girls (and we definitely oooh and aaah all over each other), but we're more like "Holy shit! How am I going to walk in this?! Or crap, If I move my left arm down just slightly, this is definitely going to tear."
Photographers, models, and MUAs are definitely the workhorses of Fashion Weeks, and it's not so glamorous for us (though I wish it was).
I'm just not a runway photographer. I mean, I tried it at your Couture Fashion Week event and found it doesn't interest me at all. I don't have the right lenses to take shots that will make money, I don't like the idea of jockying for a spot on the riser against people who need those spots to make their living, and if I'm over in the pit I can't see the models' walks as well.
I'll try to get the agency I work with to give me a backstage pass so I can go visit my girls and get some activity shots with my Holga maybe, but I'm simply more interested in seeing the new lines, cheering on my models, and networking with the audience than anything else.
Ched wrote: I'm just not a runway photographer. I mean, I tried it at your Couture Fashion Week event and found it doesn't interest me at all. I don't have the right lenses to take shots that will make money, I don't like the idea of jockying for a spot on the riser against people who need those spots to make their living, and if I'm over in the pit I can't see the models' walks as well.
Well... we'll hang in the breaks, and since you have access anyway, if you want to see the shows (sidelines) you need to be at the riser (somewhere on the side with good views)... and I get you in to see the shows.
If you are in the pit... you will see the models, btw.!
Udo, I don't plan to be there for this one. That said, a month before Fashion Week in September I didn't plan to be there then, either. So if a client suddenly comes up, as happened last time, I may make the trip.
TXPhotog wrote: Udo, I don't plan to be there for this one. That said, a month before Fashion Week in September I didn't plan to be there then, either. So if a client suddenly comes up, as happened last time, I may make the trip.
I'm not looking for clients, though.
It's when you're not looking for clients that they all come out of the woodwork. Kind of like love?
I am so ridiculously busy right now. It's fantastic, but the family's like: "Uh, I thought you were taking a break."
UdoR wrote: All that service and appreciation of the work of photographers went down the hill over the years, with less and less services offered with the total lowpoint last September, when we didn't even get sandwiches and energy drinks in the media holding area... and that can be rough. What I really missed most was the booth were the Olympus people were offering free camera and lens cleaning services... that was extremely useful.
Pretty much all industry trade shows (as well as client/customer interactions) have been going downhill on the luxury scale for many years. I have seen this in several different industries. Most of this is due to hypersensitivity to the "bottom line," and the rest is due to inflation, in my opinion. The general decline of civility in society is probably also a factor.
Someone else posted how they would love to be one of those on the catwalk. In my younger years (not that I am all that OLD at 31....but too old in industry standards) I too wanted to walk to walk....Now I am to the point I would love just to be able to see one of these shows in person. Maybe one day it will happen...maybe not. As for now I will continue to watch it on tv or read about it in the paper or magazine.