Friday, February 11, 2011

The Model as a Dead Mannequin

I was upset when I came across this first editorial "Live Bed Show", which was photographed by Willy Vanderperre for LOVE magazine. I think Willy is an extremely talented and brilliant fashion photographer, however to me, the model, Arizona Muse, while gorgeous and stunning, is presented as what I call the dead mannequin. She isn't necessarily supposed to be a literal mannequin in the shoot, yet there is nothing about her body, facial expressions, or actions that would imply that she is supposed to be a real live breathing woman either. In the 2nd and 4th image down Arizona is cast in the light from a spotlight which singles her out, literally putting her on display for the viewer. In the same way in the 5th, 6th, 8th, and image 2nd from the bottom the model is behind glass as part of a display window. It suggests, again, that she is a commodity in the store front window on display for people to look at, purchase, and own. I think there are a lot of things wrong with the fashion industry that are presented in this spread. Instead of thinking of the models as beautiful objects we should be thinking of them as people and photographing them in a way that emphasizes their person as well as their clothes, their environment, and their lifestyle. 

The same model, Arizona Muse, was also recently photographed for American Vogue by Peter Lindbergh (one of my favorite photographers of all time!). I think his editorial shoot successfully portrays her in a better and more positive way. The photographer has captured her in a series of small moments that she experiences; smiling to herself, holding her hat so it doesn't fly away, and fixing her clothes. These are all things that everyone has experienced and that everyone has done in their lives, and for this reason it automatically makes that shoot more easily accessible to the masses because people can look at her and her mundane actions and recognize those movements and gestures as human rather than doll or barbie like. 

I'm going off on a tangent because I have slowly been forming and shaping my own personal style of fashion photography. I respect the industry more when they don't give in to traditional stereotypes of the model as a stiff, rigid, absurd, and almost inhuman character. I want to respect women and portraying them as beautiful objects without any intellectual value doesn't perpetuate any positive images of women within the industry and to the world at large. I don't think fashion photography necessarily needs to be about feminism but at the same time I want to respect, praise, and celebrate the beautiful and also smart women and men that work within this exclusive industry and I hope that in the future we will see these traditional values of praising beauty without anything else to accompany it being changed and morphed to something more positive. 

Above shoot photographed by Peter Lindbergh for Vogue US. 


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