Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vanity Feh

Am I the only person in the world who is tired of Annie Leibovitz? Anybody?
I bought the latest issue of Vanity Fair because I was curious about the Hollywood portfolio. I think I have bought Vanity Fair three times in my life and each time my overall impression is: what a presumptuous and useless waste of trees. There is something about the magazine that gets on my nerves and this last issue is no exception. The articles are always too long and not that well written. The tone is middlebrow with pretensions. It sucks.
But what is it about the Leibovitz photographs that creeps me out? I leaf through this portfolio, which has many very famous actors in it and it leaves me completely cold. Here you have dozens of Hollywood lovelies and they look expressionless, dull, like mannequins.
The pictures are so polished and perfect and contrived and every detail is so belabored that they are absolutely lifeless. They have been drained of all spontaneity, they don't have a sense of moment. Their perfection is scary and uninviting. I have never felt that Leibovitz's celebrity pictures reveal anything interesting about her subjects. They don't reveal anything at all. Rather, they seem centered on the gimmicky craftsmanship of the photographer. They dazzle because she always comes up with a clever concept but they don't say anything real or authentic about the subject in question. Whoopi Goldberg dunked in a tub of white milk? Please.
Her work for the new Disney anniversary campaign is slightly better. Only because it is rather daring that Disney should pick the Hollywood glamor route instead of their inane clouds in the shape of Mickey and their sickening pastel colors. As advertising, the Disney pictures are stunning, and for a change, dark and fun. Scarlett Johanssen as Cinderella, Beyonce as Alice in Wonderland (Oliver Platt is the Mad Hatter and creepy Lyle Lovett is the Rabbit), David Beckham as a Prince on a horse fighting a dragon. Again, all moody and preciously lit and inhumanly perfect, but because they are ads for Disney they are interesting. And they match the brand because Disney is not human either. You can also imagine the meeting where the agency proposed them. The person in charge of the pastel colors and enforced cheer must have had a heart attack.
The Vanity Fair portfolio, however, is a lot of overproduction for absolutely no meaning, no insight, no wit, no fun. If you see it here, it looks much better than on the page.

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