Some of My 1990s Art College Degree Fashion Photography

My 1990s Art College Degree Fashion Photography | Not Dressed As Lamb

Some of you may know that way back in the 1990s I did a photography degree – and what I actually wanted to do when graduating was fashion photography.

My dreams of becoming the next David Bailey (oh how that shows my age!) never actually came to fruition. Long story short: I did some work experience at a top London studio and HATED it. Unfortunately it wasn’t a very nice experience, and as a not-very-confident 22 year old I didn’t have the balls to speak up. So I decided it wasn’t for me and went on to teach the subject instead (you can read more on my About page if you don’t know the story of how I ended up here).

But no regrets – I love what I do now! I may not be behind the camera (ironically) as much as I would like, but I’m flexing my photography skills more often these days with still lifes and self-portraits (not just selfies).

So after having moved house last year and unearthing lots of framed pieces that I produced for my final degree show, I decided I should start a gallery wall in our stairwell; I’ll show the results of that when it’s finished. In the meantime, I thought I might share some of the photography I produced in the early 90s – never before seen on the blog or ANYWHERE, apart from in my final show in 1994.

I don’t know if it’s obvious, but I bought Vogue religiously back in the day. I was as obsessed with the fashion photography as I was with the clothes and the styling. My two favourite fashion photographer greats were Richard Avedon and David Bailey, and I was heavily influenced by 90s fashion photographer supremo Nick Knight.

My work was all studio-based. I preferred to shoot from scratch, creating images from nothing – I just couldn’t get to grips with impromptu, documentary-style photography. I collaborated with a budding hair and makeup artist who needed shots for her portfolio, and together we created some fantastic images.

I was all about shapes, and colour, and (I’m proud to say!) some quite feminist subjects. My thesis was actually called “Bodyism – Female Ideology in the 1990s”, and my final show was all about the impossibly perfect female form in fashion… things don’t change much, do they?!

(I might publish some extracts from it one day, let me know if that’s of interest to you?)

Remember these were the days before digital photography – everything I produced was done in the darkroom, not on the computer. Digital was JUST starting to be used by some of the students in ’94 when I graduated, but it was still very much in its infancy. As my style developed in my third year I almost exclusively used a technique called cross processing, which created oversaturated colours and high contrast. In other words, a style that took me absolutely ages to produce in total darkness to both process the film and then print the photos (unlike black and white all colour photography has to be done in pitch black, no red light allowed) can be done in a split second these days with a filter.


All the subjects were either friends or students at my college who I roped in to model for me. If you recognise anyone, please, please PLEASE direct them here: and if it’s you then for goodness sake get in touch and say hello!

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Anyway that’s a little insight into what I did for three years – and for a year or so after I graduated as you’ll see by the dates of the images (as I went on to teach the subject I had access to a studio for quite a while and enjoyed creating more work long after college). These photos only scratch the surface of everything I produced… let me know if you’d like to see more one day in the future!

Hope you like them. I still think they hold up 25 years later…


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Catherine Summers Fashion Photography | Powder, 1995

1. Powder, 1995

This is just one example of many collaborations between myself and the MUA I found locally who needed shots for her portfolio. We sometimes came up with the concepts between us, and other times she created the look that I described to her. I can’t remember whose idea this particular one was, but her work was amazing and I’m so grateful to her. If anyone knows Hannah Phillips, MUA, please direct her here!

The model was a student at the college where I was teaching. She had the most exquisite face and was a joy to work with, EVEN when we covered her in this much makeup.


Catherine Summers Fashion Photography | Charlie, 1994

2. Speak no evil, 1994

I think this was part of a series I produced called “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” for a magazine competition… I couldn’t find See and Hear in my portfolio (all these images are original prints that I’ve scanned). I experimented with sepia tones for a bit – VERY typical of the early 90s.


