I stand corrected…

So, after going on about W Magazine not having any models of color on their covers, I open up my mailbox yesterday and see the above. Guess that’ll show me, huh?

But…it’s Beyonce. Beyonce is always on a cover of a magazine somewhere (end whining.)

Now I don’t have anything against the woman personally, but I don’t know if you can call it diversity for W when the last person of color on the cover was Rhianna in February 2010. Yes, yes, I know…it’s nitpicking in many ways, and as I had mentioned in the previous blog, there is an overall lack of supermodels on the cover of fashion magazines anymore, but still.

In moments like this, I wonder how Edward Enninful feels, that is, if he feels anything at all about the issue, but I certainly suspect he does.

I guess you have to pick your spots where you can find them, right?

Of course, it’s pointless then to mention that Beyonce didn’t have the sole distinction of making the cover of this month’s W Magazine alone. It was actually a split issue, with the other cover model being Christina Aguilera.

Yes, I suppose it is nitpicking indeed.

Next week, we will be shifting slightly away from fashion and talking about the coming advent of HDSLR photography. It could be that gone are the days when a photographer looks for “the moment”, because he will be preoccupied with shooting HD video instead of still images.

It’s an interesting, and potentially frightening concept. But then change and evolution have always been frightening to a certain extent.

Have a good weekend, everyone…


Is there a Golden Age for anything anymore?

Some thoughts as I wait to begin my day…

Soon, I’ll be uprooting from my friendly, yet bland Indiana confines to restart things in the D.C. Metro area. An exciting proposition, especially after seeing the vibrant arts community, and some of the local photo galleries.

While by day, my endeavors are in the realms of public relations and publicity, photography is my everything after, and following the events of the past year, is no longer just a pastime hobby for me. So to be able to go somewhere where I will be able to do what I love to do and have an audience for it will be exactly what I need, when I need it.

Going to Church

Going to Church by William Johnson

But it has me thinking: could we ever be heading towards another “golden age” of something? Something in this case being art, fashion or photography? Sure, those are broad, yet related categories, but the reason I mention this is because I think about Harlem in the early ’30’s, or even Tin Pan Alley where writers and artists all from different places came to one area and through either convenience or happenstance collaborated and made things that resonate to this day.

Now that creating images via a multitude of mediums is not only possible but easily shared, is there still a true value? In 40 years from now, will people be looking at the work we do and think, “I wish I could have been there; seen them do that”? Maybe it doesn’t work that way.

I can’t imagine that when great things were happening at a different time, that there was a thought that the time would be immortalized as a golden age, or anything of the sort. In the end, you just produce and then keep producing. Certainly an errant thought to have at 8:49 on a Thursday morning.


“If a girl is very dark, they say no…”

As if we needed a reminder, racism in fashion is still very much alive and well.

In an article printed in the Daily Mail yesterday, columnist Liz Jones exposes what many in the fashion industry already knew: Black models are, for the most part, considered undesirable for runway and print work. While this is not completely new information, it’s disappointing that in 2011, this still has to be an issue.

And it’s a glaring one.

Like searching for a raisin in a bowl of rice

Thinking critically, the idea that black models are having trouble finding work or are being deemed unacceptable really puts a shine on yesterday’s post where the subject was on transgendered and androgynous models finding success within the industry. To put it bluntly, a man who is masquerading as a woman seems to be getting more work than black women who are…well…women.

Certainly, that’s a broad take on the issue, and I’m not asserting that fashion houses and magazines would rather hire a man who passes for a woman over an actual woman, just because he’s white. That would make things too simplistic, and why do that when there are fashion insiders who will lay it on the table openly? Take for example, supermodel legend Naomi Campbell’s former agent Carole White who, when interviewed by Jones for the Daily Mail story, said:

“At the high end, it is slightly better now. But in the mid-range — the catalogues, the e-commerce websites — it is difficult. They want girls who are ethnic, but light-skinned girls. If a girl is very dark, they say no.” Carole says the problem stems from the influential fashion capitals of Milan and Paris. ‘There, they absolutely don’t want black girls. A black model has to be a real star before you can take her there. They only take a black girl when the biz is buzzing about her.”

A real star. Like Beyonce or Rhianna, who have appeared on the covers of magazines such as Vogue. But what about some of the other publications out there. Personally, I subscribe to three fashion magazines: Vogue US, W Magazine and V Magazine. After reading the Daily Mail story, I went over to my subscription pile and had a look for myself, because I wanted to be sure.

