Karlie Kloss Loses Her Ribs

 

Numéro magazine has a new cover editorial starring top model Karlie Kloss. The largely nude spread was shot in black and white by photographer Greg Kadel. But there are

some stark differences between the photographs released by Kadel and those that appear in the magazine. Numéro, it seems, liked that Kloss was so thin but hated that her thinness made her bones more apparent. So in a have-your-cake kind of gesture, it made the bones disappear with Photoshop.

This is one of the images from the editorial in question. On the left is Numéro‘s version; on the right is Kadel’s. You can see the uncensored photo here.

Yesterday, when Kadel’s images started hitting fashion blogs, the fact that Kloss’s bones hadn’t been Photoshopped out was one of the things we first noticed. Kadel’s images were most likely also retouched — always a safe assumption with any fashion photograph, and the photographer has not claimed otherwise — but his retouching didn’t take away Kloss’s bones. When Numéroreleased images that were retouched to such a different standard, Kadel’s studio announced the photographer’s displeasure:

It was Greg’s desire to represent Karlie as she naturally is … slender, athletic and beautiful. That is why he released the images as he intended them to be seen by the public. He is shocked and dismayed that unbeknownst to him, Numéro took it upon themselves to airbrush over his original images. Greg stands by his original artwork and cannot stress enough that he not only was unaware of the magazine’s retouching but also finds the airbrushing of Karlie unacceptable and unnecessary.

One of the requirements for being a fashion model — at least, a straight-size fashion model such as make up the overwhelming majority of the industry — is to be very, very thin and very tall. Most models are at least 5’9″ and measure 34″-24″-34″ at most; Kloss is 5’11.5″ and her measurements are given on her most recent composite cards as 32″-23″-33″. To maintain this small size is something that different models face in different ways — but it is something they all must confront, a job requirement not quite like any other. This is not a comment on Kloss’s health — of which we can know nothing, based on mere photographs — just an acknowledgement of the standards of the industry she works in.

The result of maintaining such a small body size is bones and musculature that are more visible than they are on people of more average weights. And plenty of people — perhaps lacking, in a visual culture polluted by Photoshop, a realistic sense of how very thin bodies look and move — stand ready to say that any photograph of a woman with a bony chest is “disgusting” or “unfeminine” or “ugly” or “reminiscent of Auschwitz.” Or at least those are all examples from (now dismissed) comments on yesterday’s post.

Most consumers seem to accept the idea that models are skinny. But they don’t like to be confronted with images that show the consequences of being that skinny in a realistic way. They want the bones airbrushed out. It lets them off the hook. And it lets the magazine, one of the clients who is instrumental in setting the standards that models must embody, off the hook, too. In this way, clients get to continue demanding unreasonably skinny models and zero bodily diversity. And they get to Photoshop out any bones that might offend. Or remind consumers of the toll this narrow standard can take on young girls’ bodies.

The ease with which photographs can now be digitally manipulated in post-production has left the magazines and brands who produce most of fashion’s imagery chasing ever-less-natural standards of “perfection.” Retouching that in the darkroom era was time-consuming and expensive now can be done with a few clicks of the mouse. Taking out Kloss’s bones, as Numérohas done, adds nothing to these photographs except a veneer of unreality: raising your arms above your head makes almost anyone’s rib cage more prominent, regardless of weight, and the lack of it makes the Numéro shot uncanny. As I wrote a few years ago when so-called “reverse retouching” (retouching to take away bones and/or add flesh to models’ bodies) hit the headlines, this kind of retouching hardly contributes to a healthy visual culture for women and girls:

We’ve become conditioned to expect perfected images of skinny, apparently boneless, smooth little girls in our magazines. In a certain way, we’ve come to rely on Photoshop to insulate us from the sharp reality of what maintaining an industry-approved fighting weight can do to a human body.

 

Scene Magazine Winter 2011 Shoot

I had the privilege of shooting Scene Magazine’s Winter 2011 Cover and Fashion spread a couple of months ago. The shoot took place at the VBar in Santana Row. It was quite the challenge being that the bar itself does not lend itself to much light and space for setting up lights and gear. I enlisted the talented Jackie Tran for makeup and James Griffiths for hair. Our models came from local agencies in San Francisco. Photo assistant Viet Mac was there to make things flow smoothly while filming some behind the scenes video. We had a limited time to shoot at the hotel, wrapping up the shoot in just a few hours. Overall the shoot went by very smoothly. I big thank you to Katherine Fong (Editor) and Donna Kato (Fashion Editor) for giving me the opportunity to shoot for a great magazine. I can’t wait to do it again!

Here’s the two covers:

The spreads:

Air America

When approached by my friend and visionary Iggy Sky to shoot a vintage air theme at a highly secured military air base,  it struck a chord with me. You see, both Iggy and I are aviation enthusiasts. Iggy has a long track record with aviation working for the big airlines as a mechanic and analyst. My father worked in the airline industry since I was a little punk. I remember spending countless hours sitting in my car by myself and my radio listening to the somewhat cryptic voices coming out of the control tower at Miami International Airport. It was then when I realized I wanted to be a pilot. A couple of years later I soloed in a Cessna 152 and later made my way to earning a Commercial Pilot’s License. It was my most challenging and biggest accomplishment in life. Even my instructor being killed in a plane crass with my colleague Ruben didn’t hinder my determination.

So here we are. I’m approached by Iggy. Let’s do a theme since we both love aviation. I was all for it. There was one challenge. Without telling me, Iggy had already scheduled the shoot in one week! Are you kidding me? I love aviation and I properly won’t turn you down for this shoot but one week!? I had my doubts. For the next few days Iggy would checkin with me and give me updates. From talking to the high ranking military at Edwards Air Force Base to drowning himself in the pools of what would become the costumes at the military surplus stores. From hats, to goggles, to scarfs, he was on a quest.

To my surprise, the day finally came and I was picked up along with the rest of the crew in what looked like a white van with tinted windows straight out of a movie. I met the rest of the crew and they were all amazing people. After a few obstacles and delays, we finally started shooting at 2:00 in the afternoon. All in all it was clocked at a 17 hour day after we got back toour original rendezvous point.

This was a classic example of determination put to action that resulted in one of the most notable images that I have produced to date. Thanks again to all the wonderful crew that made this shoot possible!

Iggy Sky/Production, Film, Stylist, Art Director

Sheereen/MakeUp

Nora Elizabeth Arechiga/Hair

Yulya Mango,  Dania Denise & Govind Chaudhary/Models