Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The agony and the ecstacy...

When I had heard that Jennifer Connelly would be appearing in a Balenciaga campaign for the second time, I wasn't exactly jumping for joy. Given David Sims track record as the photographer of Balenciaga's campaigns since 2002, the resulting campaign thoroughly sucked, and seemed to rely solely on the fact that there was a famous face starring in it, as opposed to actually doing anything interesting with that famous face. But for F/W 2009 Ghesquiere enlisted a new lensman, Steven Meisel. That gave me hope, though not much.

My ambivalence about it only grew once I saw the first image. It was kind of awkward, the colors were dull, and the hair and makeup team took the striking Ms. Connelly and ruined her. Reclining on a chaise with fried, semi-teased hair and smudgy burgundy eyes she looked like the drunken aftermath of a Valley of the Dolls theme party. So I wrote the entire campaign off as a failure (having only seen the first image, but I'm like that) and didn't think much more about it. A few weeks later I happened to pop into the thread on tFS and the newest image posted did more than just catch my eye. Jennifer was sprawled on the floor, gripping the chaise which had toppled over, and her face was tilted back in a look that was somewhere between ecstasy and pain (the good kind, obviously) . I liked it. A lot actually. So much so that I wanted to see more. Now the whole campaign has been unveiled, and even though it's not perfect, there is some gorgeous going on.

First off, the girl can pose. Some of what she's doing looks intensely uncomfortable, but you'd never guess it by looking at her face, and I'd expect nothing less of an Oscar winner. The poses are really the most striking thing about the campaign. They're just not the kind of thing you see every day in fashion photography. I also love the rich, warm color of the set. Coupled with the lighting, the whole image has a beautiful painterly feel to it. I'm guessing that's the point here actually, because some of the seemingly random props (a guitar, a bust, unrolled bolts of silk draped across the furniture) are the kinds of things you would see in renaissance or baroque portraiture.

Of course with the good comes the bad, starting with hair and makeup; it's just wrong. I can see what they were going for, but it looks like the screwed up, beauty school version of it. Plus, I just don't think that smokey eyes suit Jennifer very well. It's not her look. I'm also a little disappointed in the styling. They neglected some of the more striking looks in the collection, instead picking some of the duller pieces from a lineup that was extremely rich and colorful. Don't get me wrong, I'm still not a firm believer in the collection itself, but I do think there were much more photogenic pieces in it to choose from than some of the ones seen here. I also think the lack of variety in the looks and colors that they chose, focusing mainly on the blurry, streaky prints in muted colors from the second half of the collection, ends up taking away from the individuality of each image. In the end it's a solid campaign that has a lot going for it, but just misses the mark on being really good. It has, however, made me far less cynical about the whole celebrity-as-model thing. I wouldn't have thought that possible.

all photos from

1 comment:

Kim said...

this is actually one of my favorite campaigns of the season, in a season where the campaigns overall were lukewarm. i don't mind the styling; i think it's more the lighting, as the clothing is alot brighter than it looks in these photos. and you're dead on when it comes to the hair and makeup. she is so gorgeous, and both do her no justice.