There are few sectors of the economy that offer as wide and interesting a range of career opportunities as fashion. Role Call highlights some of the industry’s most interesting jobs and the talented people who do them. For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.
LONDON, United Kingdom — Chris Moore is a runway photographer and founder of Catwalking.com, the first company in the UK to create an online archive of fashion shows. Hailing from Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Moore moved to London in 1951 and took his first job at G&Watson's, a print house on Shoe Lane. After two years working in the photographic department, he joined Vogue Studios as an in-house studio assistant, assisting Cecil Beaton, Clifford Coffin and Henry Clarke. It was in the early 1970s that Moore became a regular presence on the catwalk circuits; the format having developed into a forum for trade and press. Then, in 1999, Moore set up subscription service Catwalking.com. After 15 years of catwalk shows, he made a deal with Getty picture agency in 2008. Most recently, Moore received a Lifetime Achievement Award at Graduate Fashion Week 2013 and the Special Recognition Award at the British Fashion Awards 2014.
BoF: Please describe your current role.
As the founder and managing director of Catwalking.com, which began life as a photographic company covering and collating fashion shows decades ago, my role has widened from being a sole photographer, responsible for myself and my own work for magazines and newspapers, to heading up a large team of photographers, picture editors and other support individuals in a highly specialised area of photographic service, regularly covering the international catwalk show circuits in New York, London, Milan and Paris. As a photographic documenter of these events and the collections presented there, I want to deliver the experience to as wide an audience as possible.
BoF: What attracted you to runway photography?
My early career was rooted in fashion studio work. I started off assisting many great photographers at British Vogue’s in-house fashion studio in London in the late 1950s. I subsequently started up on my own studio shooting fashion sessions in the 1960s and 1970s, first on Soho Street in the West End of London and later in Clerkenwell in the City. Like many people working in the fashion business at the time, I travelled to the Paris Couture shows to see the fashions first hand as they were presented to the press twice a year. Naturally, I started photographing not only the collections, but the venues and people around the shows as well. I gradually became known as a go-to source for the London press when they wanted to publish Paris fashion photos.
Social media, with its real-time and potentially viral reach, is the new aspiration for anyone in fashion with anything to say or sell.
BoF: What prompted you to launch Catwalking?
My core client base has always been press-orientated, and the deadlines that came with that were always pushing me towards the cutting edge of technological advantages in photography and communications. Before email was commonplace I would transmit pictures using intranets over telephone connections, sometimes having to hook up the wiring myself with crocodile clips in a dismantled hotel phone socket. When the Web came of age, it was a no brainer that making the collections available to editors at any time, wherever they were in the world, was the only way to go.
BoF: What makes good photography?
Any good photograph should be capable of delivering a message. My role, specifically, as a documenter of fashion and fashion shows, allows me to witness exciting collaborations between many creative individuals; stylists, show producers, designers, marketing giants and the like. The photograph should carry enough of a sense of the moment, of being there, so that others not fortunate enough to attend these incredible short one-time-only events can get a sense and flavour of being there.
BoF: What is the most exciting product or initiative you have worked on?
I am so fortunate to have worked personally with so many giants of fashion design and media, especially in the UK. I've worked with people like Alison Adburgham, Brenda Polan and Sarah Mower at The Guardian, Liz Smith and Iain R Webb at the Times, Colin McDowell, Paula Reed and Marion Hume at the Sunday Times, to name but a few. Working closely with the great designers Jean Muir, Margaret Howell, Lee McQueen and Hussein Chalayan are also highlights for me, but if I should single out the most rewarding relationship during my career, it must be with Suzy Menkes and the International Herald Tribune over 25 years with all the glamour and hard work that implies.
BoF: How is your role changing? What forces are driving this change?
The elephant in the room here is social media. The fashion industry has had a love-hate relationship with the Internet since it first emerged, but finally, the cultural explosion of social media has reverberated through even the most orthodox temples of taste. Long standing resistance to digital as a replacement for comfortingly familiar print and broadcast is falling way. Social media, with its real-time and potentially viral reach, is the new aspiration for anyone in fashion with anything to say or sell.
This has been a long time coming for someone like me. My web presence at Catwalking.com has been up and running since 2000, but what's new and changing are the time frames for delivering experiences to the public. While Catwalking remains a source for press, we've taken the new and exciting initiative to deliver content directly to the public, so that anyone who follows the shows can look to us for early viewing and complement this by still going to their usual sources for comment and opinion. We are also currently in the process of digitising a huge volume of back archive from the late 60s to the present day, which, hopefully, when complete will form a relevant and unique historical record for now and the future.
Looking forward, my role is to develop a strong and viable organisation that can continue to add and deliver this beyond my personal contribution and for many years to come.
BoF: What advice do you have for people who are interested in doing what you do?
In the long time that I have been covering fashion catwalk circuits, the environment has grown tougher than it has ever been. The physical environment is perhaps kinder. Show production is more professional and there is better communication between producers and photographers, but the market environment is extremely competitive and the outlay for each season is great.
When I started out in the 60s, I breezed in and out of Paris fashion shows with a couple of Nikon cameras and a relaxed view of which newspapers might publish what I took home on the cross-channel ferry. I could point the lens where I would. Sadly, now, there is little room for an individual to make this kind of work financially viable. It requires a good business plan and a commitment to providing a service for professionals. That inevitably means a strong team of people and a clear idea of what picture editors need, rather than what one might hope they will like.
Anyone wanting to do what I do now must have a strong work ethic, good people skills, a skin as thick as a rhinoceros and an eye that can follow the ever-changing cultural focus. Being able to take a mean photograph comes a bit further down the list.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
For more information about fashion industry roles like this and others, visit BoF Careers.