I felt sad when I didn’t win the Vintage Fair Photo Contest. And then, when I compared the winners’ photos with the rest of the submissions, I felt sick. Let me explain. I spent the last several years in SL assuming that the fashion community shares more or less the same appreciation for artfully off-kilter photos. I have long enjoyed fashion photography because it is the only female-oriented mass medium that’s safe from the stuff of Lifetime movies. In my opinion, good fashion photography, like good fashion, works the metaphorical curve in the road or kink in the neck. If it doesn’t, it’s just pictures of overpriced dresses on underfed girls, the intertwined pathologies of patriarchy and capitalism laid bare. When I looked at the winners and non-winners of the contest, my false sense of security in the community’s consensus about fashion photography dissolved in what tasted like a seared tornado served in a hurricane reduction, with a minced salmonella outbreak as a garnish.
I was puzzled to discover that the photos were not adventurous aesthetically. More shocking still to my liberated eye, two of the three winning images feature traditional American representations of hetero couples (see above re Lifetime). UPDATED: Jayy Fallen took a wonderful photo of a June Carter/Johnny Cash couple looking lost in a field. And yet his partner in the shoot, Oakley Foxtrot, won instead for a pic of the couple in a simple clinch…with nary a handcuff nor lasso in sight! I venture to say that even a staunch Republican would approve of SLimprovising with a bolo tie and a little BBQ sauce.
Without begrudging any judge her/his selection or any contestant her/his victory, I hereby offer my list of left-of-Lauren faves, in no particular order, explaining the aesthetic basis for my choices. (I did not consult with any of the photographers, so I am offering only links to their photos. I don’t want to give the impression that anyone else is party to this critique. With the exception of Bunneh Brickworks-Kawashima, whose works I have often faved on Flickr, I have no relationships with the photographers named below.)
Harp Purr’s photo of Shawneese Offcourse: This is an unusual combo of formal rigour and fun. The use of “empty” space pushes this beyond the pinup set-up. Lemon yellow meets the perfect shade of pink in the set. Now that’s romance.
Bunneh Brickworks-Kawashima: This is clever composition in stealth mode. It’s got glamorous foreground; its got gritty background; it’s got them on an angle to the picture plane. And the middleground is a fence! If that’s not visual wit, I don’t know what is.
Ike Jonesford: The slinky woman draped over a piano is a cliché subject. Ms. Jonesford has banished the word trite from the dictionary by playing hard with scale: the outsized lady appears poised to fall off the piano and out of the picture. Looking at this beautifully orchestrated photo, I can’t imagine how those delicate champagne glasses ever got by without the model’s protective curves.
Marja Languish: Forget cheezburgers, I can haz colour! UPDATE: Now that I am a little less tired, I’d like to add that when I first saw this photo, the styling struck me as so definitive that I decided I would never buy and blog the dress. Unexpected because it’s not strictly vintage, the styling also rings a fashionable variation on the classic trio of red, black and white. The red is actually raspberry, the black is a sophisticated sheeny grey, and the white of the shoes is punctuated with a fine ribbon of hot pink.
Ophelia Bracken: This is the only photo that the judges also liked. The styling is lovely. And the nostalgia feels contemporary because it’s a longing for adventure, not for the 1,000 extra rights, benefits and privileges that come with an American marriage.
If any of the photographers would like me to run her photo instead of a link, I’d be happy to update this post.