Of the three magazines, Vogue US featured two Black women on the cover over the course of the past year: Halle Berry on the cover of the vaunted September 2010 issue, and Rhianna, who made the cover in April 2011. Neither women are models, but rather, celebrities, which gibe with White’s account. Looking at V Magazine, only one woman of color graced the cover over the past year, hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj, who again, is a celebrity and not a model herself. What struck me as the mostpeculiar is W Magazine, who had no models or celebrities of color on their covers, and the reason that’s so peculiar to me is that the current Fashion Director of W is a Black man by the name of Edward Enninful. (Named in the Daily Mail article as one of the major Black players in the fashion scene along with make-up artist Pat McGrath and models Jourdan Dunn, Liya Kebede and Joan Smalls.)

Now in the interest of fairness, none of these magazines are currently featuring models of any color on their covers. This is mainly due to the fact that with the industry in such dire shape, it’s far more important to have celebrities grace the covers so that sales can be supported. I can’t argue much with that. However, upon opening the pages to some of the print advertisements, it is clear that there is a marked dearth of models of color in those ads.

In the Daily Mail article, White also pinpoints photographers, saying a lot of them “don’t know how to light a black girl.” While I’m not currently shooting fashion for any big agency, house or publication, I certainly know how to light a woman of color. And if that is the case, why is that photographer being given the opportunity to do such high-profile work?

What’s clear by reading that article, and others, such as one which appeared on Jezebel, talking about how the last Fashion Week in New York City was “the whitest Fashion Week in years.” From the article:

“New York fashion week featured 137 designer runway shows and presentations, and 5,269 different fall outfits were presented to the world’s retailers and press. Of those 5,269 looks, 4,468 — an overwhelming 84.8% — were modeled by white women. 801 of those looks were given to models who aren’t white. Black models were used 384 times. Asian models were used 323 times. Non-white Latina models were used 79 times. Models of other races only made it onto the runways of New York City — one of the most racially diverse places on this planet — 15 times.”

Staggering numbers. But then again, who are the purveyors of fashion, more specifically, Haute Couture? Affluent White people. If it is that the numbers skew in that direction, then one could argue that the models we see in the ads and on the runways are simply a reflection of the buying market. Someone would argue that, and they would do it in the hopes that it would make sense and subsequently make everything alright. But that’s lip service. Just like it’s lip service when a fashion magazine will put out an issue devoted to full-figured models. It’s all lip service.

I love all models. Fat Models, Thin Models, Black Models, White Models, Asian Models, Hispanic Models…you bring them, and I’ll shoot them. And I’ll also know that no matter how sexy, how well-lit and beautiful the shots are, in many corners of the fashion world…it wouldn’t even be close to good enough.

A pity.


Fashion’s desirable ambiguity.

The paradigm is changing.

This morning I came across an article at the Huffington Post which linked to a Vogue Italia article on rising fashion model Valentijn De Hingh. Certainly fitting the image of today’s supermodel, upon first glance, there’s not much that’s overly remarkable about her, outside of the fact that she has a striking image, and as such, it’s a no-brainer that she’s a model. However, to know Valentijn is to know that she was a he.

The subject of a nine-year documentary on transgendered children, which aired on Dutch television in 2007, Valentijn subsequently received a sex change and moved onto a career as a model, scoring spots on the runways of Maison Martin Margiela and Comme des Garcons (which, incidentally is French for “just like boys”.

Lea T

Stefano Moro for the New York Times

Valentijn is certainly not alone on the runway. With a slightly higher profile, transgender model Lea T has been garnering notices and working with some of the best known fashion houses such as Givenchy. Given the way in which fashion literally sets trends by being shocking, knowing that transgendered models are not only working, but working for established names isn’t all that shocking.

Add to the mix the phenomenon that is Andrej Pejic, a male model whose gender bending style has had him model a variety of looks for an even wider variety of houses.

Kate Moss

Kate Moss

When you think about it, it’s clearly not a big deal that this is happening, and to be honest, it really isn’t. But what it does do in my mind as a photographer, is bring into question the idea and concept of the model. Now you have models who are generally all-purpose, be it runway or print. The classic image of models had drifted to one where the thinner you were, the more work you would get. Kate Moss made her career off of having the body of a 12 year-old boy, so why would it be a surprise that eventually you would have a male model ape the look of a waifish female model who is aping a young boy.

It makes no sense, because it makes perfect sense.

At PopLife, we have always celebrated the image of the curvy female model, but there have been instances where thinner models simply made more sense to shoot. The image carries it’s own connotation, and while I personally don’t shoot male models, it’s not an issue of discrimination as it is personal preference. Fashion, however, can always be far more accommodating, as it should be.

Fashion, if it isn’t anything else, is a constant work-in-progress. It moves, it evolves and it transforms. Having transgendered, or gender-bending models seems like a natural progression, and an accepted one at that. Certainly none of the names I mentioned came first in this way; for that, you’d have to look at April Ashley, one of the first transgendered models who gained a good amount of success, which included gracing the pages of Vogue UK. But what makes this all a curiosity is what fashion makes of the model, or more importantly, the emphasis of what is more important, the model or the design.

