'About a girl': fashion photography as photojournalism


Hartley, John; Rennie, Ellie


Corinne's friend Rose is sprawled on an old couch in Corinne’s flat in London. Surrounding Rose on the beer-stained carpet are a few mugs, an ashtray and a telephone cord. The photo is a record of Corinne Day’s reality from a time when she was still on the dole and partying hard. Her bleak but intimate photography became famous in the fashion pages of magazines like The Face and Vogue, where her early photographs of an unknown young model called Kate Moss created the visual style known as ‘dirty realism’ or ‘grunge’. As she describes it, ‘There we were struggling to pay the rent, living in a dump, surrounded by glamorous magazines that were so far away from our own level of living... Fashion magazines had been selling sex and glamour for far too long. I wanted to instill some reality into a world of fantasy’ (Cotton, 2000). Concentrating on British photographer Corinne Day’s work, this article explores the interface between photojournalism and fashion. Day’s photographs are documents of contemporary life but destined for fashion pages. Beyond its ostensible purpose, contemporary fashion photography in magazines like Vogue can be seen to continue and extend the purposes of photojournalism in the documentary tradition. Furthermore, the compulsion towards art and aesthetics found in photojournalism since the days of Picture Post indicates that the same boundary has been pushed from the other side too, ever since photojournalism’s ascendance. This article therefore traces convergences among some aesthetic, discursive and institutional oppositions that have long been kept carefully separated: ‘reality’ and ‘fantasy’ worlds; national identity and art; journalism and fashion.

Publication year


Publication type

Journal article


Journalism, Vol. 5, no. 4 (2004), pp. 458-479






Copyright © 2004 SAGE Publications.