Catherine Summers Fashion Photography | Blue, 1995

3. Blue, 1995

Another competition entry – this time for a Vogue photography competition. I’ve forgotten what the brief was exactly, but the model was the 14-year-old sister of my then boyfriend. She modelled a lot for me back then, as you can see she had the perfect face for modelling swathes of bandages(?!) and being drowned in blue light. I covered her whole face in sparkly blue eyeshadow once, eep. I don’t think I got anywhere in the competition – I’m sure I’d remember if I did – but it was all good for my flexing my creative muscles.


Catherine Summers Fashion Photography | Animal, 1995

4. Animal, 1995

Another college friend who modelled for me a lot (wait till you see her legs, below), this image was called “Animal” as she was wearing a leather jacket and a cow print dress. This was the effect of not having a studio to work in: this was taken in my living room in my London flat. No studio lights or proper background – we improvised with table lamps and slow shutter speeds in front of a plain wall to get this effect (VERY Richard Avedon inspired).


Catherine Summers Fashion Photography | Eye, 1993

5. Eye, 1993

A beautiful example of my MUA’s handiwork. Thankfully the model (another student) had resisted the trend to pluck her eyebrows 90s-style to oblivion, as I think the lines in the eyebrow hairs, on the eyelids and of the eyelashes are what make this photo. My inspiration was the iconic image that Fred Astaire’s photographer character in Funny Face produced (Dick Avery – Richard Avedon – get it?) of only Audrey Hepburn’s eyes, nose and mouth.

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Catherine Summers Fashion Photography | Rockabilly, 1995

6. Rockabilly, 1995

In the year after I graduated and had access to another studio at the college where I was teaching, I experimented more and more with a technique I’d tried in my last year of my degree. I have no idea what to call it (or if it has a name, if it has I’ve forgotten it…), but it’s created with a flash, a slow shutter speed and light blasting out the background and seeping into the edges of the subject.

Hair and makeup was done by MUA Hannah again, the model was the same one as in “Powder”, above. I’d love to explore this technique again. I need more lights!


Catherine Summers Fashion Photography | Legs, 1994

7. Legs, 1994

These last two images were both from my final degree show that was shown at college for our finals and then taken to the Mall Galleries when we showed in London. These INCREDIBLE legs belonged to the same friend who modelled in “Animal”, above – and I still maintain to this day that she’s The Owner Of The Best Legs I’ve Ever Seen In My Life (remember nothing here is Photoshopped).

The shoes were the classic Vivienne Westwood platforms that Naomi Campbell famously fell over in on the catwalk in 1993 (not the actual ones!) – I think this pair belonged to a friend of MUA Hannah, who loaned them to us for the shoot. What a coup, if I say so myself.


Catherine Summers Fashion Photography | Corset, 1994

8. Corset, 1994

I’ve saved the best (I think) for last… this is always the image that everyone remembered from all my work; it perfectly sums up the message I trying to get across about impossible beauty standards. The model was a very game fellow student – she had absolutely no qualms about modelling this for me and being squeezed in as tightly as possible (I seem to remember her saying “Tighter! Tighter!” during the shoot). I think that it’s a really beautiful image – although I printed all six (or were there eight?) of my final images into massive prints and had them professionally framed, it’s this one and “Legs” that I’ll be putting on my wall. The image was used to advertise our show in London’s Time Out magazine and I still have the copy somewhere.

Interesting fact about this shoot: this was the ONLY shot that looked like this. My vision was to have her arms above her head as an homage to Horst P. Horst’s “Mainbocher Corset” image. All the shots on the contact sheet had her arms up in the air (don’t forget this was in the days before digital, so you couldn’t see what you were shooting apart from what you saw in the viewfinder) – when she dropped her arms to rest I clicked the shutter, and this was the result.


Now looking back and seeing this – and all the other images – here on the internet, I’m really quite proud of what I produced back in the day. Who knows what I’d be doing if I hadn’t had such a horrible time at that studio… maybe not fashion blogging, which would be a shame! No regrets though as I said earlier : -)


  1. 3 June 2019 / 5:22 pm

    that is some beautiful photography! I love the last picture so much. It really speaks volumes.

