Monday, November 22, 2010

Karl Lagerfeld and Celebrity: Snapping His Way into Photography

by Jonathan Deniol Rodriguez

"Photography is part of my life. It closes the circle of my artistic and professional concerns. I no longer see life without its vision. I look at the world and at fashion with the eye of the camera," Karl Lagerfeld.

Karl Lagerfeld is primarily known as the head designer for fashion label Chanel. Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1938, Lagerfeld moved to Paris when he was fourteen (Craven). Karl Lagerfeld has grown into a celebrity and icon in his own right. He has molded himself into a brand and is considered a prominent photographer, having taken up the practice in 1987 (Karl Lagerfeld: Parcours de Travail). He shoots all of the Chanel advertisements and is regularly featured on publications like Numero and Numero Homme. Karl Lagerfeld has the ability to transcend from fashion design into photography due to his celebrity status, but is able to maintain a viable career as a photographer due to his talent.

Myth helps draw attention to the practices of looking which in turn are tied to the production of ideology. The myth of a photograph tells a story, a certain cultural or historical meaning that obscures a larger ideology. Myth also has a set of hidden meanings that are specific to certain groups and are made to seem universal for a given society (Barthes, 51-53). According to Roland Barthes, an image is always filled with meaning - so what is Lagerfeld trying to say through his work?

"I do big campaigns. I'm my best client myself," says Lagerfeld. He shoots all the Chanel ads and each advertisement tells a story. The Latin Lover campaign shot by Lagerfeld for the Chanel Spring/Summer 2010 Ready-to-Wear campaign. The myth in this image- in simple terms- produced in this image suggests that wearing Chanel will find you a Latin lover.

In the Chanel Fall/Winter 2010-2011 Ready-to-Wear ads entitled New York Facades, Lagerfeld combines his muses with a subject (the New York Facades) that he is already familiar. What do you think the myth in this image is?

Not only does Lagerfeld produce all the ads for Chanel, he also shoots editorials for magazines. He is prominently featured in Numero and Numero Homme. In the pictures from Numero Homme #19, Lagerfeld captures his muses in an editorial entitled Predateurs. Here, he is able to exhibit more freedom in terms of story telling because he is able to step out of what Chanel represents. He is not restricted to solely using Chanel as part of his wardrobe.

Yes, Lagerfeld's iconic celebrity status helped him transcend from celebrated fashion designer into photgrapher, but it is his talent that validates his transition. If he had no talent for what he does, he would not be taken seriously.

What do you think? Can anyone in the fashion industry become a fashion photographer?
"Fashion Icons: Karl Lagerfeld: Karl Lagerfeld's Photography"

1 comment:

  1. nice article. i was expecting a more in-depth analysis of the chanel capaigns, however this was a good starting point. hedi slimane is on a similar trajectory to lagerfeld.