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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Archetypes vs. Stereotypes

Archetype - original model: something that serves as the model or pattern for other things of the same type

Stereotype - oversimplified conception: an oversimplified standardized image of a person or group

There's something about the tactile quality or paper and the sheeny gloss that makes looking at a picture in a magazine much more satisfying than staring at a screen.  I love Stern's Fotografie series, which focuses on a different photographer each issue, and is mercifully spare with words, because my grasp of German is pretty dismal.

The next issue, out on June 7th, focuses on Karl Lagerfeld and Claudia Schiffer's collaborations over the past 20 years and will include never seen before self portraits, polaroids and reminiscences that will probably have me breaking out my secondary school German-English dictionary and wondering what the hell der Dudelsack is.

There will be six different covers of Claudia, shot by Lagerfeld in a series of costumes (see them at the ASVOFF site here).  The price is pretty steep, but I'm looking forward to getting mine in the post.

But wait, what's this?


Is it just me or is controversy over blackface in fashion editorials the new, er, black?

Hmm, something's not quite right here but I can't put my finger on it...

Granted, someone probably thought that the only fitting way to accessorise classic 80's power shoulders was with an electrocuted expression and a convoluted Diana Ross tribute.

Maybe someone thought that this was delightfully satirical (though off the top of my head can't think of a satirical connection between blackface, 80's Chanel, Lagerfeld or Schiffer).

Maybe this is supposed to be incredibly post-modern and the intention is to somehow reappropriate blackface as a non-racist form of expression (though that's virtually impossible due to the deeply entrenched racist vein of blackface and no such declaration of reappropriation has been made).

The other covers that I've seen are broad archetypes; Claudia the businesswoman, Claudia the 18th century aristo, Claudia the Muscle Mary.  In this case Claudia is the person and the clothing is the archetypal template she fits into.  However, by disguising the things that signify Claudia Schiffer (like her blonde hair or the colour of her skin) she stops being a person in costume and starts to portray a stereotype.  Which isn't necessarily a good thing.

Photo - Stern Fotografie