Andrej Pejic

Andrej Pejic

Certainly the reason you have runway shows is so that new designs from houses are shown off. Technically who is wearing the design shouldn’t matter. By their very definition, a model is pretty much a fancy clothes hanger. Whose to say that in a few years, instead of transgendered models, or androgynous boys, there won’t just be androids? Because it’s pretty easy to see things go that way, which in turn could quite possibly mean the death of the supermodel, both male and female.

Yes, fashion is indeed an evolution. Wait long enough, and it may evolve right past you.

Takin’ it easy for all you sinners…

Today’s gonna be a Lazy Friday.

Photoshoots this weekend, and maybe a little boat action. Whatever you do, make sure you get out there and have some fun with it.

Intruding on a moment…

Couple on a Bench

I found myself killing some time this afternoon by looking at some old shots I took while visiting a friend in Vegas around 2009. I hadn’t looked at these images in quite some time. Having a look at them, I found that I was much more interested in the photographers than the scenery.

What’s included in today’s post are images I took of people I don’t know…taking pictures.

It reminded me of just how much I love the medium, because it’s something everyone loves. Sure, it’s a simple enough concept of shooting pictures of people shooting pictures, but I think it’s a good way to remind ourselves just why we do it.

Everything is about the moment in one way or another. A way to relive the past, to reminisce, to smile. When it comes to trip photography, it’s always been funny to me that a vacation can go completely sideways, kids complaining, luggage lost, credit cards maxed out, but it’s that one moment when you’re locked in an embrace with friends or family in front of some landmark or other point of interest that is frozen forever. And when it’s looked at later on, no one is thinking about all the crap that happened, just the moment that made it all worth it.

That’s the thing about photography. People approach it from different aspects, different intents. Some treat it as an art, while others look at it as a way to document or preserve a moment. To me, it’s really all the same, because it’s all storytelling in one way or another. But to look at these pictures, to see these normal, ordinary people pose for something that matters to them, and in some ways it’s humbling.

Humbling because even if they don’t realize it, I’m intruding on their moment, and with the click of a shutter button…it becomes our moment.

It is that time of year again, time for the Summer Vacation. Sure, in a down economy, with gas prices going through the roof, there may not be the same number of families out on the open roads, but you can be sure that some are out there, and they’re taking pictures. So even after we’re all gone and none of this matters anymore, there’ll always be a picture or two left behind to show someone what it was like.

See you tomorrow.


The Girl With The Dragon Nipple Piercing

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Poster

As I was doing my daily rounds of site reading, I came across this theatrical poster for the upcoming U.S. version of Steig Larsson’s first book in his Millennium Series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Of course, what is remarkable about this poster is the fact that the lead actress, Rooney Mara, is topless, showing off her pierced (which she specifically got for her role as heroine Lisbeth Salander) nipples posing with co-star Daniel Craig. As a photo, it’s certainly pretty compelling stuff. The lighting is bold, the expressions stark with a slight hint of ambiguity. The way in which the two hold each other expresses both defiance and protection.

In short, it’s an amazing shot.

What’s even more amazing about it is that it was even made for distribution. Looking around the Web, there have been reports that this version of the poster has made it into theaters, slightly altered with a yellow crime scene-style tape over her breasts saying “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” (It releases in December). In a modern day where most movie posters are Photoshopped one-offs with floating heads, a shot like this really tells the viewer they’re in for something different.

Even the original Swedish version of the films, starring Noomi Rapace had less than exciting theatrical posters, guilty of the same lame design and Photoshop aesthetics that have made movie posters pretty much become a lost and lagging art form. Of course, one could argue that a poster with nudity and stark design would be right up the alley of an artist like David Fincher, it certainly gives me a good amount of hope that the art form of the movie poster isn’t quite dead yet.

It remains to be see whether shots like this will be a one of a kind effort, or if the possibility that filmmakers will want to start ensuring that the marketing of their films take more risks in order to show audiences that their latest opus is far more than a weekend at Disneyland.

The U.S. Version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is scheduled for release on December 26, 2011. Here’s a peek at the teaser trailer:

Taking the show on the road…


And we’re back.

The last few days have been spent in the Washington DC Metro area. An amazing place, to be sure, with a collection of people, places and things that have to be seen to believed. Considered by outsiders to be a place where it’s all politics all the time, there’s truly more than meets the eye for the uninitiated.

From Adam’s Morgan to Dupont Circle, there are delights for everyone, but more importantly, plenty of photo galleries that display some of the finest shots from some of the best photographers on the globe. In less than a month, PopLifePhotography will be relocating to DC, and I couldn’t be more excited. Just having a chance to get out and see that there is a thriving community of art, especially photography, makes the decision to relocate even better.

