The great Vogue cover controversy. Was it an accident? A lapse in judgement? A one off mistake? No, it was yet another example of Anna Wintour’s attempt to keep in touch with the modern era and falling flat. Her love of piss filters and amateur Photoshop techniques has led many to leave the glorified fashion newsletter where it belongs, in the trash.
Sound harsh? It is, but Wintour can take it. After all, she does emulate the cliche “Devil Wears Prada” persona. As a graphic designer I take personal offense to the cover. As a filmmaker, I am appalled. As stated before, both covers have a “piss filter” applied to it. Where the skin of the subject appears yellow as does the background. As if the editor used the color balance tool and just really went ham with the yellow slider. It doesn’t do Vice President Harris any favors since her skin looks a bit desaturated on top of having the yellows upped. It distorts the natural skin tone and removes the radiant glow we look for when browsing the magazine section in line at the store. Now let’s break down some of the issues I have with each cover. The first one I will be breaking down is the original cover with the pink and green background. The second one will be the one Vice President Harris’ team was led to believe would be the cover, the one of her in the Michael Kors blue power suit.
In this green and pink cover, the pink silk is wrinkled. A simple steaming would have prevented the photo editor from having to try to get the creases out in post from using the blur tool in effectively. I mean there is only so much you can do when the on set mentality is a hammed in “fix it in post”. Now it is possible that the photographer, Tyler Mitchell who famously became the first Black photographer to shoot an American Vogue cover when he captured Beyoncé for the magazine’s September 2018 issue, thought the image would have been cropped at Vice President Harris’ waist. Which would be the only reason why you would keep the silk so wrinkled and mangled at her feet. Since the top of the pink silk is a bit less wrinkled. It also appears that the pink was laid out on the bottom and puffed up to cover the bottom of the green patterned background. In my opinion, it would have been better to shoot the green background separately from the pink silk in order to expand the green background in post and put it as the bottom layer when editing the image. I could continue to pick this apart all day, but let’s move onto the slightly better blue power suit digital cover.
This cover has the same horrible filter applied to it, and an almost greying of the skin. If you look closely at the bottom left hand corner you can see where the healing brush tool was used to remove a clamp that was in shot to secure the yellow silk to a stand. If you look on the bottom right side, you can see a stand that was partially blurred and partially removed with the healing brush tool. Only it wasn’t a good job because I can still clearly see the stand. There is also this out of place brocade fabric placed very sloppily on some sort of a table that doesn’t hide the stands, the clamp, or the fact that the yellow silk does not reach the floor. Perhaps the photographer envisioned this photo being cropped in tighter than it was presented on the cover? I am not sure, but having your set designer and props department being more involved in the process and keeping an eye out for these things while in frame could’ve avoided things. I also take issue with the direction of this shoot. The Vice President looks stiff and uncomfortable, instead of powerful and ready to take charge. In the blue power suit shot, she just looks uncomfortable as her right hand curves unnaturally behind her left arm.
Maybe this is an attempt by Wintour to make Vogue more “down to Earth” by showing these flaws and then trying to hide them by not fully hiding them? It just comes off as lazy and cheap and doesn’t do the Vice President or Michael Kors’ design, any justice. In short, maybe next time don’t assume that you can “fix it in post”.