If you're going to do androgyny, this is how to do it. Androgyny doesn't always have to rely on tough styling, scowls, leather biker jackets, and other overtly masculine signifiers. Editors don't have to hit us over the head with these types of references. Besides, true androgyny should be able to stand on it's own, separate from masculine and feminine aides.
Venus In Furs
Vogue Italia November 2010
Ph: Steven Meisel
Styling: Karl Templer
Other Models: Alla Kostromicheva, Andrej Pejic, Iris Strubegger, Iselin Steiro, Michael Tintiuc, Tomek Szczukiecki
This editorial is the perfect example of that, and it's the first time I don't mind Freja being lumped in under the androgynous category. The pared down, natural appearance of each model is allowed to shine, and this minimalistic approach is quite successful at getting down to the essence of what makes each person androgynous. When the models all look so similar, when they're all in skewed positions with limbs akimbo, and when they're allowed to interact and play off of each other, the line truly becomes blurred between male/female and feminine/masculine. A person who doesn't know who these models are would have a very difficult time discerning between the women and the men. And that is the true definition of androgyny: being neither distinguishably male nor distinguishably female.
I really feel like this is the first editorial where I've been able to truly see and appreciate both the feminine and masculine aspects of Freja's face, and indeed all the other models' faces as well. From shot to shot Freja looks different, and that's what a good photographer can do. A good photographer doesn't have to rely on tropes or stereotypes to make a point. A good photographer smashes those things, and gets down to the basic essence of it all. There is nothing signaling to us the viewer, telling us that we should see these models in a particular way. So now it's up to us individually to see what genders and gender signifiers we want to see. This openness is what I appreciate and what allows me to see these models both in new ways and in ways they're usually meant to be seen.
skin on skin in more ways than one (especially when the bodies are piled on top of each other). But that's classic Meisel. Even when things seem pretty straightforward, there's always an off kilter element underlying the simplicity. And considering the fact that there are so many naked to nearly naked bodies intertwined together, this story doesn't feel particularly sexual to me. It's more desexualized since gender is wiped away, and this gives us the freedom to appreciate the clothes and the bodies for what they are. It's funny how something that seems so overtly sexual at first, can become the opposite with a deeper glance.....at least for me.
These eccentricities and complexities are what distinguishes between the good, and the great. I don't know if this editorial and cover will stand the test of time, but what I do know is that it's the first piece of work that's made me excited again. The second I saw the cover, even before I saw this editorial, I knew I just had to have this. I think the last time I felt this way was with Freja's last VI cover, so I guess there's a theme here. Anyway, I just have to remember that this is what it feels like when things are great. When we don't have to settle for mediocrity. When we don't have to strain to find nice things to say just so we can be diplomatic. It's comforting to know I can have this instantaneous and unbridled reaction of excitement again.
Image Credits: zfashionblog.wordpress.com