Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Archive for July 2011

Thomas Struth and Awesomeness

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I just checked out the Thomas Struth exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery in London: what an immensely brilliant experience.

To be quite honest I didn’t know a lot about the artist before I went to the exhibition but I can say that the retrospective really gives you a serious insight into the obsessions of this exceptional photographer. This guy is seriously ON IT. My favourite part of the exhibition deals with his investigation of things that we see to be worth looking at and not worth looking at.

The first floor of the exhibition is exclusively dedicated to the artist’s photographs of awesome constructions. These images are split into two parts: ones that depict the things that people queue up to wonder at, and the ones that show the things which don’t attract attention. Noticeably it is always the technological machinery that isn’t being looked at by anyone, whilst the the works of art and religious buildings are the objects that attract our most awestruck gazes. Here are some examples of what I mean:

1. Religious and artistic constructions:

Pantheon, Rome Thomas Struth

Pantheon, Rome (by Thomas Struth)

Thomas Struth San Zaccaria, Venice

San Zaccaria, Venice (by Thomas Struth)

Audience 7, Florence, 2004 Thomas Struth

Audience 7, Florence (by Thomas Struth)

2. Technological constructions:

Thomas Struth, Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island, South Korea, 2007

Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island, South Korea (by Thomas Struth)

Times Square, New York, Thomas Struth

Times Square, New York (by Thomas Struth)

Stellarator Wendelstein 7-X Detail, Max Planck IPP, Greifswald, Thomas Struth

Stellarator Wendelstein 7-X Detail, Max Planck IPP, Greifswald (by Thomas Struth)

As you can see, all of Struth’s photographs are incredibly framed. It’s really cool that the artist captures the technological constructions in a way that shows that they are as immense as the religious sites (just look at the image of the oil rig in South Korea!)

Yet Struth has also chosen to photograph these particular tech constructions mainly because no one is looking at them. As we can see in the oil rig image, there is no one queuing and both dock workers are fairly busy with other things.

Essentially Struth’s images show us power and the way it works in society by asking the simple question: why is it that we consider some things to be awesome and other things to be not? Or to put it more bluntly: these technological constructions are the ones that have been built by the powers that control our modern age (e.g. science, commercialisation and communications); why aren’t we looking at these at all?

Awesomeness. It’s a bit frightening isn’t it?

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Louis Vuitton: its journey from high street imitation to an accessory of the stars

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fake louis vuitton hand bags

Some fake Louis Vuitton handbags

You could imagine the problem the Louis Vuitton fashion house had a few years ago after everyone and their dog started buying imitations of their monogrammed bags from small traders up and down the country.

The problem that they had was the problem that Burberry had a few of years before; obviously high end fashion was never about the masses. Mass consumption of high end fashion ends its claim on exclusivity, and thus weakens its value. This wouldn’t normally be a problem to a brand with a distinctive brand identity to differentiate it, but when any brand has based its whole identity on simply being exclusive this will inevitably lead to something rather similar to a mid-life crisis; for the elite swanning around at Luis Vuitton this was a problem.

So what does a high end fashion brand who has lost its meaning do? It does what any cool-seeking teenager would do in its shoes: it goes and hangs out with the cool people at the coolest places and hopes that they’ll look a little bit cooler by association. Here are some excerpts from the campaign, which has rather ironically been titled ‘Core Values’:

sean-connery-for-louis-vuitton annie leibowitz

Caption of the advert reads: "There are journeys that turn into legends. Bahama Islands, 10:07" (Sir Sean Connery for Louis Vuitton, shot by Annie Leibovitz)

louis-vuitton-coppola-sofia1 annie leibowitz

Caption of the advert reads: "Inside every story there is a beautiful journey. Early evening, Buenos Aires, Argentina." (Sophia Coppola, Francis Ford Coppola shot by Annie Leibovitz)

Sally Ride - Buzz Aldrin - Jim Lovell - Annie Leibowitz

Caption reads: "Some journeys change mankind forever" (Sally Ride, first American woman in space, Buzz Aldrin, first steps on the moon in 1969, Jim Lovell, commander of Apollo 13 shot by Annie Leibovitz)

As you can see for the past couple of years Louis Vuitton has been on a brand building adventure with some very carefully selected friends, who have all been photographed in some staged settings by Annie Leibovitz. The simple message from these adverts is that LV are a core part of the important and pivotal journeys that important people take in their lives, they are the a part of the modern day pioneer as they go through their ground-breaking trajectory etc.

What I find really interesting in this campaign is that from having a rather generic identity a couple of years ago, LV have used photography to explicitly pull their brand into the legends of modern day pioneers (nb: obviously for some of these celebs the term ‘pioneer’ is being used rather generously). This is spectacular myth-making at it’s finest. Who needs art when we have this out there already?!

However it is with regard to this myth-making that I find the recent advert for the campaign with Angelina Jolie slightly unsettling. Opening a magazine on my breakfast table this morning I was confronted with the following image, which had the caption “A single journey can change the course of a life. Cambodia, May 2011”. I think the question here is whether one can really use one’s adoption of a child from the developing world as the grounds to romanticise a lifestyle accessory?

Angelina Joie - Louis Vuitton - Annie Leibowitz

Caption of the advert reads: "A single journey can change the course of a life. Cambodia, May 2011." (Anglina Jolie shot by Annie Leibowitz)

Limp Bizkit get down with the kids, 2011 style (Predictable? Never!)

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Oh wow! Limp Bizkit have clean forgotten that a bunch of 40 year olds shouldn’t be producing bonehead, misogynistic, rap metal for 13 year olds. How surprising

The problem for Limp Bizkit is that nowadays this brand of rebellion just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s way too normal (which is fairly awful in itself if you think about it), especially when you have the horrifyingly new ‘don’t give a fucked-ness’ of Odd Future to contend with*

*Odd Future are currently positioning a different brand of misogyny in the “rebellious music” department at the moment. The most ironic thing about Odd Future is that their brand of misogyny is so extreme that they’re actually being rapturously embraced by pop-culture as a bit of novelty act right now (I’d check out Assmilk for the best example of their content). There’s also this live show below which really marks Odd Future out from the rest of their hip-hop contemporaries…

Written by Max Colson

July 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm