Saturday, December 5, 2009
This image is so very Freja and I love it. In fact, I love the whole editorial because all the different models' personalities seem to shine through. The overall execution is perhaps a little lacking seeing as it's supposed to be a fashion editorial. But this is one instance where I think the concept succeeds in making up for any shortcomings elsewhere.
For her part, Freja presents to us a beautifully quiet and self-reflective moment. I love the juxtaposition of this intensely private moment with the chaos of the city. If you look, you can see references to New York in the sliver of the city visible through the window and the "I Love NY" t-shirt cookie on the cake. It's a city notorious for making people feel anonymous and completely alone, even though they're surrounded by millions of people. For me, this image is poignantly emblematic of that feeling, and absolutely fitting for Freja considering that she just moved away from Denmark (and family and friends) to New York.
This pervading sense of loneliness that I read is enhanced by the wisps of smoke emanating from the extinguished candles--they're like the signifiers for a presence once there and now gone. It's a brilliant touch because they also convey the passage of time (i.e. the onslaught of age that a birthday signifies) and the fleeting, instantaneous nature of the moment (i.e. the flames that were there a moment ago are now gone). And correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't these the very things that people hope to capture and save through twitter? Isn't it a medium that allows us to document that very same passage of time and record those very same fleeting moments for posterity? Intentional or not, I find this one image so full of many things to analyze, and this self-referential quality is just one of them.
I also have to wonder whether this is in any way Freja's commentary on the modeling life. We've all read snippets from various interviews done by various models on how hard their lives can be with all the traveling and such. Abbey Lee just commented recently on how difficult it is to cultivate strong personal relationships when her schedule is so unpredictable. So, can models really be so lonely that they spend their birthdays like this? I doubt Freja spent her birthday alone, but I find it so intriguing that she would portray herself in this way. I don't know...maybe there doesn't have to be a reason for everything. I'm well aware that things can just be what they are for the sake of being. Maybe she just thought it would be funny and I can see the stream of humor here, especially in the "Sexy Beast" cookie.
Anyway, even though Meisel didn't take these pictures, this editorial is still very much his work. And perhaps this is why many people have a hard time with contemporary art and photography's place within. The traditional notions of the artist/creator are completely thrown out the window. In it's place we are faced with issues of authenticity, ingenuity, artistic skill and ownership. I could talk for hours about these types of issues, but I'll spare you. (For anyone who is interested, there is some fabulous writing out there about this stuff. "On Photography" by Susan Sontag, and "The Originality of the Avant Garde" by Rosalind Krauss (most notably her section on Rodin and his "Gates of Hell" sculpture) immediately come to my mind.)
But moving along, since this is truly Meisel's work, I'm still completely amazed and shocked that he included Freja. Either she has someone on her side at Vogue Italia, her agents are working overtime and good at compromising, or Meisel had a change of heart. Now I wonder if he'll work with Freja again, or if this was a one time thing? It's rather fitting though, that to end a decade's worth of work in VI, Meisel chose to include all his regular model favorites and a model that he's notoriously excluded for a better part of the decade. I think Meisel is too calculated and exacting in his work for that not to be intentional on his part. So with this in mind, and as great as it was to finally have Freja work with him, I have a feeling that "Freisel" sadly won't be a moniker we can ever use again. So we should just enjoy it while it lasts....although I would love to be proven wrong.
Image Credits: scanned by Diciassette (17) @ tFS