Tuesday, November 13, 2018

I'm Not Even Sure What This Means

Someone, as you may recall, signed me up for some magazines (I assume Chris Gampat, in a fit of pique over my remarks on his terrible magazine), which subscriptions I cancelled immediately of course. However, this has not stopped them from sending me a few mags. Free magazines! Thanks, Chris! The most recent gift was a copy of Vanity Fair, which has a pretty good collection of fairly high end fashion adverts.

I love fashion photography. Not for the clothes and the girls, although those are certainly very nice. I like it for the sheer weight of artifice.

Here's an easy one.

Armani has been rocking this crazy out of focus thing for, at least a year I think? Anyways, check the color palette. It's pure slate greys, with a very slightly gold touch of silver in the strap of the purse. Which is echoed in the indistinct mass of decorative crap around the model's neck and chest. Very consistent.

So what? you say, this is probably a composite on a digitally drawn background, or at best in a studio.

Ok, look at this Coach ad:

The model is styled to the nines here. Skin tone, the glasses, the blouse, the coat, it's all the same ultra-warm brown tones. Beautiful, but just good styling. But look in the background. Those buildings in the distance. The same hue. Some are quite bright, maybe more yellow, but there's that one brick wall back there that's practically a perfect match for the fur on the coat. It's eerie.

Bottega Venata:

We've seen these colors already. Warm browns and slate greys are In. Ok, so they lit the phone booth to match her jacket. Good work, set crew. But wait, see those safety barriers in the background? Same damn orange hue as her lapels and purse.

House Dior:

Yeah yeah, same slate greys. Nice choice on the balcony doors, the whole balcony is all pale greys, a little slate, and blacks, just like the clothes. Did you spot it yet? Check the architectural detail in the background that hits the models at chin height. The shadows and stonework are the same yellow/orange as those absurd epaulets on the one model's jacket. Even the lettering at the bottom is yellow.

And last but certainly not least, Calvin Klein:

By now you should notice instantly that the trees in the distance are the color of faded denim. Nice detail of the railing hitting just at her waistline. But did you notice how the horizon lines hits their jeans? That's not an accident.

I love these things, because they are so very very made. The point of these exercises, surely, is to make the photographs feel fully controlled, to let the viewer know, mostly unconsciously, that these pictures were made by someone who was totally in control of every aspect.

I feel a kind of surrealist element here (which by the way D&G hits pretty head on in their ads) but since it's usually subliminal I'm not sure it really counts. These things, glanced at, appear to be just pictures of models, in clothes, standing around looking vaguely surly. Is there a word for "surrealist, but hidden, unconscious?" I dunno, but I feel like there should be one. If it's not just "surrealist."


  1. Isn't the whole point of fashion advertizing to project something unattainable? They don't want customers to be able to really look like that. The target needs to be just out of reach. It's the wanting that makes people shop.

  2. It's all about treading the fine line between chaos and order - the Yin and Yang of good photography if you like. Those pictures are too Yang. There is no seed of chaos within the shot becsuse it was born out of meticulous planning. The best photos live on the border line between chaos and order. One second sooner or or one second later and the shot is gone - We need conflict we need chaos and we need resolution. Everything else is just boring or ugly.

  3. I have a question about fashion: why are the models always pouting? They look miserable. Fashion must be the saddest profession, judging by its pictures.