Accidentally on Purpose
when the machine rages against us

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Art has a way of revealing beauty in everything, including in errors. In the past couple of decades, immersed as we are in a digital age,  it is inevitable that technology will work against us on occasion. Born out of a determination to embrace the inescapability of  digital and analog errors, glitching’s formerly unanticipated appearance has been purposefully reinterpreted as artistic aesthetic: simply put, glitch is what happens when the machine rages back against us.

Although accidental glitching has existed as long as the technology that causes it, the use of purposeful glitching came to fruition as a musical genre in the mid 90s. Characterized by the kind of distorted lo-fi sensibility found in noise or drone electronica, glitching was made popular by artists like Alva Noto, Flying Lotus, Aphex Twin, James Ferraro or Achim Szepanski and his Mille Plateaux producers. The art world caught on, and it’s since become a symbol of the humanization of technology-based productions – a nod to the corruption of the very machines we rely on. Herewith, SSENSE showcases five fashion photographers who use the aesthetic to great effect.
German-born photographer Daniel Sannwald studied at the Royal Academy in Antwerp. Now based out of London, Sannwald is quickly making a name for himself in contemporary photography, having worked with the likes of i-D Magazine, Delfina Delettrez, Woodkid, Arena Homme+, and Le Monde M Magazine in just the last year. Now iconic for his talent with graphic distortion and glitching effects, Sannwald’s images represent a surrealist take on fashion photography.

London-based fashion filmmaker Ruth Hogben got her start in the industry as photographer Nick Knight’s first assistant and lead editor back in 2005. Since, Hogben has joined Knight’s fashion film and media collective, SHOWstudio, as a contributing film director. Her work is often rooted in hazy, lo-fi qualities that offer an ethereal, almost romantic aesthetic, as seen in her productions with Lady Gaga or her campaign for Gareth Pugh.

Director/photographer Tim Richardson has become an integral part of the fashion industry, lending his futuristic, oft-distorted imagery to the campaigns of Mugler, Dion Lee, and Nike, among others. Richardson has contributed to projects like Dazed & Confused, Interview, V Magazine and Vogue Homme Japan, using digital glitching and graphic illusions to create his forward-thinking aesthetic.

British fashion and beauty photographer David Sims’ career began when he worked as an assistant to Robert Erdmann and Norman Watson. It wasn’t long before Sims himself was in the spotlight, producing images for editorials in Harper’s Bazaar USA. Sims’ more recent work has experimented with glitching, notably his campaign video for Proenza Schouler’s Spring 13 collection, which utilized bright colors, lighting effects and retro-inspired cinematic graphics.

Perhaps one of the more iconic instances of glitching in fashion-based photography comes from Belgian photographer Willy Vanderperre. The director/photographer has worked with the likes of AnOther Man, Vogue Homme, W Magazine and Dior, but it was his 2011 campaign for Jil Sander Navy that marks one of the most recognizable forays into fashion-glitching. Using saturated colors and static effects, Windeperre brought new life to photos of model Arizona Muse in the label’s 2011 collection.

Our latest editorial, Beyond Control, also embraces the glitches of the digital age, featuring looks from the Spring 13 collections of Saint Laurent, Maison Martin Margiela, Underground, and Balmain.

Images from left: portrait by Daniel Sanndwald, Lady Gaga's video for White Christmas by Ruth Hogben, Tim Richardson's Neo-Digital series, the Proenza Schouler Spring 13 campaign video by David Sims, Arizona Muse for Jil Sander Navy by Willy Venderperre, SSENSE Beyond Control editorial.