Here’s a complete special that aired on the BBC. Seven Photographs that Changed Fashion follows photographer Rankin as he tries to recreate 7 iconic images. The series is chopped up into 8 parts, roughly one photo per clip, and you can find them all on Robert Benson’s site above.
The show is definitely worth a watch. Rankin (one word name should give you a warning) was a bit of a whiner, especially when shooting on film. And I’m sorry to give you this spoiler but I was shocked to find he was not gay when he said one of the models was his girlfriend. Not that there’s anything wrong with it.
So putting Rankin aside, there’s definitely a lot of goodies to learn and pick up in this special.
As for the end result, some photos captured the essence of what made the original iconic while others totally missed the mark. The Richard Avedon original is the one I think is furthest off target.
Avedon’s photo has a surreal quality to it. The lighting is soft but high key. While the elephants were chained to the floor, which is not cool, they were still more featured. There’s such a huge contrast between the model and the animals.
The most striking difference, which I think makes Avedon’s photo so successful, is the white sash. It adds a stillness and statuesque look to the model that just ins’t there in Rankin’s. The only similarity between the two photos is two elephants and a gorgeous model.
One of the more interesting observations in the show is how shooting with film affects the set and model, especially when using an 8×10 camera. With these cameras you only get one shot off before you have to reload, which takes a few minutes. The way everyone works is completely different and in the end that causes a different image.
Going back to Rankin, while shooting with the 8×10 camera he doesn’t actually shoot anything. Having an assistant set up the image and press the shutter when you say, “take the picture” doesn’t really count in my book. It goes back to my curiosity as to why magician’s get all the credit when it’s the lovely assistant that’s getting sliced and diced.
Either way, I think the 8×10 photo-shoot was the most successful and is split up between the two clips below.