Cover up! | 4 artists who saw the magazine cover as an A4-sized artwork

Time Inc. has announced that it will feature advertisements on the covers of two of their big magazines: Time magazine and Sports Illustrated. This announcement has got me thinking about the evolution and function of magazine covers in general. It can be said that the goal of a magazine cover is to draw attention to the magazine and, possibly, give consumers an impression of the articles it features. However, when going to the local grocery store it can be concluded that many modern magazines feature a very similar formula: a smiling cover celebrity on a white background surrounded by the features of the articles inside. Neither original, nor graphically striking. An exception can be a number of independent magazines or the occasional cover of a newspaper’s magazine supplement.

As a small act of confrontation, I present four artists who saw the magazine cover not as a monthly chore, but as an A4 sized artwork.

The graphic designer: Alexey Brodovitch

brodovitch bazaar

Brodovitch (1898-1971) is best know for his artistic direction of Harper’s Bazaar. His magazine work shows that he was both photographer and graphic designer – photographs are subjected to graphic layouts and graphic elements are synced with the themes portrayed in the photgraphs.

The experimenter: Erwin Blumenfeld

blumenfeld doe eye vogue 1950

Blumenfeld (1897-1969) was known for his dramatic and serious photography. Unwilling to compromise, Blumefeld’s magazine covers show experimentation and a desire for artistic relevance.

The photographer: Cecil Beaton

british vogue june 1949 cecil beaton

Beaton (1904-1980) had a flair for the theatrical. His many covers for Vogue and work as the photographer of the British royal family show that photography is not a subjective medium, but a way to build celebrity.

The opinionated: Saul Steinberg

steinberg new yorker cover

Steinber (1914-1999) takes you into his world, while subtly making a joke or satirical statement. His work seems effortless, fresh and simple. He called himself “a writer who draws”.

before photoshop | a picture worth a thousand moments?

Boulevard du Temple in Parijs door Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre.

A quiet street in Paris? Only a lady and the shoe-shiner seem to be on the street. Actually, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre made this picture during a busy afternoon but since his shutterspeed was so long, you only the figures that were standing still. Paris avant le photoshop?

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image from here

 

Contrast | photographs by William Klein

William Klein (1928 – )  is gracing the walls of Foam (photography museum Amsterdam) from December 20th untill March 12th. The exhibition focuses on his work in the 1950s and how he challenged the concept that only perfect photographs (perfect composition, perfect subject, perfectly in focus) could be beautiful.

What I really enjoyed was how Klein played with contrast. Here, three different types of contrast

Contrast in colour

simone nina piazza di spagna rome 1960 vogue c william klein

Klein played with the contrast between black and white in his photography to create a graphic feel and to add interest. In the picture above the black and white crossing, repeated in the dresses, creates structure. However, the model glancing back at the other (as if to say ‘hey, is she wearing the same thing’) adds humour and imperfection.

Contrast in context 

web-williamklein_bikini_moscow_1959

The contrast is also visible in the subject matter and set up of the photographs. Many photographs feature a main subject (who is often off-centred or perhaps even blurred) whose emotion or features contrast with things that are happening in the background. I love the photograph featured above – the contrast of the young woman, full of life in a small black bikini vs. the old man snoozing in the background in his white suit.

Contrast in creation

dorothy_light_news

Finally, spanning Klein’s work is the contrast in his creation. Some photographs seem to be random snapshots. On the other hand, other photographs have clearly been altered and adjusted in the darkroom. Using lighting techniques in the dark room Klein has transformed the photograph from a standard fashion photo to a picture with movement.

Photographs by William Klein

picture (im)perfect | Joel Sternfeld and c/o Berlin

Long ago it must be / I have a photograph / Preserve your memories / They’re all that’s left of you” – Simon and Garfunkel

(click here to listen to it while reading this post)

When I was in Berlin around the New Year I visited the unofficial photography museum c/o Berlin. There, they had a great overview exhibition of the works of Joel Sternfeld. Here, three elements present in his body of work that got me thinking.

Double entendre


fire man & farmer's market (sternfeld)

While a fire is blazing in the background, we see a fireman picking out a pumpkin at the farmer’s market – Sternfeld makes firemen seem reckless. One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the retrospective of Sternfeld’s work is the mix of emotions that are behind them and the mix of emotions they evoke. Serious, beautiful, ironic, critical, funny – all at once. The hope and demise of the American dream are shown in one image that seems to fit in the spirit of the 70s but is also still relevant.

“Joel Sternfield peels away the layers soberly and precisely, bringing to light the limitations of human perception, the lightness of forgetting, and the everyday nature of violence.” (Mirko Nowak & Karin Hanster, c/o Berlin)

True colors

A Woman Out Shopping with Her Pet Rabbit (sternfeld)

Sternfeld was one of the first photographers to use color photographs in artistic photography and take it out of an ‘advertisement-only’ context. The picture above is particularly striking because of the bright pink blazer the girl is wearing (although that she goes shopping with her pet rabbit is also pretty cool).

1000 words

Bryer's Grocery Store (sternfeld)

This photo may not seem particularly important or stunning. That is, until you know that a 14-year old black boy was murdered because he called a white woman ‘baby’. Sternfeld presents a lot of narrative in his photographs that is overlooked unless you know what you are looking at. This gets me thinking about two things:

1) what are the limitations of human perception?

2) where is the line between understanding art at first glance, and having to delve into it to give it meaning?

Image credits: the three photographs are all taken by (none other than) Joel Sternfeld himself.