Max Colson: Tales

Photojournalism MA student at the LCC

Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia

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)

Messing around with perspective: historical and otherwise.

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Firstly my congratulations to Irina Werning for winning Burn’s emerging photographer award 2011. She is so cool. Here are some of her wonderful photographs from her series Back to the Future:

20_lali-web irina werning

LALI IN 1978 & 2010, Buenos Aires [photograph by Irina Werning]

MARITA & COTY IN 1977 & 2010, Bueno irina werning

MARITA & COTY IN 1977 & 2010, Bueno [photograph by Irina Werning]

IAN IN 1984 & 2010 Irina Werning

IAN IN 1984 & 2010, London [photograph by Irina Werning]

PANCHO IN 1983 & 2010 Irina Werning

PANCHO IN 1983 & 2010, Buenos Aires [photograph by Irina Werning]

She is obviously very wicked.

There is another talented artist who also produces work which playfully deals with how the photograph can be used to visualise a sense of ‘history-ness’ and create nostalgia. His name is Michael Paul Smith*. Michael Paul Smith is a model maker whose mind is full of mid-20th century Americana. Using his considerable model making skills he has been creating small scale sets of an imaginary American town called Elgin Park that he cannot get out of his mind (it is reportedly located somewhere near Pittsburgh where he was born). After making the sets he then sources locations in the real-world which provide the background to photograph them against. These late naughties photographs of the 1960s look bloody REAL. Here are some examples of his work. Fantastic stuff:

MIchael Paul Smith - Elgin Park

 My Childhood Home [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Newspaper photo - Corliss Dink's '37 Studebaker - Michael Paul Smith

Newspaper photo: Corliss Dink’s ’37 Studebaker [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Edge of Town - Michael Paul Smith

 Edge of Town [photograph by Michael Paul Smith]

Michael Paul Smith

Michael Paul Smith with one of his sets and a background behind him

The NY Times wrote an article about him and there’s a paragraph that I think summarises the attempt of his work very nicely:

Driving Mr. Smith’s creation of Elgin Park were his memories of Sewickley, Pa., a real steel-mill town a few miles north of Pittsburgh. He spent his first 17 years there, and it still holds his heart. “Elgin Park is not an exact re-creation of Sewickley,” he explained, “but it does capture the mood of my memories.”

*My very talented illustrator friend Phoebe Dickerson told me about Michael Paul Smith. If you want some visual inspiration check out her very cool, and very funny, Tumblr blog.

A train to England

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I’ve been working on this story on Britain’s railway enthusiasts for a while. At first I think I was working on this piece because of the novelty value of working with such a fantastic community, but the more I work on this the more I become overwhelmed with what the community is actually interested in: a way of looking at Britain’s history. This is something that I need to do a lot of research on, but I thought I’d share a couple of snippets of what I’ve been photographing recently…

max colson british rail railway enthusiast

max colson british rail railway enthusiast