How Gauche.

Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, American Vogue, March 1985. Photograph by Helmut Newton.

I get a kick out of imagining the stories behind narrative style fashion photography. And oh, what a tale we could come up with for this one, like a still right out of a 1980’s direct-to-video erotic thriller. Here Helmut Newton shoots a bit of upscale haute couture neo-noir for Yves Saint Laurent/Rive Gauche for US Vogue back in 1985. Gun in one hand, phone in the other, but it’s the woman reflected in the round mirror that unnerves me. Something bad just went down, or is about to…


three cats by igor shmatov

It’s not Selina Kyle, though it sure could be. In street clothes, that is (well, sort of). “Three Cats”, by Igor Shmatov

Dark, Disheveled And…Well, A Little Bit Drunk.

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I understand it was a homage to Elizabeth Taylor. But is it Butterfield 8 or Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Mario Testino shot the photo suite for V magazine in 2011, and model Carolyn Murphy does a nice turn exhibiting the requisite glamour, but still managing to appear a bit disheveled and…well, drunk. Turn the photos into illustrations and they could be lifted right off a 1950’s-60’s sleazy paperback original’s cover.

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Window Dressing: Vogue’s Rear Window

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Fashion photography maestro Peter Lindberg (who’s been showcased here and more than once) worked with model Carolyn Murphy and actors Tobey Maguire and even Laurie Metcalf, of all people, to reprise selected scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 mystery classic, Rear Window, that film based on Cornell Woolrich’s 1942 story “It Had To Be Murder”. Sure, the April 2013 issue’s editorial was intended to show off Spring couture, but who cares? It’s an elegant pictorial, and enough to make you want to rewatch Rear Window right away. I wonder who Lindbergh, Murphy, Maguire, Metcalf and crew would have chosen to stand in for Raymond Burr?

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Mira Has Two Faces

Mira Sorvino by David LaChapelle

Oscar and Golden Globe winning actress Mira Sorvino in a shot from peculiar photo suite by David LaChapelle for Allure magazine back in 1997, “Mira Has Two Faces”, which recreated the scenes of various Hollywood scandals, such as the mysterious death of gangster Johnny Stompanato with Lana Turner and her daughter Cheryl Crane, or depicted above, L.A. cops hauling actress Frances Farmer out of the Knickerbocker Hotel in 1943. Another photo in the suite, all sunlit and cheerfully hued, depicts Farmer’s later release from a mental hospital, a nurse at her side carting her brain in a lab jar, a nod to the not-fully-confirmed story that Farmer underwent a lobotomy while institutionalized. The photo suite garnered quite a bit of notoriety when Sorvino reported that she declined to pose for certain shots, but the magazine and photographer digitally recreated them anyway, including one in particular of Sorvino portraying Joan Crawford. Lawyers got involved, but what the outcome was I don’t actually know. Below are actual newspaper photos of Farmer’s 1943 arrest and booking.

Frances Farmer Arrest

Yeah, But She’s Got The Gun…

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In the end, it’s all about who’s holding the gun.

Master fashion photographer-storyteller Steven Meisel shoots model Carolyn Murphy for a stylish editorial in Vogue Italia from 2002 that’s a sumptuous bit of Euro-Noir. Who can tell if Murphy’s gotten mixed up with a dangerous duo out of love for the handsome boy-toy, or been blackmailed by the suave ringleader? What we do know is that she’s the one holding the gun in the end, and making off with the money.

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Motel, 2011

Motel Signe Vilstrup

Sometimes I lose count of just how often art directors, stylists and high-brow high-fashion photographers choose hotels and motels for edgier fashion editorials. And the seedier the better in many cases. No surprise, since hot sheet hotel and no-tell motel settings seem to be ripe with suggestive storytelling for so many of the same themes found in dark mysteries and crime fiction: Bad choices, illicit affairs, crime, adultery, peeper private eyes, sex…and murder. Here’s just one shot from Danish photographer Signe Vilstrup’s work with model Elena Lomkova in a steamy editorial called, simply enough, “Motel” for a 2011 issue of Vanity Fair.


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She hadn’t expected to be left in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t up for hoofing it in heels all the way back to town. But the cab fare for this ride would be a little steep even for her, and Lord knows she’d paid her dues before.

Some excerpts from Danish photographer Signe Vilstrup’s 2011 editorial “Road Trip”, a vignette for a story in the making if ever I saw one.

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Vintage Selfies

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So, I suppose they made sense before cell phones, right? And after all, if you wanted to take a saucy self-portrait, you couldn’t very well bring your roll of film to the drug store for prints. Of course, Polaroids have been around since the 1950’s…

Above is a truly iconic and often-seen photo by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel’s Fall-Winter 2011-2012 print campaign. Below? Well, that one’s called (no surprise here) “Fotobooth” from the Japan Diaries, a photo suite by BJ and Richeille Formento, the successful fashion, editorial and art photography team known as Formento + Formento ( The non-too-subtle message relayed by that pair of stockings’ seams is one thing. But it might make you wonder what the fotobooth photos themselves will be. Ahh, the indulgence of art.

Fotobooth by Formento & Formento


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