a little something visual

march 14, 2005.

It is kind of an old song, I guess, but something did get lost, irretrievably, when in the mid- to late 1980s the vinyl record became obsolete, and the compact disc took its place as the principal commercialized support and packaging of recorded music. Something that has nothing whatsoever to do with the 'music', the 'sound' by and in itself - though at least in the case of popmusic the two often can not easily or even at all be properly 'disentangled'. I mean, of course, the visual - the image - that came with the record. And I'd say that it was mainly because of the unusual size (big) and form (square) of the vinyl album as an object, that its cover could have the enormous visual impact it did.

sinequanone country life

I was reminded of this impact, at least on my personal (sub)consciousness and visual memory, last week when, riding the Paris subway, I saw this huge poster at many of the stations [left one of the two pictures], being part of the advertising campaign for this year's spring/summer collection of Sinéquanone, a popular chain of women's fashion shops ... The poster (photographed by Kayte Jones) shows two young women standing against a background of green leaves, some brushwood or bushes, in a garden. The left girl is touching her forehead with her wrist, hand open. Her right hand, pressed against her tummy, is holding a bag. The other girl has her right arm folded, its hand resting on her right shoulder.

The second I saw the Sinéquanone billboard one of those little cocksure voices inside told me: "But that's the cover of a Roxy Music album ..." (The little voice first spoke while the train was rushing past the image. It made me turn back, to take a second look. Maybe these were part of the reasons for its speaking up: that, at this first sight, we only caught a glimpse of the image; and that, it being huge, from the distance we were looking - inside the train to billboard on the platform - its relative size might just have been comparable to that of an album cover seen from close by ...) An album that, twenty to thirty years ago, I surely heard and saw a lot, that I held in my hands and glanced or looked at on many occasions (in record stores, at friends' places), but not one that I ever acquired myself. While indeed agreeing with the little voice, I was not quite sure anymore what the album cover that it was talking about exactly looked like. But that, of course, was easy to find out ... [see the right one of the two pictures]: my little voice was referring to the ('famous', indeed) cover of the band's 1974 Country Life album, designed by Brian Ferry, and photographed by Eric Boman.

It must be obvious to anyone looking that, despite the many differences, these two images are essentially the same ... This may have been intentional on the side of the photographer, it might have been a subconscious influence, even a mere coïncidence ... or, for all I know, this 'pose' always was, or has become, a 'fashion photography' classic, or cliché ... None of this is my point, really ... What struck me is that even a but moderately visually oriented person like myself apparently did internalize this 'visual' from popular culture, originally spread as the cover of a vinyl record, so profoundly, that decades later still he recognizes its 'homologues', instantly and faultlessly ...

I doubt that compact disc packaging (covers, booklets ... ) could exercise a similar influence ... CDs are simply too small ... (Which is not to say that visuals have become less important. On the contrary. Pop music's image hooks and visual angles ever since the mid 1980s - and, come to think of it, pretty much in parallel with the industry's switch to digital - are abundantly taken care of by, mainly, video clips ... But these are ... well ... different. Their imagery is fluid, changing, dynamic - highly influential, but not easy to pin down, to reduce to a sign. 'Pre-video' pop visuals, on the contrary, were mainly static, and as such able to strive for - and in some cases undisputably achieving - an iconic quality... )

comments for « a little something visual » ::

Comments are disabled

« | »