Wednesday, April 30, 2008

OMG!




There’s only one word I would use to describe the whole Annie Leibovitz/Miley Cyrus flap. WEIRD!! Of course it was initially a manufactured controversy on the part of Vanity Fair to sell more copies – that’s why they released the pictures to the media in advance of the issue. Then the story started to feed on itself as television picked it up, mothers were stopped in the street and encouraged to voice their outrage, and the next thing you know people are literally calling out for Miley Cyrus product burning. All because she showed some back!?!

The WEIRDER pictures to me are the ones of Miley and her Dad which are not the way I would want to pose with my nearly 13 year old daughter (who is incidentally a big Miley fan) and who thinks the whole thing is pretty silly. But I guess if you’re a New York City kid and you and your friends religiously watch Gossip Girl, this is pretty tame stuff.


My feeling looking at the picture above is that Billy Ray Cyrus was so engrossed with his moment in the spotlight (not to mention his own hair and make-up) they could have taken Miley out and re-created the complete works of Helmut Newton and Robert Mapplethorpe as far as he was concerned.

What about the pictures themselves? As someone who worked with Annie editorially for ten years and represented her as a gallerist for a subsequent ten, I would say she did her job extremely well. The whole point of these kind of pictures is to get attention for the magazine by creating a striking and newsworthy picture - and that’s exactly what she did. Miley Cyrus is 15 years old - a crossroad these now infamous pictures convey well. I’m more put off by the lipstick which looks either a little post-make-out smudged or badly applied, than the sight of a naked 15 year old back.

But who are the Disney and Cyrus family minders kidding about their shock and dismay? The most superficial study of Annie Leibovitz's work reveals four things: one – she likes to get people to take off as many clothes as possible; two - she loves to photograph skin, loves the different textures and colors; three – she loves to show a family bond and loves to show touch; four – she designs her pictures to cause a reaction. Her work is about making contact on every level.

Annie has taken flak for so long she’s used to it, but give her a break! She’s probably done more for the visibility of photography in America over the course of her career than anybody other than Ansel Adams. (About whom more will be posted shortly in the great car picture-taking controversy.)

35 comments:

Vincent Skeltis said...

1 for 2 agreed. The image of her alone is outstanding.

Anonymous said...

i agree about the lipstick.

the Billy Ray Cyrus/spotlight angle actually makes this whole thing a little bit more depressing.

Fredde Ahlstrom Cooney said...

She's really painting with light! :-)

Top one is very Rembrandtian! Just splendid colours and lighting, and a classic triangular composition with the eye in the center.

If one looks at the fabric Miley is holding it looks like the fabric Rembrandt would paint to look like real silk.

The onw with her dad, again the classic triangular composition.
And is the landscape showing on the right a hommage to renaissance portrait painters or am I over-analyzing?

Anyway I like the top one.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness someone has taken the time to analyze this photographically. Go Annie!

Anonymous said...

I thought the same thing about the father/daughter picture. Borderline creepy. Very forced. Just bad.

The image of her alone is gorgeous, but it make you think if what really makes A-Class photography now is a massive amount of retouching and color correction. The retoucher is as important as the photographer now.

This is a very interesting story, with lots of layers to it, with A.L. receiving money from Disney for a recent campaign, and now potentially ruffling some feathers there. And then the whole "midwest mothers coming out of the woodwork" to complain. A very P.C. world it's becoming, but maybe if I had a daughter that age, I might feel different; hard to tell.

katharine said...

I think you should post a photo of Evelyn Nesbit- see the cover of the new book American Eve. Striking and a bit scary to see the resemblance between Miley and Evelyn at the same age.

jjjjjjjjjjj said...

About a year ago I worked on a shoot with Billy Ray Cyrus. He was actually very nice and down to earth, not at all obsessed with his own vanity. He even helped move equipment at one point. Your assumption is just that, an assumption.

If you want to comment on people pimping out their children for fame and fortune, fine. That list is long and he is certainly not the first.

Hi said...

Give her a break for posing a 15 year old in a satin sheet with smudged lipstick and just-shagged hair? I don't think so. If she wants to shock with sexual images of minors, she should be willing to take the heat.

cassette45 said...

Thank you for saying something! I agree about the miley/billy ray photo. Personally, I can't imagine that pose for a father/daughter shoot - it seems more husband/wife in it's intimacy.

The only part of the controversial shot of miley that bothered me was her makeup and hair. It felt to 'done.' I think a more natural look would have suited her better.

Anonymous said...

Of course it's a 'good' photo, she is an amazing photographer howeverone just has to decide whether implying sexuality is ok when it comes to minors - for me it's not ok, it's an issue for sure. There are other portraits that could've been taken - equally 'good'. She made a moral & 'integrity' choice by doing it this way and I don't respect that choice.

Stacy said...

couldn't agree more!

Anonymous said...

....and I should have added:
Your comment about 'it's only her back' really doesn't absolve Annie's picture as being an innocent portrait. Helmut Newton once told me (circa 1983) that for him a woman's back was THE erotic zone.
..also that her parents were there doesn't either. They are celebrity, fame & fortune dilly too. Firstly why else place your 'child' in this craziness, and secondly it's pretty flattering to have the world's #1 celebrity photographer take your and your child's picture. They aren't gonna 'direct' Annie are they now.
...and lastly a message for Annie "it's not what you got kid, it's how you use it that counts".

Anonymous said...

Why the flap about this image? How many models on todays runways are 15, or more to the point, how many runway models are over 18? Fashion frequently shows more skin. I guess my question is why this? Was it just the right combination of photographer and subject to set off the media buzz?

Alice Olive said...

The solo image is beautiful. A beautiful photograph. The lipstick reminds me of Bill Henson's images of girls and boys, where the line between dirty (as in unclean) and sexual is smudged (deliberate pun). It's disturbing.

I cannot imagine that a parent would like that shot. I took a portrait of my sister when she was 13 and my mother hated it. I didn't understand why at the time but I do now.

However to me that just brings in the whole topic of whether or not it is appropriate to let a 15 year old into the entertainment industry where what is considered normal is very different to what the average joe experiences. Annie's photographs have nothing to do with that. Her art is always provoking and beautiful.

The photo of Miley with her father is indeed another story. As an observer only, he just looks like the overboard and overblown former-celebrity pushy showbiz parent.

Jennifer said...

I guess I'm just dense, but it took me reading the post to realize that that first picture was Miley Cyrus. It just didn't look like her at first.

Crystal said...

yeah that picture of her and her father is just extremely weird. also, I'm very new to blogger and was just wondering if the only way to contact other bloggers is comments? heh thanks your blog is entertaining!

Jen (MahaloFashion) said...

I think the pictures are just creepy!

stuff to blog about said...

Great blog and interesting photos.

SisterJulia said...

'I’m more put off by the lipstick which looks either a little post-make-out smudged...'

Naked make-out under silk sheets...hmmm

Beautiful photograph, but I have to side with the mums. If this young lady's age is commonly known then to portray her so sexually is far from appropriate.

Stieber said...

I don't understand what the big deal is, it looks like a normal picture to me.

BDThomas said...

I can't believe photographers can get away with taking such racy pictures of minors (see Miley Cyrus photos). Great pictures of the subway, btw.

Mandu blog said...

She deserve to be admired

Bunsy said...

I agree about the Miley/Billy Rae pictures. Those are the real outrage. It is just to sexual looking. The picture of just Miley is just like someone in a backless swimsuit or a bikini.

blue sunrise said...

I love photography. I would love to work for Annie Leibovitz as she's a personal hero of mine. But I don't think Miley is shown in a good light at all. Her makeup is all over her face like paint. Her back gives her a feeble look or it makes it seem as if she has scoliosis. The bed sheet is cliche. Is she waking up on the set of Days of Our lives? I could go on.

Sabatu said...

ok people the whole miley cyrus thing is just a pathetic and lousy example at how far a magazine wud go to sell itself the girl is fifteen and i don't know about you but i have no desire to think about 15 yr olds in that light.

Miley honey u need to be able to make judgement calls and be able to identify things that are helping and things that are self-defeating.

VanityFair, no comment

Joanna Goddard said...

what an interesting post. i TOTALLY agree. the first photo is stunning, looks like a gorgeous renaissance painting, she looks lovely and timeless with her white white skin...whereas the dad/daughter photo is creepy and weird and i can't help thinking of serge and charlotte gainsbourg's "lemon incest"....

ps. i like the smudged lipstick, i think it's beautuiful and looks simultaneously sexy (post-kiss smudge) and young/innocent (learning how to apply it). i thought it was a lovely touch. xo

Enuk's Mom said...

I like your thoughts on this. Annie and Ansel are 2 of the best ir not THE best photographers...of course that is just my opinion but I love both of their works. Annie's a big girl, she can handle the flack.

I got an "A" in Crazy Beeyotch said...

When I first read Vladmir Nabokov's Lolita, I was mesmerized by his smooth, persuasive writing and drawn in to what was actually a fairly horrifying storyline--one that has captured the minds of thousands, and made into TWO movies. There is an unhealthy obsession with "Lolitas" in this culture, and I think this photograph, albeit aesthetically appealing, reflects an unhealthy inclination to feed on the sex of young girls.

Pansee said...

I think there's a side to this story that's lacking here; my younger sister is 15, and she reminds me every day that 15 year olds are in fact, sexual beings. When we were 15, many of us had boy/girlfriends, and we were all obsessed with sex! So in that sense, I don't find it terribly problematic to imply the existence of 15 year old sexuality.

What I WOULD find problematic is exploiting that sexuality and the child's inexperience for selfish ends; I think we can agree here that this image is hardly degrading or pornographic, and that her family almost certainly consulted(since her dad is IN the shoot), so it's wasn't really Miley's call anyhow. So really, we should either be criticizing her family, or no one at all.

dezinebyjen said...

I found the entire fiasco to be bizarre as well. Yes maybe it was a bit inappropriate but its just her bare back, I don't see any sexual innuendo. Other girls show more in their skimpy shorts/undies/skirts combo with their turqoise bra showing through their lacy camisoles. I honestly don't get the big deal. She's 15, she's got boobs and legs, she's a teenager. She isn't exactly 8. I think the pictures themselves came out beautifully.

Aunt Katie said...

BUT HERE IS WHAT NOBODY IS TALKING ABOUT. DISNEY OWNS MILEY CYRUS AND THERE IS NO WAY THAT DISNEY DIDN'T HAVE FINAL APPROVAL ON ANY PICTURES BEING PUBLISHED! SO EVEN THE MOUSE PLAYED A ROLE IN THIS BUT SOME HOW SQUEEKED BY WITHOUT NOTICE.

With that Said, I actually like the picture of Miley and her father. My interpretation is that of a loving, protective, close knit father and daughter bond. And shame on you perverts who suggest otherwise!

.Living Life Girl. said...

When I first saw this picture of Miley showing a little of her back, it was quite shocking but I don't think it should be totally huge deal, but yeah I suppose her fans would think it's a big deal. And the picture of her with her dad, that is just a really weird pose for father and daughter...???

Hanan said...

a daughter and a father posing like this!! Not acceptable at all.
creepy!

Alyx said...

totally agree with you on the photo of her with her dad....when I first heard all the rah rah about ''the miley photo'' and looked it up I thought that the one of them together was the one she was embarrassed about! its just plain odd with a touch of creepy.

i cant decide if the backless one is a tad too sexy for her age or not...it is cute and you know, if I didnt know who it was, and saw it as a painting somewhere i probably wouldnt even think of it as being inappropriate.

p.s. love your blog by the way. stumbled upon it just now.

tommiann said...

I'm saddened to think that photographing a 15 year old..no matter who it is, needs to have a sexual undertone/overtone to it. It is interpeting the image but at what age is considered too young? Why should young teens be photographed in this manner? When does someone say, ok too much? I love Annie's photos..but am saddened that a 15 year old is used to promote this controversy. When do we let our young teens still enjoy what little of childhood is left? Maybe that is what Annie is trying to promote..she's on the edge of womanhood. Wish it could have been photographed in another manner/way. I'm not an artist, have no connections with professional artists, but do believe that children are the innocent, and it is our jobs to protect them. Miley was not protected.....but who is to blame?
tommiann