    • Catherine
      4 June 2019 / 6:07 pm

      Stephanie thank you – I still think it’s a showstopper myself…!

  2. 3 June 2019 / 8:01 am

    Really wonderful – I am impressed!

    • Catherine
      10 June 2019 / 10:51 am

      Thanks so much Porcelina! x

  3. 2 June 2019 / 2:14 pm

    I did photography at college as part of my graphic design course. Like you I spent many an hour developing my photos in the dark room. The smell !! They are in the attic somewhere I may have to find them Out! Love the rockabilly image and the corset is very powerful

    Tracey x

    • Catherine
      10 June 2019 / 10:53 am

      Oh, Tracey, the smell…!!! B&W was the smelly one with the dishes of solutions (I always remember the Stop solution smelt like pickled onion crisps, bleurghhhhh). Luckily colour had no dishes of stuff as we put them through a big machine in the dark that processed the prints for us. Maybe the lack of stink and mess is why I preferred colour?!!

      And thank you, so glad you liked them x

  4. 2 June 2019 / 1:04 am

    I’d like to see you take up photography again Catherine. I mean outside of blogging of course. I think these images are very powerful especially Corset. If this is the work of a youthful inexperienced Catherine, imagine what the Catherine of today can produce? With all that heart and emotion and experience of life (not to mention digital technology) you have under your belt, I’m sure you’d create incredibly moving pieces.
    And I agree with Lisa, a gallery on the blog is a must!

    • Catherine
      10 June 2019 / 10:54 am

      Oh MT you star, that’s SO nice of you – thank you!! I know I really should create more, let’s hope I can make more time for myself to do more this year x

  5. LindaJT
    31 May 2019 / 6:29 pm

    Hi Catherine. They are all great photos but the corset one says a very powerful message !

    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 6:35 pm

      Thank you Linda – I agree, it still wows me after all these years! x

  6. Karen
    31 May 2019 / 11:18 am

    Lovely pictures and enjoyed reading the background about each one.
    Thought I’d posted on your previous blog….must have had a senior moment !…. meant to ask are
    those yellow trainers true to size ? I have just slightly wider feet than average and always like to know there is wriggle room for my toes too !
    Thanks x

    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 12:02 pm

      Thank you Karen, glad you enjoyed them!

      It’s a bit tough for me to say about the shoe sizes as I have that awkward size – UK7 – that some retailers sell as 40 and some sell as 41. So if they have half sizes (which Josef Seibel do) then they make a 6.5/40 and a 7/41. I get confused with this choice as I never know whether I’m going to fit the 40 or the 41. In this case the 6.5/40 fitted me best… the 7/41 was definitely too long in the toe. But I’m ALWAYS a 7 when it corresponds to a 40, aaaargh!

      If I ignore the UK sizes (6, 7) and just look at the European sizes (40, 41) then yes, they were true to size as I never buy a size 41 and a 40 always fits me. In other words, I’m probably the wrong person to ask!

      Now delivery is free in the UK but returns are not (my only gripe, I forgot to mention that in my post), so I’d say get in touch with them via social and ask about the fit of the style you’re looking at.

      Another option is to ask Samantha of – she recently featured Josef Seibel too and I think she has smaller feet than me… she could probably tell you as she hopefully won’t be the awkward size like I am!

      Hope that helps x

      • Karen
        31 May 2019 / 8:38 pm

        Thanks Catherine for such a detailed reply, I know where you are coming from as I am a 6.5 in most shops or a 40 – never been a size 41 …..we may have the same size feet ! Once I got some M&S nana sandals in a size 6 ( that was an exception and think they were mega wide !!!) Appreciated your help, hope you have a great weekend x

        • Catherine
          31 May 2019 / 9:55 pm

          I never expected you to actually have the same 6.5/7 problem as me, Karen – but I thought I’d better write all that in case!! Glad it helped, you too have a fab weekend xx

    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 12:03 pm

      Shelbee thank you so much, that’s so kind!! x

  7. Caroline Roberts
    31 May 2019 / 9:24 am

    Beautifully composed and shot images. I’m so impressed and they are so current! I hope your collaborators get in touch!

