The biggest surprise in pictures by the photographer Hiro from the 1960s and 70s isn’t their unprecedented imagery, but that those images were hand-crafted from photography’s primary elements. To create his visions, Hiro used light adjusted to millimetres, particularly to cast famous faces into shadow. He also calibrated the shutter speed to the microsecond. He was able to get live owls, ants, and fish, as well as difficult top models, to pose in the unusual ways he wanted. You can see his influence in many current fashion photos. However, the effects are digitally created without Hiro’s planning and wild spontaneity.
Hiro – abbreviated from Yasuhiro Wakabayashi – who has died aged 90, was a photographer before, and very long after, his decades in fashion, but it was his experimental shots of the early 1960s, especially for jewellery ads, that transformed the way those luxuries have been viewed since, as sculptures in a landscape, or witty props. Anything could be used – a steer’s hoof with rubies, a frog bejewelled with frogs to entertain it, or a live mouse fed to the owl to get its cooperation.