Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Back in November 2008.

I've grown aware that moments during which I get the point of an editorial and love it at first sight don't come around often, all the more when it comes to Vogue Italia. Its being among the most boundary-pushing publications out there gets me to unconsciously set high expectations each month in regards to the upcoming issue, which automatically sets me up for disappointment. Exception that proves the rule? Cottage in Riva al Mare didn't need me to look back to it. I did love it at first sight.

The emotions portrayed are overwhelming and enough to set this spread apart from the sea of spreads coming out every years, and make it all worthwhile. There's an apathetic, worrisome stillness piercing through the photographs, an electrifying uneasiness between the characters (played by Toni Garrn and Katrin Thormann), a tender melancholy and from time to time an ambiguous defiance that might leave the beholder aghast. You cannot really keep track of every sentiments involved but you cannot get lost either, since the shots are straight to the point and adornments-free... Tacit ambiguity, underlying ambivalence : this is what it's all about.

This editorial looks like a mighty collection of stills from a silent movie that were gathered up into a tiny book aiming at summing up the plot... Although the lines are blurred. You can't know for sure what are the sentiments both women feel for each other. Are they old friends who've set off to their youth's vacation spot and whose friendship is growing wrong? Are they in love, hopelessly, passionately, head over heels in love with each others to the point of destruction? You can just let your imagination run wild and daydream what could possibly be happening in between each still, envision the stormy arguments both characters could be having, make this semblance of a movie your own and mold it in accordance with your own fantasy.

This is what I'm longing for when I open up a fashion magazine. A story that sends shivers down my spine. In my mind's eye, these women aren't mere friends, but they have to deny it - because the society they live in doesn't allow it, because they were brought up in families that couldn't support it, because they won't themselves accept it. Homosexuality is actually, and still nowadays, a sensitive matter to deal with. It may not be as taboo as a few decades back, but it's more stereotyped than ever (and I assume you possible reader know what I'm talking about). And this is what a fashion photographer worthy of the name should do. Getting inspired from nowadays' zeitgeists and concerns all the while smashing clichés into pieces, and it is a tricky thing to pull off. As from the beginning we all get fed on intruding stereotypes and then, up to us to conform to popular beliefs or get down to the essence of everything and form an opinion of our own. Not only do artists have to carry this out, but they also have to express their opinions through their oeuvres, as an attempt to open up people's mind. I feel like this is what Vogue Italia teamed up with Steven Meisel have (partly) been trying to achieve : bringing out the complexity in every topical issues, instead of reducing them down to simplistic clichés, and get us to break our own prejudices.

I can't help drawing an interesting comparison between this very editorial and another highly controversial one lensed by Terry Richardson. I won't get into the Richardson debate that's been on everyone's lips for a great amount of time - okay, I will, but not back and forth. On the one hand you have the love affair between two lesbians, on the other hand you have the love affair between two (several) lesbians. Same topic, opposite outcomes. One ennobles women, the other one disempowers them. Just to make it clear ; I don't support mindless and relentless feminism, as I think it's because of the very kind of feminism claiming that women are equal to men in every ways and have to act accordingly that women get, to a certain extent, treated like - for want of a better phrase - shit. But hmm, this is a blog about fashion so I'll hold myself back.

Anyway - I just meant to say that I am taken aback. How two basically similar editorials - and even pictures - can be so different in execution? How one of them can be so thoughtful and moving that it could have me shedding some tears, and the other one so exploitative that it simply has me shutting my eyes to it? How can we call Steven Meisel a fashion photographer and Terry Richardson a fashion photographer? How can the fashion industry be so compelling and off-putting all at once? Aaaah so many questions left unanswered. I guess that is precisely where the interest lies.

source : scanned by Diciassette (17) @ tFS




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