Condé Nast College recently welcomed Ivan Shaw, Corporate Director of the Condé Nast Archive, for a special talk—Through the Looking Glass; the Condé Nast Archive. Lucia Castro Santos, MA Fashion Journalism & Editorial Direction student, reports.
About Ivan Shaw
Ivan Shaw began his stellar Condé Nast career in 1994 as an archive intern at Vanity Fair, and became Photography Director for Vogue in the USA in 1996, working closely with Anna Wintour on numerous special projects.
For the next 20 years, he commissioned photographers and oversaw the most iconic moments in fashion photography; pregnant Demi Moore’s then-controversial cover for Vanity Fair in August 1991, and the infamous “Call Me Caitlyn” Vanity Fair cover in July 2015, both shot by Annie Leibovitz.
In 2016, Ivan was appointed Corporate Photography Director for Condé Nast, working closely with the commercial teams and overseeing the Condé Nast Archive—the largest and most important fashion photography archive in the world.
History of Photography
Ivan guided the students through the history of Condé Nast through the lens of photography, beginning with the images used in the first issue of Vogue and explained how it has evolved to the magazine we all know today.
From the first issue of Vogue to the newest additions to the Condé Nast portfolio, Ivan discussed history, photography, gossip of the early years of the company; but always emphasised his love for photography. “Finding a balance between taking too much risk and not taking enough”.
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The Importance of the Archive
Condé Nast is one of the most influential global media companies within the fashion, print and digital publication industries, with more than a hundred years of history. Ivan enlightened the students with his expert knowledge of the most important fashion photographers throughout Condé Nast history and their contributions, which helped to shape the art of fashion photography.
Condé Nast purchased Vogue from the Turner family in 1909. In 1913, Vanity Fair became part of the company. And in 1914, House & Garden was also acquired. By 1915 Condé Nast had the most important pillars in magazine publishing: fashion, culture and design. Each magazine was targeted towards a specific audience. This was the secret to Condé Nast’s success and years later this strategy is still relevant.
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Ivan explained that it is essential to understand the needs and interests of the audience, in order to sustain a close relationship. In the early years of Condé Nast the most important question was: “Who is the modern woman?” Ivan explained this is still Condé Nast’s mantra: “Who is the modern person? Are we covering all of their needs?”.
In today’s media world where the content never stops flowing, Ivan talked about how years ago the work was limited to creating a monthly magazine, however with today’s technology it is necessary to constantly create interesting and engaging content so the audience is always entertained.
The Beginning of Photography on the Cover of Magazines
Condé Nast’s interest in photography was revolutionary. Ivan explained that in the early days of fashion photography, the medium was greatly undervalued, with many magazine publishers preferring to use illustrations. However, Condé Nast could see the potential in photography, and as such, Vogue was one of the first fashion magazines to use it.
In 1914 Condé Nast decided to hire the first full-time photographer: Baron Adolf de Meyer. This appointment marked the beginning of photography within major magazines. From Baron Aldof de Meyer, Horst P. Horst, Helmut Newton and Cecil Beaton, Ivan’s knowledge of the history of Condé Nast photography and its most influential figures, allowed us to understand why it is still the most important company in the fashion industry.
His most important piece of advice for the Condé Nast students?: “Figure out what you’re good at and focus on it”.
Words by Lucia Castro Santos, MA Fashion Journalism & Editorial Direction student
Images by Annelee Kiliddjian, MA Creative Direction for Fashion for Fashion Media student