Thursday, June 3, 2010
Pre-Raphaelites in Vogue
Sorry for the quality of the image, as it's a photo of a blown-up scan of a page of a book. :) Please do click to see what details there are.
I was perusing the thick tome of a coffee table book, In Vogue: The Illustrated History of the World's Most Famous Fashion Magazine, recently, when I was stopped in my tracks by the image of a Burne-Jones. The caption of this set of images said:
"In doing research for the photo shoot, one ofthe art books consulted by set designer Mary Howard and photographer Steven Klein was Christopher Wood's The Pre-Raphaelites (right), in which they found inspiration for the models' poses and hand movements realized in the finished take (left). Sixteen outfits, eight of them designed for Vogue, were selected for the shoot."
I was eager to find out the issue in which this feature ran, so I went on to read the text of the chapter. (some text cut for succinctness)
"Anyone leafing through the eighteen pages of the Chekhovian-Victorian romantic story titled "A Grand Affair" in the September 2005 issue of Vogue, photographed by Steven Klein with Grace Coddington as the fashion editor, could hardly imagine the degree of research and hard work behind the scenes, the level of creativity, the on-the-spot trouble-shooting, and the highly complicated logistics that took place before it reached the reader.
The objective was to take double-spread photographs in three days to fill a total of sixteen pages, at the rate of two setups a day. Smith and Coddington had chosen some sixteen outfits, eight of them designed in part for Vogue: a pink one by Dior, a red one by Alexander McQueen, others in gray by Carolina Herrera and Peter Som, white dresses by Tuleh, prints by Prada, and a white fur by Vera Wang.
Howard's team, which consisted of ten people, had created a charming winter forest with a lake.
A book brought by Howard, Christopher Wood's The Pre-Raphaelites, circulated on the set and was repeatedly consulted. Howard, trained in art history, is renowned among photographers for her high-quality research. "It was a great source of inspiration to see the poses, the body and hand movements of the women in the paintings, so that our models could imitate or reinvent them," says Klein.
Each finished take was printed and hung from a corkboard, so that the entire technical and creative teams could appreciate the results of the day's session and follow the direction of the story. Back at Vogue, however, Anna Wintour found the photographs too static, too formal, and lacking the energy she looks for in a portfolio. Result: Everything was to be done over, using only a part of the approved wardrobe, and only one model, the Russian Natalia Vodianova. This time it was to be done outdoors, with a smaller production team..."
The finished spread featured the below pictures among others:
So apparently the original Pre-Raphaelite inspired shoot, filled with two-page spreads of five models sumptuously larking about in a forest, will never be seen, other than the small grainy teaser photo I found on page 361 and blew up as large as I could.
I don't know about you, but I would have MUCH rather seen more of the "static" Pre-Raphaelite images. These ones are fine, but they aren't the sort of thing that stops me in my tracks like I'm betting the forest images would have.
Having watched The September Issue, I know this isn't the first time Anna Wintour has rejected a photo from a Grace Coddington shoot that I thought was incredibly beautiful. As part of that documentary (which I recommend to anyone who enjoys fashion or photography), Grace Coddington does a fashion spread with a 1920s Jazz-Age theme, which includes a beautiful two page spread image with multiple models. Anna rejects that image as well, Grace is furious, but acquiesces. Here also, the only teaser we'll apparently ever see of this image is a grainy blur on the DVD:
Beautiful, isn't it? Alas for all the beauty in the world that we will never see.