Henry Rittenberg ’15 is examining the evolution of fashion photography since World War II for his Emerson Grant with Postdoctoral Fellow in Asian Studies Lawrence Chua. Through his project, titled “From Penn to Richardson: A Study in Post World War II Fashion Photography,” Rittenberg said, “I hope to find why there has been a shift from the supremely beautiful compositions of Richard Penn and other post-war photographers to the amateurism of Terry Richardson and the desire for shock value among other contemporary photographers.”
The comparison of Penn and Richardson in Rittenberg’s project title serves to highlight the changes in fashion photography over the course of the last 70 years. However, Rittenberg notes, “For the project, I’ll be looking at more photographers than just these two. Rather than studying the differences in their work, I’m aiming to find a broader dialogue that links fashion photography in the ’40s to contemporary fashion photography.” In order to do so, Rittenberg plans to read through several art criticism books and monographs, which should provide the necessary theoretical basis for his research.
Rittenberg originally became interested in photography in high school — he began taking lots of pictures and read up about the history of photography. His fascination with photography and its history stuck with him throughout high school and into college, where he became an art history major. Since there was no photo history class offered at Hamilton, Rittenberg decided to study the topic through an Emerson Grant.
As with any discipline, however, photography’s whole history would be too much to tackle, so he chose to focus on one genre. He noted, “I was originally going to do something related to advertising photography. Then I realized there was a large crossover between ad-photography and fashion photography, and that I preferred to study fashion photography.”
Rittenberg hopes this project will carry over into his art history thesis next spring. Beyond that, he concluded that he’d like to pursue a fellowship related to photography after he graduates.
Henry Rittenberg ’15 is a graduate of San Francisco University High School, Calif.