European Fashion Heritage Association

Journal EFHA World

Meeting Fashion Heritage: CatwalkPictures

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As first ‘meeting’ of 2021, we introduce CatwalkPictures, whose archive of runway photographs allows us to wander, rediscover and experience the most spectacular moments of contemporary fashion

CatwalkPictures is a Belgian company founded by photographer and journalist Etienne Tordoir. Etienne was born in 1961 in Charleroi, a city with an industrial heritage, in the south of Belgium. From his early childhood, Etienne became passionate about photography. He took his first pictures, playing with a Kodak box. Then, during family summer vacations in Spain, with his father’s Voigtländer camera. One day, a family friend left him his Canon AE1 camera when hiking in the French Alps. It was a very decent camera at the time. After that, at 16, he convinced his parents to drain his bank account and spend all his savings to buy the exact same camera.

Passionate about rock music, in the late seventies Etienne started to take pictures at every single rock concert in Charleroi, eventually working for a local newspaper as music reporter and, after graduating at Louvain-la-Neuve university serving as freelance music journalist and photographer for several renowned Belgian magazines, such as “Télémoustique”, “Rock This Town”, “Humo”, “Weekend Le Vif” or “La Libre Belgique”.

In his works, Etienne was in particular inspired by photographers such as Sheila Rock (Rolling Stone Magazine), Anton Corbijn (black-and-white portraits), Jeanloup Sieff and the founders of the Magnum agency like Robert Capa.

Every concert is always different, and even if it’s the same band playing, there is no repetition at all. The same with fashion shows, each of them is different, even though they may seem similar. That’s what I like about my job. You don’t hold all the keys, you don’t have a lot of time, there are all sorts of constraints putting you under pressure.

He smoothly moved towards fashion photography at the end of this golden rock era. Still, most of his fashion articles were linked to the music world. He remembers writing about Gianni Versace who designed, in 1992, the cover artwork for Elton John’s “The One” album (and the whole wardrobe for the world tour following). For “Weekend Le Vif”, he also did the portraits, both in words and photo, of the contestants of the last edition of “La Canette d’Or” in 1989. Of the relationship between fashion and music photography, Etienne said:

In both areas, there is no room for errors, you can’t afford anything to go wrong. You have to capture the moment and get the best possible result from it. Or at least try! You are not going to get another chance, it’s the single instant and it’s your micro challenge. Most of the time our work is woven from thousands of those moments.

Amongst other things, Etienne was responsible for the fashion pages of « Elle Belgium » magazine. Juggling his journalistic and photographer’s work, during fashion weeks, late in the evening, in the company of a night porter, he would type an article on the typewriter in the lobby of his Paris hotel, and fax it to a newspaper.

As the years went on, it became more difficult to perform and combine both careers. Not only it was stressful and difficult for him, but it also confused his clients and interviewees. There was no such job as photographer-journalist in those days. Eventually, in the late 90s, Etienne mainly dropped his journalistic career and refocused on photography.

Through his work, Etienne experienced the shifts of the fashion world firsthand, as well as the change in the output of his work:

When I started covering fashion shows, there was a very special and different atmosphere, contributing to the acquaintances with various people engaged in the fashion business. I met very many interesting persons in the shuttle driving people from one show to another. Some of those meetings led to a long and friendly relationship (…) In those days, a photographer had greater freedom regarding the shooting of fashion shows. He could choose the angle and composition of the picture. At least I could! Nowadays, photo cameras are more efficient and reliable. With all this amazing technology, you can get much better quality and sharper images. We manage to get pictures with nearly perfect framing and color balance, thanks to our post-production assistants. Yet, you are also expected to deliver a certain “standard” and more conventional result, there is less originality. I find that the old analogic pictures are delightful and charming in their imperfection.

Catwalkpictures is a preminent member of EFHA, and the amazing pictures shot by Etienne can be browsed in our archive. For more stories about Etienne’s work, stay tuned!