Get Real

Ringling College’s Fashion Photography Exhibit Challenges the Industry’s Notions of Beauty

Don’t expect the usual glamorous, upscale luxury magazine fashion photos.

By Kay Kipling January 3, 2019 Published in the January 2019 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Photo by Hao Zeng

Don’t expect to see the usual glamorous, upscale luxury magazine fashion photos if you go to see REAL Fashion Photography, on view Jan. 18 through March 16 at the Lois & David Stulberg Gallery on the Ringling College campus. While there are images from photographers working within that industry, REAL Fashion brings them together with pictures by artists who also comment on and critique those very contemporary fashion ideals.

Usually, says curator Tom Winchester, when we look at fashion spreads in glossy national magazines, “It’s not real. They [the models] don’t really look like that; they can’t afford those clothes. Even the selfies we take with our camera phones often don’t resemble reality.”

According to Winchester, who graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City and has worked both in the fashion world and taught fashion photography classes at Ringling, most of the photographers featured in this exhibit choose to present younger, more diverse models, often in banal settings, in sharp contrast to the highly styled, perfect images aimed at affluent (and older) consumers. And, of course, the latest digital technologies, manipulating the originals in unexpected ways, are used along with more traditional methods of photography. Overall, it’s an effort to portray the world of fashion in ways that resemble everyday life.

Winchester knows some of the photographers from his time in New York. A few have been successful creatives within the fashion industry, showcasing their work in Vogue Korea or CR Fashion Book, while others are more interested in placing their millennial models (or themselves) within suggested storylines than in helping to sell designer clothing or perfume.

An Emma Bee Bernstein self-portrait.

Among the artists represented are Hao Zeng and Sloan Laurits, both of whom have shown their work in editorial publications; Natalie Krick, a gallery-based creator who photographs her mother, her sister and herself while exploring feminine identity and selfhood; the late Emma Bee Bernstein, whose work delves into feminist issues and often includes self-portraits; and husband-and-wife team Reed + Rader (Pamela Reed and Matthew Rader), who have worked with Adidas, Nike, Spotify, MTV and more national clients. The couple directs films and produces virtual reality experiences set in virtual environments, several of which are in the Ringling show.

“It’s gonna blow your mind,” Winchester promises. For more information, visit

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