Monthly Archives: May 2010

It’s Time…

|Retrofuturs|

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Pushing the Envelope?

Terry Richardson.

To some he is a visionary. A cultural behemoth.

His work, with its hallmark 1970s pornographic aesthetic, is as iconic as his signature handlebar moustache. It receives patronage from the most prestigious magazines – carrying, as it does, the dual stamp of editorial approval from Anna Wintour and Carine Roitfeld – and is feted by commercial clients.

To others he is a pornographer-in-chief.

With allegations that his modus operandi exploits the subjects of his art, it seems striking that – whilst Richardson’s trademark portraits are set against a white wall and bleached virginal with a strong-flash – a picture of the man himself is nuanced and dark.

I have long known his portfolio, and its flirtation with controversy, but had not felt the need to comment. Until now. Until this. (NSFW!)

The most preliminary examination of a glossy magazine will reveal that nudity and fashion form an intoxicating marriage.  Provocative images tumble from almost every page;  however, whilst some have pushed the boundaries of visual style or elicited my blushes, none have offended.  The naked female form holds such beauty, and – as Helmut Newton documented – this can often be captured by the lens with great taste and originality.

In furthering the genre of nude photography, some might argue that Richardson is merely the creative progeny of Newton. It might also be argued that my approval of one, and rain of opprobrium for the other, is contradictory. I would shrug my (fully clothed) shoulders and reply that an important distinction needs to be made.

Newton was an observer, Richardson is an actor.

There is something about his physical proximity to the subject in The Journal that transgresses the parameters of professional distance. The exchange, though consensual, seems violating insomuch as it accentuates the imbalance of power between the young woman and her celebrity photographer. The act of intimately touching her with his hands – rather than simply with the artistic gaze of a lens – makes a statement of his superior status and manipulates the model into being little more than a vessel for his own sexuality.

Newton empowered his subjects, Richardson makes them passive.

With a bruised face bereft of makeup and disarrayed hair, the model’s depiction gives every semblance of her being underage. Though contrived, this amplification of youth brings her vulnerability – and thus, exploitation – into even sharper focus. It is this quality of fragility that is not evidenced in the portraiture of Newton and, even though he worked with the same medium of raw, unprotected souls, his imagery gave every appearance of emboldening women with their own latent eroticism.

As one of the most prolific photographers of his age, it seems clear that Richardson’s entrenchment amongst the fashion elite is absolute. But should that be the case? Should the readers of fashion magazines find the pages adorned with images of genitalia so gratuitous it would make a gynecologist coy? Should editors continue to disseminate his work and, in doing so, legitimise pornography with the lofty titles of ‘fashion’ and ‘art’?

I will let you decide but let’s end on this…

Whilst the stench of misogyny and manipulation lingers on these particular prints, it is my hope that other strong voices of protest will be heard because, let’s face it, they put out a better message than the one Richardson seems intent on making.

{Okay, I’m coming off my soapbox now. The floor is yours.}

|Terry Richardson|

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The Blues

This is perhaps only my perception – and, frankly, what do I know? – but it sometimes seems that Cruise and Resort collections excite remarkably scant attention.

Well, let’s remember, we are all supposed to be on holiday and really not giving a f*ck anyway!

With the Sénéquier Café in St-Tropez its illustrious background, the Chanel 2011 Cruise collection was unveiled last week, and – as the luxe bohemian aesthetic and diaphanous psychedelic dresses left me cold – I too, a girl of ordinarily so very many words, have struggled to muster commentary.

Whilst the characterful and eclectic mix of models – including a deliciously Rubenesque Crystal Renn and gap-toothed Georgia May Jagger reincarnated as a teenage Brigitte Bardot – inspired a little, my interest was piqued for one exceedingly small and powder blue reason.

The nail colour.

I will only follow a trend if Peter Philips commands me. 

It might explain why, as a girl who once believed that nail polish beyond classic red was simply fashion vagary, I often sport a number of his kaleidoscopic creations from the cadaverous mushroom of Particuliere to the neon shock of Nouvelle Vague.

My past experiences of trying to source a cult Chanel colour – having been one of the first to join Selfridge’s wait list for the aforementioned Nouvelle – taught that demand will be maddeningly high when bottles of this as-yet unnamed “blue anise” arrive on beauty counters next winter. 

So consider this a call to rally… and stop twiddling those prettily painted thumbs!

|The Fashion Spot|

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Still Got It

|Fashion Gone Rogue|

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Party Political Broadcast

The General Election is tomorrow.

May 6.

Compared to what the people of some countries go through to cast a vote, we have things easy. It’s about as taxing as popping down to the local shop to buy a copy of Vogue.

So be heard and exercise your vote.

No matter onto which party you pin your colours. No matter if you spoil the ballot paper. Just Vote. And don’t forget to pick up that copy of Vogue on your way home from the polling station…

|Stéphane Massa-Bidal|

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