Ho il Cuore Spezzato
Emanuele Farneti, the Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Italia decided to nix all the photo shoots for the January issue of his magazine.
Flying folks around, feeding them, putting them up in fancy hotels, is costly. However, Farneti’s wasn’t worried about the monetary costs. He was worried about the environmental impact of the photo shoots. So his magazine is going with illustrations instead of photography in this year’s January issue.
Congratulations on a well crafted publicity stunt, good sir. It’s not like the printing, shipping, and eventual disposing of a printed magazine has any environmental impact whatsoever.
Believe it or not, this is the first time Vogue Italia has ever had an illustrated cover. There are two reasons for this.
One, Steven Meisel has shot every one of their covers since photography was invented, and two, the Vogue brand would not be franchised and/or licensed across the entire world without photography.
You see, photography didn’t reach the masses until the offset printing press technology got sophisticated enough to properly reproduce it. This happened in the 1930’s. That’s when Life Magazine became the Life that we all know. Before that it was kind of like Mad Magazine.
It’s true, just ask Meisel.
Vogue followed a similar path. In the 1930’s, publisher Conde Nast started using photography on it’s covers and photographs across double-page spreads inside. By the end of the decade Vogue was both hugely influential and highly profitable.
Photography has power. The better it’s done, the more power it has. The magazine industry was built on the back of great photography. Magazines are a visual medium and photography is the best visual medium there is.
The reason photography is the best is because it’s based in reality. Subsequently, the further you remove it from reality, the less powerful it becomes. The more photography becomes photo-illustration, the less impact it has.
In fact, the ability to make the “perfect” photograph, though enhancements such as the adding or removing of elements, has weakened the medium.
Fashion magazines are fueled by the idea of “attainable fantasy”. They promise that if one follows the examples seen on their pages one will see similar results in their life. This worked in the duct tape and clothespins era, but those days are gone. Today, Photoshop is a verb and every image conscious person has an editing app on their phone.
What choice do they have when the world’s most beautiful people, wearing the most fashionable clothes, personally styled and photographed by the best, handpicked photographers, still need to have their images heavily retouched before they are printed?
Dressing, eating and using the same skin products as Gwyneth are obviously not enough when photos of Gwyneth need to be photoshopped before anyone can see them.
To be blunt, the entire myth on which the fashion industry is built, the reason for fashion magazines to exist, is destroyed by photo based illustrations.
The act of publishing photo-illustrations or old school illustrations for that matter, undermines everything that fashion magazines have worked to accomplish over the past ninety years.
Now the funny part of all of this, besides my hilarious remark hinting at the the possibility that Steven Meisel is an immortal vampire fueled by the blood of young models, is this;
All the things that are now standard practice in the world of fashion photography are the same things that make it expensive, add to its carbon footprint, weakend it, and make it less good at selling stuff.
Seriously, the group think, the costly productions, the catering to advertisers, makes the fashion magazines themselves less successful, less powerful and more expensive to produce.
They’re shooting themselves right in their Louboutins (them’s blood shoes).
You only need two things to make a fashion photograph. A camera and a person. You don’t even need a model. What, you don’t think some brand would be hiring Francesca Woodman today to make some self-portraits if she was still with us (and still young and beautiful like Steven Meisel)?
One of the most influential fashion photographs of all time was made by a photographer (Sorrento), a model (Moss) and a piece of furniture (couch) working together to do something cool. No entourage, no craft services, and no animals were killed, injured on needed on set (okay, I’m guessing on that last bit).
To be honest, the illustrations on the cover of Vogue Italia are lovely. They’re almost as lovely as the stuff American Vogue was publishing a century ago. So, I guess by lovely I’m really saying fine. They’re fine as illustrations and extra fine as attention generators, but fine is as far as they go. They can’t go any farther because it’s contrary to their nature.
What creative ever set out to be fine?
Photography and fashion are inseparable, fashion doesn’t exist without photography.
So Emanuele, now that you’ve got that out of your system, here’s another idea…
Let creatives be creative. Give them a carton of Marlboros and lock them in a room with nice light, or an abandoned office park, or even a small island with poor cell service that can be easily reached by a sailboat, and then… see what they come up with.
That could be fun, right? It’s not rocket science, its art! It worked well for people like Helmut Newton.
Use your advertising pages to pay the bills and your editorial pages to show us what you love. Magazines needs the editorial and the advertising, but just because the advertising pays for everything doesn’t mean it’s more important than the editorial, and both sides need photography.
That’s the proper way to divide a heart.
I dig into this subject a bit more deeply in episode 27 of Talking Pictures.