I enjoy glossy magazine spreads because I am human. I completely understand that they are not real; that they create unfair expectations for both women and men, and that they are somehow a rotting tooth on the mouth of pop culture. But they’re also pretty. Plus, of course, there’s artistry in photography, even if it’s of a mere celebrity posing on a magazine cover. More often than not, it’s main purpose is that of eye candy, but the best photographers can create captivating, provocative, fascinating and drop-dead sexy photographs, often with integrity and sophistication.
But there are certain kinds of celebrity photographs that unnerve me, and that’s the more tasteless “come and get me, boys” come-hither photoshoot that is typically the domain of young starlets whose primary appeal is sexual in nature. It’s the cheerleader pose photoshoot, and while I expect it from the likes of the cast of “Glee,” actresses on CW sitcoms, and Kat Dennings, when a classy actress does it, it drives me insane. The above photo of Jessica Chastain — an Oscar nominated actress — is the perfect example, and GQ and Complex magazines are typically the two magazines that do this most frequently because apparently their audiences are under the misconception that men only find women attractive if they’re in a vulnerable, infantilized state beckoning men into their beds (I do, however, appreciate that Aubrey Plaza remained true to herself while posing for Complex).
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can create sexually provocative, steamy photographs with without turning your subjects into nubile teenagers. Rachel Weisz is the perfect example.
That is not only perfection, but there’s elegance in that photo. Weisz is owning her sexuality, empowering it. She’s allowing us to be witness to it, but she’s not inviting you into her college dorm room with her eyes. She’s not the only one who can pull this off masterfully: Charlize Theron, Cate Blanchett, Carey Mulligan, Marion Cottilard, Kate Winslet, Sandra Bullock, Alison Williams, Carla Gugino, and even Anne Hathaway are striking subjects who don’t budge when it comes to respectful, empowering photos, even when they’re practically nude.
I’m not a photographer, nor do I have the language to talk about the subject on a intellectually high level, so it’s a hard concept to explain. Maybe these contrasting photos between Amy Adams and Isla Fisher provide a suitable example of what I’m talking about.
They’re both beautiful women obviously, but to me, Amy Adams is controlling her sexuality in her photo while Isla Fisher is giving it up. One’s an artistic photograph, and the other is a pin-up, and it irks me especially when classy, well-respected actresses with considerable talent allow themselves to be reduced to Co-Ed Magazine pin-up girls.
By way of example, here are 10 classy actresses who have done it, although I will say that in the case of all ten, it is rare, which is what makes these 10 photos seem so distasteful. Usually the actress in question poses for the more reductive photos only when they’re younger and less well known (the Connie Britton photo, for example, is a strange aberration in a long career of photoshoots), or they’ve allowed themselves to be the subject of GQ, which still thinks that French maid outfits are sexy.