– Rachel Matthews-Frederick
We have all seen his work: erotic and fetishised, Terry Richardson’s photographs are iconic in their style and controversies. However after all these years people are growing bored of Terry’s World. For this reason many have been left wondering why, for their 90th anniversary, Vogue Paris allowed him into their pages. Editor Carine Roitfeld was no doubt after the shock factor when giving the green light for the editorial shoot of Crystal Renn.
The editorial, titled Festin (Banquet), screams excess: excess wealth, excess food, and excess sex (Stein 2010). Renn lavishes in mountains of food, soiling herself with the juices of steaks and the fluids of seafood. Her fingers, wrists and neck are choked with opulent jewels. She deep throats a squid and sucks hard on a turkey leg, all the while staring deep into the eyes of the viewer. In this shoot there is no bashfulness. No shy glances. No averted gaze. It is uncaring in its approach to the topic of gluttony and excess.
Richardson ridicules this excess by shooting the woman in his story as an all-round greedy pig, gorging on food in a most unashamed and grotesque fashion (Barnes 2010). But this isn’t any woman. This is Crystal Renn, a plus sized model, and as a result the editorial shamelessly plays on the old “Look at the plus-size model eating! Ew yuck food BLEH!” in order to achieve some amount of ‘shock factor’ (Odell 2010). While some would argue that this has been done before, interestingly the idea isn’t as cliché as one may think… The notion that plus size models are growing increasing more common is not necessarily true, as Ford, Renn’s agency, states, “Whilst everyone is getting excited about the ‘plus-size’ revolution, in reality, Crystal Renn is pretty much our only large sized super-model… we have the same base group of waif-like, young, mostly white models… and the token Crystal Renn” (cited in Barnes 2010). In saying this Vogue is potentially making a statement about how the fashion industry, while attempting to integrate plus sized models, just isn’t succeeding, with models of plus size still being looked at as an anomaly.
Turning my attention to Terry Richardson, as tired as I am of his overtly sexual images, I cannot deny that these photographs, and I say this through clenched teeth, are aesthetically very pleasing. The lush tones and rich colours, the glossiness and textures, make me want the accessories. So I suppose it is successful in its main objective- selling product. But I would argue though that this shoot does not quite achieved Roitfeld’s aim for the magazine – that is to have it continue to push boundaries and provoke. “In 90 years, we haven’t changed the mood of the magazine. It’s still very audacious. It’s still about beauty. It’s still about excess. It’s still very avant-garde . . . We try to be sophisticated, while a little on the edge all the time” (Roitfeld cited in POPSugar, 2010). Put a tick beside beauty and excess, yes, but avant-garde and sophisticated? Not with Terry ‘One-trick-pony’ Richardson.
Odell, A 2010, Terry Richardson, Carine Roitfeld, and Crystal Renn Succeed in Making Delicious Foods look Quite Gross in French Vogue, viewed 20 September 2014, < http://nymag.com/thecut/2010/09/terry_richardson_carine_roitfe.html>
Stein, S 2010, French Vogue Puts Crystal Renn and Uncle Terry In a Food-filled Room, viewed 20 September 2014, < http://jezebel.com/5651217/french-vogue-puts-crystal-renn-and-uncle-terry-in-a-food-filled-room/>
POPSugar, 2010, Carine Roitfeld finds it “more and more difficult” to keep an “un-politically correct” attitude about Vogue Paris, viewed 21 September 2014, < http://www.popsugar.com/fashion/Photos-Crystal-Renn-Terry-Richardson-Vogue-Paris-90th-Anniversary-October-2010-Issue-11292088>
Barnes, S 2010, ‘Crystal Renn, Still Hungry?’, Uplift Magazine, 18 Sep, viewed 21 September 2014, < http://www.upliftmagazine.com/uplift/2010/10/crystal-renn-still-hungry/>