I rarely use professional models, which is why I love this cover story.
Cover Story - Re Magazine, 2001
Dear Anuschka and Niels,
We would like to brief you on how we envisage the cover of Re-Magazine #7. As you both know, the theme of this issue will be ‘Re-View’; all the articles will, in some way or other, question their own place and function. Magazine formats such as fashion features, letters and interviews will be ‘reviewed’. It remains to be seen however, if the published images and texts will amount to a significant media contribution . They may verywell cause the same kind of pollution caused by the daily flood of undesired information.
In nearly every issue of Re-Magazine, we are inspired by the notion that people yearn for media silence because they’re continually subjected to information overkill. Texts Meant To Be Written, Not To Be Read. Pictures Meant To Be Taken, Not To Be Seen. In a way, ReMagazine is a magazine that refuses to be a magazine. The cover should communicate this ambiguous refusal – the cover as a review of itself.
How do you feel about a girl on the cover? In our opinion, it would be better to work with a non-professional model. Someone from your own scene, someone you already know. Maybe someone you know really well. For example, someone you shared the third story of a house with for four years when you were a student. Perhaps someone with mixed blood, an Albanian father or something? That her grandmother still lives in Albania and she visits her during the holidays. Someone with long brown hair, copper highlights, a sort of autumn feeling. A girl’s face that has something classical, but also with a modern aura. A face in which the features are all very small; the eyes, the mouth, the nose. There are so many people who seem quite ordinary, but if you look at them closely, have really striking faces.
We have a strong preference for a cover with a Vermeer connotation. The Girl with the Pearl, for example, is in fact already a cover avant la lettre. The glance the girl casts over her shoulder at the very moment the viewer catches her eye, is the central motif of this painting. That specific glance can be linked effectively to the concept ‘Re-View’. The painting is layered in gray tones and has a dark – nearly black – background. Regarding the cover, it’s probably better if the image is brighter and lighter because dark covers don’t sell at the newsstand.
Ideally the facial expression of the girl will be less subtle and sensual than in Vermeer’s painting. Possibly a bit startled, a combination of curiosity and fear. Maybe even a bit scary. You could achieve this effect by getting the model to pose in an uncomfortable position. Having her avert her gaze from the camera as far as possible, but still just able to look into the lens. A difficult pose to keep. Possibly this will result in that slightly uneasy, startled and anxious look. The image together with the word ‘Re-View’, no longer has the meaning ‘critique’ but more a sense of reawakening in a visual world, seeing your surroundings afresh. Maybe the image expresses ‘Don’t buy me!’, ‘Go away!’ A message that alienates people but also intrigues when displayed among all the other magazines at the newsstand.
We advise you not to take too long with the shoot. Have it take place, preferably, during the day. Towards the end of a Sunday morning, for example, so that the sleep wrinkles have just disappeared and the day’s weariness is not yet evident on the model’s face. Between eleven and two is probably the best time. When the model arrives you could make her feel at home by kissing her cheeks three times and offering her a cup of Earl Gray tea.
While Niels is reminiscing about his student days, Anuschka can get the rolls of film out of the fridge and put on some music. Music the model also likes. Nomi for example, that opera singer from the Eighties who has overdosed on heroin since then. The singer who sings extremely high and then very low, a bit of opera and then an Elvis cover.
When the model feels at ease, you can begin with the styling. A pearl earring or a headscarf à la Vermeer isn’t necessary. In actual fact you don’t need any styling at all.
Professional models have self-thinking hair that springs into form at the mention of the words ‘photo shoot’ and we don’t want that now, do we? Possibly, the model is a little disappointed that there are no hair and make-up artists running around on the set, but she’s sure to understand when you explain that you’d rather portray her naturally, with uncombed hair, to stress her simplicity. During the shoot Anuschka might possibly tuck the model’s hair behind her left ear, as a reference to the line of the headscarf in The Girl with the Pearl by Vermeer. It might also be wise to ask the model to wear something neutral. In case her clothing isn’t right, it’s best to keep a gray or black T-shirt in reserve.
For the lighting you could for example use a RedWing softbox measuring 90 by 120 centimeters. It would be best to place the softbox about one-and-a-half meters from the model. Set the RedWing softbox to medium to ensure the lighting isn’t too harsh. A light gray background seems to us a very suitable choice. Scenery would only distract.
Maybe it‘s a good idea to direct a small, subtle red spotlight on the model’s face? Not an obvious effect in first instance, but once you’ve discovered it, an essential part of the photo – like a stain. Niels could make a hole with his finger in a polystyrene partition.
Behind the partition you could aim the red spotlight on the model. In this way you can conjure up an improvised, painterly red spot on her face.
In the end you could flip the image horizontally. So the reader could see her as she sees herself when she looks in the mirror.
For this shoot you could use the Mamiya RZ67II instead of the Sinar technical camera. With the Mamiya RZ67II you can just keep snapping away, leaving you with 47 pictures to choose from in the end. With the Sinar you always have to change cassettes and ultimately you end up with only 5 pictures. With the versatile Mamiya RZ67II it’s easier to capture that specific look we’ve described. And don’t you agree that with the technical camera something of the picture’s inner focus might be lost because the model’s eyes, due to the slowness of the technique, assume a much dreamier expression?
Jop, Julia, Lernert, Arnoud
(via REFERENCE LIBRARY: Re-Magazine #7, Autumn 2001)