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Sally Bolton

Published date
27 Jun 2018

The Converged Fashion Image: From 1990-2017

College: Central Saint Martins
Supervisors: Professor Caroline Evans, Alistair O'Neil


This thesis asks how digital technology has changed the collaborative practice of creating and distributing fashion images since 1990 to 2017. By looking at the layers of production and post-production, it seeks to illuminate a history that has thus far been overlooked and aims to unpack the converged fashion image.

Context and background

Focusing on the early 21st century, it studies changes of form and process. I look at image making practices and dissemination embedded within the fashion image-making industry. The study considers three sites of change: Analogue to digital, still to moving and print to screen. I apply Pierre Bourdieu’s field theory to investigate the influence of digital media on collaboration, developing positions of individuals in the field and the fluctuating boundaries of the fashion image-making industry. It also studies the relationship between symbolic and economic value of the networked industry and the individuals who work within it.

I employ ethnographic research methods carried out within my professional practice as a fashion editor, combined with interviews with practitioners, who worked in the industry over the historical span, that relate to the specific projects under analysis. Through this research I aim to uncover alternative examples of experimental image making practices that influenced techniques commercially adopted by the industry. I examine the conditions that gave particular practices currency. The study then draws upon this primary data in the close visual analysis of the case studies to unravel the nature of the image.

The thesis contains a series of case studies, looking at the image within the magazine website, magazine app and Instagram, as well as traditional media forms such as the printed magazine, books and television. They span a range of projects from editorial for magazines and websites to the advertising campaigns of global fashion brands.

I adopt a Media Archaeological approach, informed by Jussi Parikka and Erkki Huhtamo (2009), and use Jay Bolter and Richard Gursin’s theory of remediation (1996). Applying these theories as methods of investigation, I explore a non-linear, converged and heterogeneous history of the fashion image. By studying the intricate web of emergence and layers of production within the field, to foreground visual analysis, I offer an alternative perspective of the fashion image to that which already exists.