Two page spread from the latest issue of the WSJ's monthly magazine:
I love this picture for a bunch of reasons.
First, I love to imagine what the average denizens of an Internet Forum would say. They would suggest cropping off the chainlink fencing gateposts through which we view the scene. They would complain about the various places that are Too Dark in the frame, and they would have a great deal to say about the lighting. "Flat" and "raccoon eyes" and "unflattering." I dare say our old friend mrca, Lighting Hero, would have a lot to say on the subject, for instance, and even the rawest newbie would suggest "a speedlight for a little fill."
All of which would be, of course, to completely miss the point, which is about the content of the frame.
We have the matriarch on the steps, in the velour dress. Terrifying. Those savage shoulder pads. That face. On the opposite side of the frame, the daughter. She is wearing much the same dress, but in pinstripes, and quite a different fabric. She does not get to wear earrings, but mom has some big ones. You can't see it, but these two women are wearing the same shoes, in white and black respectively, and the toes of these shoes are violently pointed (see below.)
In the background, we see various minions. Second daughters? Mothers-in-law? Bodyguards? Who knows, they are important only to show that the two important women command people.
While it probably was "lit" it is not supposed to appear lit. This crew is, for reasons unknown to us, at this house. The conceit is that we're just seeing them, standing outside on an overcast day, looking, well, looking like that.
There are probably many ways to see this picture, but it reads like "Mafia wives/mothers, and their staff" to me. Mafia moms live in modest houses in New Jersey, or Connecticut, or Long Island. Usually better kept houses than this one, but otherwise a lot like that. What's going on here? Whose house is that? Why has the matriarch and her entourage rolled in here?
Regardless, the message is clear: the woman on the steps in velour is Not To Be Fucked With. The younger woman in pinstripes defers to her but to no other entity on earth or in heaven. Everyone else defers to those two. They are yin and yang in the frame, each leaning slightly inwards, with clothing tones inverted: light for dark and vice versa. Neither one is anyone you want to argue with. The matriarch radiates ferocity and power, her opposite number radiates the same ferocity, held inward and waiting for the matriarch to die. Everyone else is mostly trying to avoid becoming collateral damage.
Notice the slightly imperfectly straight part in pinstripe's hair. That's not an accident. Nothing in this frame is an accident, of course.
It may amuse you to know that the velour power dress worn by the matriarch was shown on the runway in a delicious blue and an even more delicious hot pink. They chose black and white for this advert on purpose. Mom wouldn't look nearly as scary in pink. But she is wearing The Runway Outfit, here (even the earrings appear on Blue, below:)
(the pinstriped dress was also on the runway, with the white version of the shoes, but is worn much better in this picture than in the runway stills I have seen, where it is frankly a bit sack-like.)
This, I think, adds a facinating dimension to the ad's picture. The pinstripes certainly suggest "Mafia" as this is the trope from movies. To visualize this brightly colored velour number as a severe albeit fantastically expensive dress, suitable for the wife of the capo dei capi requires a certain genius. To pose this gang here, like some kind of demented couture-meets-The-Sopranos scene fulfills the promise of that demented genius.
I love this thing, with a great love.