Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton Mix-It-Up
The Louis Vuitton fall 2010 collection, presented by Marc Jacobs in Paris last month, showcased models with more size, shape, and age diversity than is characteristic in runway shows. Both MJ and LV deserve some acknowledgement for challenging beauty stereotypes. At the time of this writing, shots of the models on the runway can be seen here, and sans fards head shots (duplicated to the right) can be seen here. I suspect that the point of releasing the head shots image is to underscore that ordinary women are beautiful by showing how ordinary beautiful women can look. Comments on the images at BuzzFeed are mixed, but, mostly in the omg (‘oh my god’), wtf (‘what the f**k’), and ew (‘expression of disgust’) categories. Most of the models are not wearing makeup, though, for example, Elle Mcpherson is (bottom right). But, of course, there is more to this image’s impact than just a lack of make-up on the models’ faces. The deadpan expressions on most of the models and the ‘bad-hair’ contribute substantially to the super-ordinary appearance of these models (some of whom earn millions of dollars a year as models – and note: if make-up was all that mattered, supermodels could not command these kinds of salaries).
In addition to the subject dependent variables of make-up, hair, and expression; technical decisions about how to produce these images also contribute to their impact. Three stand-out:
- perspective distortion
- unflattering lighting
- unflattering exposure/contrast/levels or curves adjustments
Perspective distortion can result from the use of a wide angle lens and is illustrated here:
The top image illustrates the distorting effects of the use of a wide angle lens while the bottom image shows a distortion-free representation. This type of distortion appears visible in the models’ heads/faces and contributes to the “alienesque” appearance of some of the models.
Unflattering shadows exist on each face. It appears that models posed in front of a wall, with a window to their left front. This sort of lighting is not used when a photographer is attempting to take a flattering image.
The exposure/contrast/levels or curves adjustments vary with each portrait: most wash-out features/details in unflattering ways.
All-in-all, rather than being a ‘sans fards’ (without artifice) image, it appears that pre-photoshop, old-school photographic rules/techniques were intentionally ignored in order to make these supermodels appear super-ordinary.