    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 12:04 pm

      They’ve stood the test of time, haven’t they Caroline – who’d have thought they’d be so relevant 25 years later…! Thank you x

  8. Danish Pastry
    31 May 2019 / 7:13 am

    Loving your images!
    I’ve done a bit of amateur darkroom development back in the day, never in colour though! As a radiography student we also learned about manual development – I remember being in the dark room, our x-ray had been in the developer, now it was time for the fixer, no-one could remember how long it should be in there. We guessed – wrongly, it wasn’t in long enough. Not that our lecturer was any the wiser that it wouldn’t stand the test of time! And no, it wasn’t a real patient’s x-ray, it was Betty our resident skeleton!
    Normally x-rays went through fully automated processors, we’ve been fully digital for so long now, I wouldn’t want to go back. The department I trained in got it’s first digital system in the mid 90s.

    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 12:09 pm

      Susan thank you – your mention of Betty made me laugh out loud!!!! Yes digital is SOOOOO much easier for so many things, but I did enjoy the days of the colour darkroom and processing the film. Having to dunk the rolls of film through many solution baths in total darkness was kinda fun if you did it with a friend – the tutor had recorded a tape that talked you through it so you knew when to transfer it from one bath to another. Just all in pitch blackness. Good times…!!

  9. 31 May 2019 / 4:02 am

    Hi, Catherine
    All I can say is WOW! Your photos are awesome. My favorite is Speak No Evil.
    Thanks for the magnificent artwork!

    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 12:10 pm

      Thank you so much Angie – it’s really interesting to find out which are people’s favourite! x

  10. 31 May 2019 / 2:50 am

    These are all absolutely stunning! You are such a talented photographer! The corset photo is definitely a powerful image. I would love to study photography and perfect my skills. I remember in high school trying to learn all of the procedures with the dark room before digital photos and it was overwhelming to me!


    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 12:11 pm

      Thank you so much Katie! I assume you did b&w photography in the darkroom with the red light on…? Well colour is SO much more complicated – and you have to do it in pitch black because it still reacts to red light! I think I rather enjoyed the challenge…!

  11. 31 May 2019 / 1:56 am

    Ooh, I love seeing your work, Catherine. I think it was even more fun before the digital age! I went to design school for interior design and ended up an educator. Oh well, the art background serves us well no matter where we end up. Maybe that’s why we’ve ended in the creative field of blogging?

    xx Darlene

    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 12:14 pm

      Oh that’s interesting that you sort of did the same as me with the education part afterwards, Darlene – and then blogging ultimately too! Interior design was actually something I considered studying, then it was being a makeup artist. I finally decided on photography after my dad lent me his SLR and I got some really beautiful shots straight away of my best friend (I think I was 15). Isn’t it interesting how we end up where we end up!!

  12. Brigitte
    31 May 2019 / 12:09 am

    Je fais rarement des commentaires, mais là ça valait la peine. Wooow magnifique.

    • Catherine
      31 May 2019 / 10:44 am

      Merci beaucoup Brigitte pour ton commentaire! 😀 x

  13. 30 May 2019 / 9:42 pm

    Wow, You should definitely have a gallery section somewhere on your website. These are absolutely magnificent. My favourites are Corset, Animal, and Speak No Evil. Every image is so powerful, and so beautifully done. YOU SHOULD be proud of these, and you are right, they do stand the test of time. They each still look very current. Brava, lady. I’m SO impressed. xxx

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 10:58 pm

      Maybe I will, Lisa! (I have loads of categories already though, eep!) Thank you so much, it was great to rediscover them again and realise that they weren’t that bad after all…!

