Illustrative Photography

One of the best paid fields open to the Pictorial Publicity Photographer is fashion illustrating. Look back through some of the best magazines of ten years ago and see where the photograph stood, as compared with hand made illustration, in bringing before the public new things in women’s fashions and you will find it had a very small part. It was a common remark to hear the hand illustrator express himself like this: “Don’t worry about photography ever taking our work away from us.” That you may judge I ask you to note today’s work done by the photographer and the hand illustrator in leading books, magazines, and newspapers and try to imagine what the future of the Pictorial Publicity Photographer is. The question now asked is: “What has made the camera the master of the illustrating field in women’s clothing, or fashion illustrating as some would rather call it?” Allow me to repeat the old belief that woman was the Creator’s last piece of work on this earth, and was given to man to love, honor and protect. How he has failed and succeeded in the past is far too long a story to tell here.

The artist of ancient times as well as of today assigns a very high place to the nude in painting and all the fine arts, especially in costume designing, because a study of the nude is the necessary foundation for all good representation of the human figure. When a master of form does not make preliminary sketches, he dispenses with them only in virtue of the knowledge gained from long study of the figure, which enables him to see at a glance the slightest indication in the outer garments of the natural form beneath.

That you may see for future comparison, the hand illustrator’s work from the beginner to the finished worker, I ask you to turn to Plate One and notice the great difference in the three figures at the top of the plate. All work on this plate was done by a beginner. Fig. 1 shows a tall thin figure. Fig. 2, a normal figure. Fig. 3, a short, fat figure.

[The standards for obesity must have changed since then!]

. . . Compare the illustration made by Ruth Eastman [left] with the DeMeyer illustration [right]. You will see that the photographer has not needed the nude figure to tell his story in picture form and what woman would not look with much care before going somewhere else to buy after seeing this illustration in her favorite magazine. . . .

cropped and joined for easier viewing

[Photography as an alternative to nudity? Somehow I don’t think this caught on.]

I suggest that you watch the pages of leading magazines and see where you can start and obtain some of this business. It will mean work on your part and many disappointments, but you will never amount to anything till you travel the road and get the education that others have. Two good books that will you know more about the human figure are “The Human Form and Its Use in Art” by Yerbury and Ellwood, American Photographic Publishing Co., Boston, Mass., and “Costume Design and Illustration,” by Ethel Traphagen, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York City. In the last named book you will find a wealth of material on Freehand Sketching, Drawing Without Models, and a Fine Outline of Historic Costume and its use by the illustrator. The book shows you just how the hand illustrator goes to work. If you are interested you can apply what he has said as being possible with a pencil or brush and do better with your camera.

Illustrative Photography in Advertising by Leonard A. Williams, 1929.