We all know that fashion magazines are now pretty much 90% ads. But some of these ads are actually closer to art than we realize. Take, for instance, Céline’s newest advertisements. I saw them first in Italian Vogue. In them, you never actually see a full outfit, and one ad is simply a quick passing reflection in the mirror. I wondered if it might have been taken during their show.
I couldn’t help but wonder…are these ads influenced by art? If so, what? And how? And why?
A good place to start was Juergen Teller, who shot the ads. In an interview with Dazed Magazine four years ago, Teller mentioned that cinema was a big inspiration in his work.
I tried to apply this idea to the Céline ads. First up was the ad featuring the red heels. Red shoes are a powerful symbol in film, used in movies ranging from The Red Shoes to The Wizard of Oz. It made sense, then, that Céline’s red shoes would be given a cinematic shot, leaving you to wonder what character is wearing them.
The other ad, a reflection, can be traced back to classic scenes in cinema. Reflections and mirrors have been used to make movie magic for years. Some examples? The Lady from Shanghai, Butterfield 8, The Shining, and Black Swan.
I wanted to dissect another ad, and Acne Studios had interesting ones, shot by Paolo Roversi. Roversi shot different writers, artists, and musicians, mostly of Middle-Eastern origin, in their Spring 2017 collection. The political climate was cited as an inspiration (although ‘inspiration’ may not be the right word.) Their name, ‘Acne Studios’ was…backwards. The first picture, the one that caught my eye, was dreamy, blue-toned, and vertical. The dress was partly covered by the model’s hand.
The second Acne Studios ad was also dreamy and not crisp. This time, in black and white, and in a very Annie Leibovitz style of portrait.
The third, a black and white close-up, with a piece of the photograph torn away. What were the influences here?
Mirror writing can symbolize a lot, such as a world turned upside-down, or a young child learning how to write. Leonardo da Vinci wrote in mirror writing a lot, which could go with the fact that artists are the ones in the ads. After some research, I found that the origins of mirror writing tradition may date to the pre-Islamic period in rock inscriptions of the western Arabian peninsula. Many of the artists photographed had connections to the Middle-East. Perhaps this is another clue.
In the end, I’ve found that dissecting ads is much harder than expected. Often, photographers truly have full control, and a lot of them don’t really make mood boards. Of course, I think having clear inspiration for a set of ads is smarter than not, but often inspiration is hard to pinpoint, and a flash of color or a scene in a movie seen on the plane could be all the inspiration you need. If it draws your attention, it’s done its job.