The reason you are stunned and impressed with this photo is not because of Caitlin Jenner. It is because Annie Lebowitz is the Da Vinci (Think Mona Lisa), Raphael, or Rembrandt of portrait photographers. The art and pictures of her are kept in moving and storage services.
There is a lot of buzz about the Caitlyn Jenner cover of Vanity Fair. People are simply amazed at how beautiful this “new” woman appears. I am seeing comments about how gorgeous she is, and how surprised they are that she looks this way.
First, let me say that I really do not care about Bruce/Caitlin. People can do what they want to themselves. If this guy truly spent his life dealing with pain over this issue, I am not going to make a judgement. The dude/girl is 65. She can do whatever she likes. And lets face it, as a 60+ year old she is in fantastic shape/
Bruce Jenner was a good looking guy in the 1970’s and 80’s. I do not think the millennial fully appreciate that he WAS our Captain America during the cold war. He was, without much argument, the best athlete in the world. Aside from Muhammad Ali, he was probably one of the best know faces in the world. Recently, he has had significant plastic surgery to start the process. This has changed his face considerably. Many folks who are not into the reality TV world may not have seen a picture of Bruce Jenner since the mid 80’s when he was wearing tight double knit pants, large collared disco rayon shirts, and that wonderful Prince Valiant haircut.
So, without question, photographing Bruce as a woman would be seen as one of the most significant assignments in Annie Lebowtiz’s career. She was charged with a job that said, “Take the face the world is familiar with as a man, and make her a beautiful woman.”
What I am going to write about is how this photographer made her look gorgeous. Because, there are a lot of things in this photo the average person is not going to notice. After I point them out, you will see the same Bruce you have seen for generations.
My point is that while this is a photograph of Caitlyn Jenner, it is a “Portrait by Annie.”
First, lets look at the photograph. It is a great photo. these trail cameras has had some work. My guess is that work is mostly the background, which is clearly painted in. Perhaps some of the face, but not as much as you would guess. Aside from that, based on Annie’s past work, the light creates the softness and lines.
For a minute take your eyes away from the photo and when you look at it again be conscious of where your eyes go. Feel where they go first, second, and so forth.
Normally, your eyes will seek the lightest part of the photo. Look and see where that is. Its is the clothing she has on. You are drawn to the center of her body and then you move upwards. The breasts are where you go next, and then right up to the face.
How did she manage this?
She burned in the dark background at the bottom, and then make it less dark as it moves upward. The contrast at the crotch is the most significant and that is where your eyes first hit—but they are blocked by the title, so your eyes keep moving upward.
The next spot you settle on, if only a second, are her breasts. They have been lit from above, making the top of the outfit appear lighter right into her flesh. We as a culture are programmed to complete the mind picture based on Victoria Secret models and TV and Movie actresses.
These photos make it appear that she was wonderful large round breasts.
Just like every sixty five year old man.
Her breasts are made to look that way the same way every other model is made to look that way: Push up cups, tape, and a small light shining down from directly above with a setting ever so slightly above the rest of the lighting. The result makes her look like every other fashion model in the world. And, since her breasts have not been dealing with gravity for 65 years there are few stretch marks.
Before we get to the face, lets look at the body pose. What don’t we see? We do not see hands and feet. We do not see knees. Why? Because Caitlyn may pass as a woman for the most part, she will never be a hand model. She has big man hands proportionate to her body. No amount of ethical surgery is going to change the appears of a shot putting, discus gripping six foot man hand.
Notice her right leg is turned a little bit. Her legs are crossed at the knees. If her legs were straight or shot from profile you would see some big quad muscles. Now she has done a great job toning her arms and Annie has done a great job hiding them. You cannot hide the collarbone. There is a difference, but in this case Annie shines the light from overhead on them as well. Yeah, its a guys upper chest, but we are not hiding that. Either way, women are drawn up to the face and men are drawn down to the breasts. It is genius lighting.
Man knees and feet would not make this a beautiful photo. But then again, most women her age are not going to show you their arms, knees, hands or feet either. Its a posing thing, not a slam against a Trans guy.
Lets go to the face. What do you notice about her facial pose?
Bruce Jenner had a very strong chin. This has clearly been scrapped a little bit. Not only that, but Annie lights it so that it casts a soft shadow. It is long, going right up under her hair. You are used to seeing men with a strong chin. They pointed up and prominent, in women not so much. It is a subtle posing thing.
Her head is tilted away from you. The line, if drawn from between her eyes, down down her nose goes directly through her breasts but not her legs. You are going to follow the flow of this line, like an “S”.
Stay away from those legs. There is nothing you want to see down there.
Clearly, if one has seen Silence of the Lambs, you can see how the crotch was handled. No need for Photoshop there.
The rest is makeup, and someone who has been in front of a camera before. Her make up is outstanding. Again, the dark of her eye sockets brings you into her dark eyes. This adds the “mystery” to the portrait. The facial make up smooths out the stretched skin (which is why there is not a need for a lot of photoshop.) They probably painted and kicked up the lips to contrast with the skin.
Finally, the hair. Damn. Tha’s some nice hair. No two ways about it. Not too many 65 year old women have hair like that. In fact, no 65 year old woman has hair like that. No man, at any age, has hair like that. Its because its a wig. Duh.
The final comment is that the whole picture is presenting a Madonna. (Not the singer, the mother of Christ.) She skin is pale. The position is open and sexual, but not so much to turn off women. The same person with the same coloring, laying down on their back with their hands across her chest would look like a corpse. Pale makeup makes up for a lot of flaws. Again, no need to photoshop.
To summarize, Caitlyn Jenner looks like Bruce Jenner in a wig, or at least with really good hair. The photograph works overtime to draw you away from the mannish parts of his physique and it maximizes or simply fakes, the parts that make her look more demure and alluring. And she does a great job.
I am not suggesting that the photo is not spectacular. This is more a commentary on what a great job Lebowitz did. And when you can see the planning and thought that went into this, you will understand her genius just a little more.
(And speaking of Ali, I wonder if the overall pose was meant to remind you of this photo: