Photographer Inez Van Lamsweerde
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Photographer Inez Van Lamsweerdes fashion spread for The Face magazine in 1994 was shot during the period when grunge was at its hype, not to mention Inez and her partner, Vindooh, were one of the pioneers of digitally manipulated fashion photography, which caused quite a stir when it first made its debut on the fashion scene.
Figure 1: Fashion spread on The Face magazine in 1994 by Inez Van Lamsweerde. s
At first glance, the photograph presents to the audiences attention a rather confusing image. When one first looks at it, one would think of a hot
summer day and two attractive women riding their bicycles through the park, stopping to share an ice rocket while watching a rocket launch. However, one would question why two women who are on a cycling trip would be decked out in full face makeup – not to mention painting dramatic smokey eyes and bold red lips – wearing tiny high-waisted shorts and thin spaghetti tops.
Mary Lynn Damhorst (1999, pg. 80) puts forward that, “A wearer puts clothing, hairdo, accessories, and grooming together to produce an appearance and may assign meanings to that assembled appearance.” Therefore, one may speculate that the women portrayed in the picture are doing just that – they are trying to communicate a message.
The essay will analyse this “assembled appearance” now. The flimsy looking attires that the models are clad in give viewers the impression that these women are indeed looking for something more than just an innocent ride through the park. The heavy eye makeup and the red lips give a come hither signal to the viewer. Figure 2 will support the fact that the heavy makeup and red lips are weapons of seduction. The smokey eyes give the form of having a mysterious sexual quality, but could also represent how a woman would have looked in the morning, after sex if she went on a date and fell asleep after with her makeup still intact, insinuating the smeared mascara and eyeliner. Red lips are especially used to express sexuality in the attraction of men as they represent the labia
when a woman is aroused. There is intent of seduction regardless of whether the spectator is aware of it or not.
Figure 2: Candice Swanepoel for Tom Ford. Advertisement campaign for Fall 2011 by Mert & Marcus.
What a person wears or does not wear announces their opinions, thoughts, tastes, sexual desires and even their mood long before they even open their mouth. According to Alison Lurie (1997, pg. 22), “Like any elaborate
nonverbal language, costume is sometimes more eloquent than the native speech of its wearers.”
For example, the perfectly coiffed hair and the skimpy attire of the women in Figure 1 is not practical. When a woman goes on a cycling trip, she does not doll herself up as her main intention should be to get exercise or to travel from one point to another. She would be attired in something streamline and comfortable and maybe even put on a helmet for protection. With reference to Figure 3, the gear of the female cyclist is nothing like what the models are wearing in the photograph. Neither does she have makeup on her face or have perfectly groomed hair.
Figure 3: Liz Hatch, American Cyclist
Circling back to the photograph by Inez, at first glance, the image is confusing because the models have stopped right in front of a rocket launch but yet are not looking at the rocket launch in the background. Upon closer inspection, the picture screams sex as there are a number of sexual innuendos, signs and symbols. The specific elements used in this picture symbolize a great deal of meaning. Indeed, this supports what Lurie (pp 2.) states: “Today, as semiotics becomes fashionably, sociologists tell us that fashion too is a language of signs, a nonverbal system of communication.”
Inez and Vandooh have done an amazing job in juxtaposing fashion and symbols together to create a thought-provoking photography. A rocket launch would be a big thing, due to the fact that for one to be launched is rare, and the noise and the heat generated would be a sight to behold – It would definitely catch the attention of anyone within the vicinity. However, the two models are not looking at the rocket, the model on the left is looking at the audience while the model on the right is looking at her. This essay will first investigate the attention of model on the left. The fact that the gaze is always catered for a male audience and that this model is now concentrating her full attention on the aforementioned audience despite the rocket launch, is meant to flatter. She has essentially turned herself into a male fantasy, a vision of what men would like to portray her to be. Berger (2008, pg. 47) emphasizes this claim by saying, “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at The surveyor of woman in herself is
male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object – and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
Hence, with everything that she is wearing, she is aware of what she looks like not only to herself but also