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.
My initial reaction to both pictures was being repelled by the aggressive, abrasive expression of the models. Do the stylists or art directors really consider such a facial expression as attractive or desirable?? Rhetorical question - the answer is most likely "yes". Probably this is considered to be "dynamic" or whatever. Just like the grilles of recent car models, they look like aggressive faces, too.ReplyDelete
Makes me wonder if there is a mass psychosis, something like an atavistic cult of war or death going on.
I don't care about the chain link fence, though.
I think the words you are looking for are 'resting bitch face.'Delete
I dare say that either of the two principal women could look perfectly beautiful, sexy. In this picture, though, they are certainly not presented so.Delete
The message, to my eye, is clear: If you are a 20-something woman looking for flattering, sexy, clothing, please go to some other shop (although there are some nice looking articles in the background). If, on the other hand, you are exceedingly wealthy, and wish to project power and wealth, come on it, we have a number of different articles which may interest you.
It's not about beauty, or sex, for once. It's about power. Which, in an ad with female-models forward, is refreshing change.
I don't quite agree with the last paragraph. The (male) quest for power and the ensuing culture of aggression, dominance and competition brought our world into the lamentable state in which it currently is (wars, hunger, ecological devastation, you name it). In my opinion, gender equality should have more to offer than women partaking on equal terms in the insanity of our patriarchal culture.Delete
I am not a fan of wealth and power as such, my delight comes not in those properties by themselves, but in the refreshing change of photographing women in such a way as to project those qualities.Delete
Is it your intent to tie this high fashion pinstripe mafia family back to the slovenly Churchill in pinstripes in the previous post?
Well, I have no such intention *now*, but perhaps I will note and attempt however clumsily to explore some relationship later!Delete
This could be interesting. By the way who is the crone in the middle?Delete
Well, obviously she's a hired model.Delete
But I read her as a mother-in-law.
This is the antithesis of the girls in 'Kleinstadt'ReplyDelete
Because "the girls in Kleinstadt" aren't fashion models?Delete
What an absurd notion.Delete
No. The Kleinstadt girls are (roughly) powerless and poor, they area leaning on their prettiness, their sexuality. The women in the Balenciaga ad are wealthy and powerful, and are definitely not relying on their prettiness or their sexuality.
The women in the Balenciaga ad are ipso facto fashion models, flogging glad rags.Delete
Well, sure. Also, Iron Man is actually just Robert Downey Jr. in a plastic costume.Delete
It's possible that we're talking not about the literal people in the pictures, but about the roles they are playing.