New pix of Crystal hit the interwebs today, from the forthcoming October issue of Vogue Paris (French Vogue to us plebes). Being in this magazine is huge for a model, and here’s my girl in a giant spread. And she looks beautiful, as ever. So, um, coup?
Terry Richardson took these pictures. Terry Richardson is the Emperor’s New Clothes of fashion photography. He’s been anointed by Carine Roitfeld (the editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris, constantly rumored to be the successor to Anna Wintour at American Vogue) and plenty of other style machers as world-class photographer, but the guy’s just a boring provocateur. I don’t want to go into the moral issues around hiring him (stories have abounded for years about him being a predatory skank); I only want to talk about the work. And this spread is a boring, lazy cliche — throwing the cultural connotations of fat, food, sex and gluttony into a brainless blender and pushing the button. And of course, button-pushing is what Richardson does. It’s his only talent. So I hate to respond just as I’m supposed to…yet here I go.
Richardson’s work relies on shock and dismay for whatever modicum of power it has. His aesthetic is generally porny and confrontational — feel free to go to his web site and look around. His fans and lackeys love to call him a modern-day Helmut Newton, but Newton was a master of composition whereas Richardson is…not. At its best, Newton’s work played with ideas of strength and power — mixing armored, shiny, strong women with disturbingly broken poses, fetishism, cybernetic and hospital imagery. Richardson doesn’t do the STRENGTH part of Newton’s equation. He’s best known for a wishy-washy, casual ’70s Polaroid aesthetic. When he departs from it, as here, his work still feels artless. People use “Helmut Newton” as shorthand for “HEY PRUDES GET A LOAD OF THIS,” but Helmut Newton — in his best work — had creativity, humor and talent, not just the desire to shock.
So, yes, here is Crystal, the world’s most famous plus-size model (and again, yes, I know she doesn’t look it) shoveling food in her face and being sexually voracious with a squid. And some sausage. And oh, look, a knife near her thigh. And o hai, she’s shoveling spag into her face with both hands. ZZZZ. You know in True Blood when Pam goes “Sookiestopdon’tcomeback” in that deadpan affectless voice, when she’s not REALLY trying to prevent Sookie from barreling down the stairs of Fangtasia? Or when Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka says “nostopdon’t” in his quiet inside voice when he knows the kids won’t listen? Imagine me saying in that exact same tone: “Oh loooooooook, outrageoutrageoutrage, showing the ‘fat model’ being all sex-pig with food; how iiiinnovative; outrageoutrageoutrage.”
Honestly, what I’m offended by is people continuing to hire Terry Richardson. If the fashion industry wants the rest of us to back off and let them continue to make their money off the backs of armies of hungry young girls, they should try really hard not to hire people who are barely competent photographers whose fame is derived from playing with notions of exploitation and offensiveness. And at this point, enough people have said that the man is sexually predatory in real life that it’s awfully hard to shrug off. (I said I wasn’t going there. I lied.) If designers and editors want to continue insisting that theirs is a business of art and beauty, and they want to stay on their high horse about their commitment to good health and empowerment, and insist that when something terrible happens to a model, it’s her fault, not the industry’s, they should think hard about who they hire and what his “coooncept” (imagine me giving languorous eyebrow-raised PamFace here) for a given shoot is. Just because it gets tiresome to keep reacting with outrage when someone does a “black model as jungle animal” shoot, as someone does every few months, we shouldn’t stop expressing our distaste.
Anyway, here are the pictures (I think there’s one more but I don’t care to go back and check):
Incidentally, the long polished fake-y talons, the piled on gems, the sheer SIZE and over-the-topness of the jewelry, the red lips and overdone eyes on a wavy-haired brunette — am I wrong in thinking this is also is a play on JAPpiness? The guy grew up in L.A. and it does seem like the lazy codedness he’d go for. It feels to me as if maybe he’s commenting on another kind of voraciousness and greed. (Roitfeld’s father was Jewish but I don’t think she has much of a Jewish identity.) Or maybe I’m overreading. It’s been known to happen. Sometimes I see thereness when there is no there there. And ooh, what if I’m blaming Richardson and it turns out it was all Carine Roitfeld’s idea?
At least Crystal looks pretty.