Slim Aarons left combat photography after the Second World War in order to capture “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.” He ended up creating an enduring iconography for the good life: blue pools, yellow umbrellas, white people. Problematic in today’s world?
“Art doesn’t have rules like that,” the filmmaker Hype Williams said the other day, surveying the grounds of Frank Sinatra’s former Palm Springs estate. He wore Air Jordans and a black beanie. Around him, twenty staffers adjusted lights, cameras, and props. Indoors, models milled. The task at hand: reimagining Aarons’s pictures of mid-century opulence as a marketing tool for a new generation, one that smokes weed, worships Jay-Z, and might be compelled to purchase an amalgamation of the two—from the music mogul’s new line of small-batch cannabis products. Called Monogram, the pre-rolled joints and unadulterated “nugs,” packaged in matte-black cases, come in various strains that, according to the Web site, are purported to “maximize bliss” and “elevate your mind and soul.”
Referring to Aarons’s work, Williams said, “Those photographs so beautifully express what Jay envisions this brand should be expressing right now, which is the use of recreational—I guess it’s cannabis, but we call it marijuana still.” He turned to a publicist and asked, “Do people still say ‘marijuana’?”
“You’re allowed to,” the publicist said.
“ ‘Cannabis’ sounds weird,” Williams said. He went on, “This portrait has white people in it.” He gestured at a blowup of one of Aarons’s vintage poolside shots. “Great. Our portrait has Black people in it. Great. Doesn’t have to be either/or.”
When Williams, who is fifty-one, was starting out as a graphic designer, in Queens, he made work that imposed a high-fashion aesthetic on “the drug dealer or the stripper, because those were the rock stars of our neighborhood.” That led to directing music videos for the Wu-Tang Clan and the Notorious B.I.G. In 1995, he passed on a chance to make the first video for Jay-Z’s début album, “Reasonable Doubt.” “My head was so far up my own ass that I wasn’t thinking,” Williams said. But he directed Jay-Z’s next video, for “Can’t Knock the Hustle.” More followed. “He and Puff”—né Daddy—“used to call me the Black Scorsese,” Williams said. “I was just, like, ‘O.K.’ ” He shrugged. “I wasn’t attempting to be important.”
He’s more strategic now. “This campaign is going to be one of those favors that I do for Hov,” he said, using one of Jay-Z’s monikers, a play on Jehovah. “So I can turn around and be, like, ‘Yo, I need a favor now.’ ”
Camera in hand for the day’s next shot, Williams walked over to the pool, in which the rapper Curren$y and the model Aleali May sat, knee-deep, in white chairs. Between them: a floating backgammon board, several pre-rolled joints, and a wobbling ashtray. Nearby, a prop guy in a face mask bobbed, holding a Bic lighter.
“How you play backgammon?” Curren$y asked. He wore a fedora and a Rolex. “You get all your shit on one triangle?”
“I need playful banter,” Williams said. “Hold the weed up!”
“You smoke, I’ll advance the pieces,” Curren$y told May, who had on a fringed leather two-piece. She blew a plume of smoke over her shoulder. Curren$y peered at the board: “Did we bet your car on this?”
After Williams got the shot, Curren$y returned to dry land. “I never take my socks off,” he said. “But I was, like, fuck it, it’s for a good cause.” Neither Curren$y nor May was familiar with Slim Aarons’s work. (“I’m millennial generation,” May said later.)
Another shot re-created a photo of a woman on a pool lounger, sipping champagne, circa 1961. Circa now: lean back and take a hit. “I’m hot, but also I’m high,” the rapper Chika said. She wore a metal headdress and faced the sun. Nearby, a model with a beehive flagged down a prop guy. “Do you know if these are indica or sativa?” she asked, holding up a joint.
Smoke drifted across the lawn, over a prop table of old Playboys and J. D. Salinger paperbacks. “Art department,” Williams called, “can we get another joint?” Chika’s manager shouted a request: “Light it but don’t smoke it.”
“Show me those teeth again,” Williams said, crouching down with his camera. “That was like lightning in a bottle.”
“Lightning don’t strike twice,” Chika said.
After the shoot, Chika said she recently saw Aarons’s original photographs and thought “they looked sick.” She added, “They took me back to a place that I’ve never been. Sometimes you’ve got to place yourself in certain narratives.” ♦
All news and articles are copyrighted to the respective authors and/or News Broadcasters. LC is an independent Online News Aggregator
Read more from original source here…