Sunday, February 10, 2008

Celebrity Photography

During the past week, both Vanity Fair and the New York Times unveiled their celebrity portfolios for the Oscar season and, for some reason, they have inspired polar opposite feelings in me. The Vanity Fair portfolio, released first, used the films of Hitchcock as an inspiration and couldn't be more beautiful. The New York Times portfolio, on the other hand, are pretty in an avant garde sort of way, but as celebrity photographs, they are horrible.

This revelation got me thinking about what the difference between "good" and "bad" celebrity photography is. I don't consider myself an expert or anything in the field, but I believe that photographing celebrity, at the very least, involves using everything you can to make the celebrity as good looking possible. The picture should revolve around them and their persona. For example, you wouldn't see Greta Garbo or Bette Davis back in the day fighting with any object or the background to be the focus of the picture; on the contrary, the photographer often concentrated just on close ups of their face or profile.

To show what I mean, here are my thoughts on various pictures from both portfolios.

Beautiful. Yummy. Tantalizing. As soon as I saw both James McAvoy and Emile Hirsch clean shaven and all gussied up in 50's fashion, I totally wished that this remake of Strangers on a Train would actually happen. I also love McAvoy's sexy.

And this is the epitome of bad celebrity photographing. What the hell was the photographer thinking with this shot. Paul Dano looks like one of those damn aliens from Signs, he is so fucking creepy. I just wish my eyes had never seen this horrific photo and that it can be erased from my mind Eternal Sunshine style.

This photo could have been all sorts of amazing, but instead of highlighting McAvoy's lovely face the bonehead photographer covers it with a shadow.

Jennifer Jason Leigh looks like such a monster here it's frightening and Keira Knightley is justifiably scared. Great homage to Rebecca.

And this is supposed to be a photograph of whom? You're guess is as good as mine. (Okay, apparently it's Jennifer Jason Leigh but there's no way you can tell through that thicket of woods).

Damn, Marion Cotillard is fine. And she is the perfect Marion Crane in Psycho. That last shot of her dead is absolutely chilling- her eyes are absolutely vacant.

In this one, Marion looks either A) constipated and trying to go or B) like she's just lost her breath from the harsh wind and she has to do an embarrassingly loud gasp to catch her breath.

Who is this distinguished older lady? I would seriously have no idea with all that hair covering her face if they hadn't put a caption underneath reading "Julie Christie."

Oh, excuse me, I didn't realize Seth Rogen had a small role in Rambo.

What a beautiful ensemble photo. Josh Brolin, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster are looking good, Tang Wei is to die for and the ever classy Julie Christie and Eva Marie Saint are as glamorous as always.

This is probably the best of the New York Times photos, but that's really not saying much. Look what they have to work with.

Wow, they somehow managed to make the 80-something year old Hal Holbrook look 20 years older with this photograph. How on earth do you do that?

Again, who the fuck is this? (Sienna Miller, apparently, but I probably wouldn't have been able to tell anyways).

Jodie Foster is one classy broad and I love this take on The Birds. Who knew behind that rough exterior she looked so damn hot (even while being terrorized by random birds).

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