Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The quiet charm of celebrity

Full title: Behind Closed Doors. The Private Homes of 25 of the World's Most Creative People
Author: Rob Meyers
Genre: Non fiction
Attributes: 256p, hard cover
Publisher: Hardie Grant Books(2013)
On the scale of Zero to OneZero (i.e. borrowed from local library)

This book is the result of an original project devised by Rob Meyers (current Creative Director of Clash magazine) in 2007. In the author's words, the details read as follow:
“This project has been running now for five years. It began life as part of my final year project at Central Saint Martins and was then developed by London-based Garage magazine, who helped me source some amazing homes after inviting the ‘Behind Closed Doors’ concept into the pages of their biannual art and fashion publication.”
The idea behind the project consisted of sending disposable cameras to a number of house owners (most of them celebrities), and asking them to take photos of whatever they thought to be outstanding, quirky, or plain interesting. The book contains images from 22 properties, provided by 25 contributors (as some appear in couples). All topped up by Rob Meyer’s take on his own house.

Source: Thin Blue Line
The book may be regarded as an anthology; it certainly looks that way. But there are several aspects that upset a clear-cut definition. To start with, these photographs are not taken professionally. And as a result, they don’t have a unique vision. They have no design unity either. But it is exactly this lack of polish and vision that makes them look more convincing, more organic.
Then, the way stories are created out of these photographs depends to a great extent on their unedited nature. A patch of ripped wallpaper here, a dinted piece of furniture there, a cheesy detail, a silly thing, a technical imperfection – all this makes it almost impossible to think that spotlights ever exist around the owners of these houses. Some of the resulting images (not all, to be sure) are so mundane, so neglectfully naïve, that they breathe an unexpected air of normality. And this is clearly where Rob Meyers wanted to take his project.
In order to summarize the book (not an easy task, considering its diversity), I decided to assign one-word descriptions to each of the celebrities featuring in Behind Closed Doors, to describe the way they appeared to me through the lens of the images they submitted. I believe even after a cursory inspection of the volume (which relies, obviously, on its visual impact) the dividing lines are likely to appear more pronounced and easier to acknowledge. Personalities pop out, identities take shape, voices develop slowly. And that, when put together, means charm.
So here we go, in the order of appearance:
Cortney Love is agglomerated; Lord Peregrine and Lady Catherine St Germans are honest; Jeremy Scott is colourful; Aimee Mullins is unfortunate; Christopher Simmonds is naïve; Marta Stewart is show-offish; Mr and Mrs Lorimer are bold; Matthew Stone is insistent; Terence Koh is artsy; Olivier Theyskens is reflective; Vince Aletti is saucy; Kyle Stewart and Jo Sindle are intimate; Marvin Scott Jarrett is suggestive; Gary Card is bizarre; Oleg Dou is visionary; Marc Quinn is impressive; Conor Donlon is clean; Tavi Gevinson is open; Simon Foxton is self-conscious; Martin Raymond and Chris Sanderson are mindful of photographic effects; Nicola Formichetti is glitzy.