Indiana has been home for pretty much all my life, but the time to move is now, and it makes me feel good to know that there are some fantastic places display my work and appreciate the work of others. In my short amount of investigating, one place caught my interest, and seems like the perfect place to have some work displayed.

MOCA DC, located on 1054 31st St NW, is a venue designed “for artists who otherwise would have a hard time showing their work.” For a low yearly membership fee, photographers have the freedom to have their work featured in a number of shows, as well as studio services and other amenities that are meant to foster collaboration and a sense of belonging between artists, which is remarkable in and of itself.

They’re also known as one of the most nude-friendly galleries in the District, so that is always a plus for fellow nude photographers.

I think I will be debuting the above piece, titled “Temptress” at MOCA in July. A small piece I constructed last year, I was waiting to see how “Obscenity” would do at the Kinsey Juried Art Show. Just this past Thursday, while in DC, I found out just how well it actually did.

ObscenityIn an early morning email sent from the Institute, I was informed that “Obscenity”, featuring the lovely London Andrews, won the 2011 Kinsey Institute Juried Art Show’s Gallery Visitor’s Choice Award. The votes were taken from museum patrons during the opening night reception on May 20. I hadn’t heard anything, so I figured I hadn’t won, so to hear it weeks later was an amazing and humbling surprise. While I thought I had a nice piece on my hands, to have it voted by the viewing public as their favorite, well…to me, that’s better than winning Best In Show, but hey, I’ll take praise where I can get it.

Provided that the piece doesn’t sell while at the Grunwald Gallery of Art (formerly SoFA Gallery), I will take that piece on the road and see if I can’t get it displayed in other shows, including ones held by MOCA DC.

In the meantime, there’s lots to do, including some last minute photoshoots before its Moving Day.


The Heat is On: Profiling Walter Iooss, Jr.

Photo: Walter Iooss Jr./SI

Of course that can have a number of connotations as we enter this week. The almost oppressive heat that is sweeping the country in the wake of one of the dampest springs on record nationwide, the news of embattled Ohio State University head football coach Jim Tressel’s resignation or a discussion about the beginning of the NBA Finals this week.

The Miami Heat begin the final stretch of their possible championship run (of course the Dallas Mavericks have something to say about that) tonight. No matter how you feel, you can be sure this will be one of the better NBA Finals that we’ve seen in some time. Personally, I have no dog in this hunt as my underachieving Knicks will be watching the Finals from the same place as everyone else…at home.

Picture by Walter IoossThe reason I mention sports in today’s post is not just to talk about the Finals, but to highlight the work of a fellow photographer as I kick off a retrospective of photographers PopLifePhotography are crazy about. For as long as I can remember, Walter Iooss, Jr. has been one of the most prolific sports photographers out there. A master of the classic image, Iooss has been delivering insane images to readers of Sports Illustrated since his first picture was used for cover of SI in 1963 at the age of 20.

Iooss has been an indelible part of sports photography in a way that many sports icons have. In fact, one would argue that there has been intrinsic connection between photographer and athlete in the way that the photographer freezes the feat of the athlete which, while great, fantastic and amazing, often happens in the blink of an eye. The photographer takes that moment and makes it immortal. No one has done that as well and as long as Walter Iooss, Jr.

One of his biggest projects as a sports photographer was that of working with NBA legend Michael Jordan. Some of the work they did together became the stuff of photographic legend. With his signature moves and seeming ability to take flight, Iooss covered Jordan much like someone would cover Superman: Images in flight, hanging in the air for what seems like an eternity, helping to boost an athlete into iconic immortality.

Photo: Walter Iooss, Jr/SI

In addition to his sports exploits, Iooss has also added to his own iconic status with his work as photographer for SI’s vaunted swimsuit issue, where he has worked with just about every iconic model you can think of from Cheryl Tiegs to Tyra Banks. One of my favorite SI Swimsuit photos is one he did of Kathy Ireland a picture that was without a doubt instrumental to my youth.

Photo: Walter Iooss Jr./SI

His ability to capture the perfect moment with the perfect subjects has always made him a personal favorite of mine.

This year, Iooss has released Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Heaven, a collection of some of his best work as SI Swimsuit photographer. You can order the book from Amazon here.

All the subtle sights of summer to come…

Drunk GirlHope everyone is having an awesome holiday. The above picture was courtesy my weekend spent at the Indy 500. Not much in the way of composition, but I think the picture tells its own story.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back on our grind, with fresh new content and hopefully a few surprises.

In the meantime, soak up the sun wherever you’re at, and maybe get a little camera time in. Enjoy whatever you’re doing, but only in moderation lest you end up looking like our friend above.

See you tomorrow!

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