  14. 30 May 2019 / 9:32 pm

    Catherine- Your photos are beautiful! I totally understand leaving a profession you are good at (probably even great at) because of the work environment. For myself, I left the theatre because I couldn’t work 70-80 hours a week and stay sane. I still miss working in the theatre, but my life has been amazing.

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 10:57 pm

      Thank you Ellen! I think if it were now I’d have handled it very differently – I wouldn’t just skulk away in the corner till it was all over and then decide it wasn’t for me… I’d go find another position in another studio, and vow not to let them treat me that way as well. I took it very badly, being only 22 and fresh out of college!

      I can imagine that was tough having to work those long hours in the theatre… NO ONE can stay sane doing that amount of work, or stay healthy! Glad to hear that you’ve had a fabulous life though (as have I )! x

  15. 30 May 2019 / 8:31 pm

    Catherine omg fabulous emotive and inspiring!
    ….my fave is ‘blue’ Do you remember ‘Body Map’ a label I loved back then and this is so reminiscent of their style superb…
    The corset one makes me feel sad, and that is what a brilliant image is supposed to do, make you feel something so I take my hat off to you girl….
    more please!!!
    Ash xx

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 11:56 pm

      I’m trying to think… Body Map does sort of ring a bell…?!

      I was wondering why the corset makes you feel sad? That’s great to have a strong reaction as you say – I agree that great art should invoke a reaction, good or bad – but wasn’t sure why sad!

      Thank you so much Ashley, glad you liked them 😀

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 6:49 pm

      Cheryl thank you – it’s always been a bit of a showstopper!! x

  16. 30 May 2019 / 6:38 pm

    One word, Catherine: WOW!!!
    The corset pic is INCREDIBLE.
    P.S I so want those legs lol
    Suzy xx

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 6:49 pm

      Suzy thank you!!!!! I so want her legs too, always did lol 😉

  17. 30 May 2019 / 6:19 pm

    Oh wow Catherine. Each and every one of these images is stunning. What an amazing talent you have. And yes please, I’d love to read some snippets of your thesis. Like you, I like “Legs” the most but they are all amazing xxxx

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 6:53 pm

      Aww thank you so much Liz – I’m quite proud now looking back, I think they stand up 25 years on. Aren’t the legs amazing – they even give yours a run for their money!!!!!! 😉 LOL

  18. 30 May 2019 / 6:13 pm

    The corset does make quite a statement. Fashion should not have to be a pain but media seems to think it should.

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 6:53 pm

      Thanks Lanae – you’ve hit the nail on the head with exactly what I was saying with this image…!!

  19. 30 May 2019 / 5:32 pm

    Well I can see these being shown in a London Gallery some day! They are fabulous, I really like the eye – so much detail it’s so interesting. I hope you find some of the models too. Nice to be reminded of the styles of a few years back Catherine. Jacqui Mummabstylish

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 6:54 pm

      Oh Jacqui that’s so kind of you to say – thank you!! x

  20. 30 May 2019 / 5:03 pm

    Photography was so much more challenging before digital and far more rewarding when you got a wonderful shot. Bring back film I say. Thanks for sharing!

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 5:07 pm

      Some of my happiest days at college were spent in the darkroom, Gail – I’ve often wondered if photography students do ANY darkroom work anymore?! Colour photography was especially challenging, doing it in pitch black…!

  21. 30 May 2019 / 3:58 pm

    So many beautiful photos here. I’m sitting here thinking how great it would be if you do catch up with any of these models. I hope someone comes forward. You never know!

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 5:04 pm

      Thank you Laurie! You never know, they may be following me already and have never peeped! 😉

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 3:42 pm

      Thanks so much Lisa!

  22. 30 May 2019 / 3:07 pm

    Great, great photos, Catherine. I love the corset one for the statement it makes. And the purple legs… that one’s my favourite.

    • Catherine
      30 May 2019 / 3:38 pm

      Thanks Sue – it was nice to rediscover them again. I think the legs photo is pretty amazing because of her amazing legs!

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