Photographic images in magazines such as ‘Vogue’ are a significant part of modern society, particularly in the fashion industry. This is due to their undeniable iconic weight, as Cartwright and Sturken state that photographs are able to portray “a particular sense of authenticity in relation to other signs” (Cartwright, L., & Sturken, M. (2009). Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p33.). However, the cultural interpretation is not necessarily straight forward because photographs can have underlying connotations especially when analysed in relation to the context of the image. For example, the audience and purpose of publication are important factors to consider in conjunction to the content of the image itself so that one may form a well rounded judgement. This essay will analyse the different elements of the chosen image in order to decode the intended and unintended cultural impressions, including but not limited to, gender and body image to race and diversity.
Vogue magazine’s first copy, published in 1892 by Condé Nast Publications, was targeted at upper class women living in the USA. and has since developed to became an internationally iconic magazine specialising in fashion, beauty and lifestyle. Paying close attention to the source of the image is particularly important due to the fact it is contemporary, and as Cartwright and Sturken note “today, the contexts in which images circulate have become infinitely more complex than they were even in the mid-twentieth century.” (Cartwright, L., & Sturken, M. (2009). Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p26.). This complexity is largely due to the interpretations and reactions of the intended audience. Vogue magazine is and has always been directed towards young women, however in today’s evolving society, such readers can be considered to be easily impressionable, hence the growing concerns over negative ideology continuing to be readily available. Vogue and the ideologies it portrays has become a way of life for its dedicated readers, and this is not an isolated issue, as Sturken and Cartwright suggest that “images are elements of contemporary advertising and consumer culture through which assumptions about beauty, desire, glamour and social value are both constructed and lived” (Cartwright, L., & Sturken, M. (2009). Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p23.).
Upon first glance, this image appears to be a normal photo of a group of models, yet on closer analysis it is clear that there are controversial themes. In this particular photo the models all hold a high resemblance to one another; they are all of a similar height and slim build, and their poses and facial expressions are also identical, except for one larger model Ashley Graham. Graham was posed in such a way that her arm covered her torso and her leg, but because she is the only one to pose like this it suggests that it is unacceptable for a woman who is larger than a size 4/6 to be seen without shame or hiding her real body. Despite Vogue claiming to promote a healthy body image, they continue to feature little variation of realistic and relatable looking women. The models used on the cover page appear frequently in Vogue magazines, and yet there have only been eight males on the cover American editions whom were all photographed alongside a woman. This could be considered as Voyueristic, due to the fact that it raises both men and women’s expectation of women, and lowers women’s self esteem. This is particularly controversial ideology especially since Vogue magazine is targeted at an impressionable younger audience in a society struggling through eating disorders and self esteem issues. Continuing from this, each models’ hair which was styled to look the same, and all of the models wore natural looking makeup and corresponding outfits. The fact that all the models are wearing natural looking makeup puts forward the concept that a woman can only be considered to be a real woman if she has natural beauty. GENDER QUOTE?? This is contradictory to itself however because even these models have to wear makeup to achieve this look.
Furthermore, having the models wearing the same outfits, hair style and makeup can also be analysed as portraying negative ideology as it indirectly removes the individuality and personality of the models, thus removing their identity. This is backed up by the typography featured on the cover page, which is an equally significant part of the image, as Cartwright and Sturken state that “text and image can be used to direct the viewer’s interpretation to a particular meaning through a kind of double take” (Cartwright, L., & Sturken, M. (2009). Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p33.). In this case, the front cover uses the phrase “no norm is the new norm”, yet all the models on the front cover share an astounding number of likenesses. It becomes apparent that Vogue is trying to suggest that the ideal women should conform to look like these models.
Continuing with the theme of evident lack of diversity, it is considerably noticeable in relation to the models and their ethnicity, “seemingly neutral elements such as tone and colour can take on cultural meanings” p27 . Over half of the models used in this photograph are American, and there is little range of skin tone amongst the non-American models.
all bronzed up for the beach scene , romanticising the beach body
includes a variety of races however only to a small extent, no culture included in this group photo, however individual photos from the shoot were more positive