(Originally posted on The Judgment of Paris Forum, January 25th, 2004.)
Let's try a little experiment.
Close your eyes, and picture the best (the very best) images from Mode magazine--the ones that you still remember after all of these years--the ones that, if you were a female reader, caused you to re-evaluate your own appearance, and to appreciate your curves instead of resenting them; or, if you were a male reader, gave you hope for a better culture, because they embodied, in living flesh and blood, the timeless ideal of feminine beauty that you had only seen represented in centuries-old artworks.
You immediately think of Barbara Brickner's immortal swimwear series, of course--standing with the parasol; roasting in the sun; sitting by the dock. Then you remember Natalie Laughlin wearing a decolletage-baring blue dress, bending over to adjust her shoe; or Natalie dancing wildly, like a present-day bacchante, in body-embracing lingerie. Then you think of all of those "tropical" Barbara Brickner images--showing off her midriff; lounging in the grass; soaking up the sun. Then you recall a blonde model (Gabi--although you don't remember her name) in nothing but a skirt and a bikini top, being ogled by all of the young men in the village.
You also remember those "classy" Mode images, which were sophisticated and steamy, like Barbara Brickner in a grey ballgown in a opulent mansion; or Barbara's decolletage-rich, turn-of-the-millennium cover.
Now, what do all of those images have in common?
They were all created by one man--renowned French photographer Michel Arnaud.* * *
Part of the reason why we originally created this site was because we felt that the industry consistently overlooked the importance of the models in creating memorable images. Mode credited its photographers, stylists, make-up artists--everyone, it seemed, except for the models, the most essential element of all. And so, to correct this oversight, we prioritized the significance of the models over the contributions of everyone else who is involved in the creation of beautiful plus-size imagery.
But Barbara Brickner's recent statement in praise of Canadian photographer Max Abadian has prompted us to pay more attention to the role that photography plays in celebrating full-figured feminine beauty. And when we began leafing through the greatest issues of Mode to see which individuals stood on the other side of the magazine's camera lens, one name kept coming up, again and again:
It is fair to say that M. Arnaud defined the look of the original Mode. His work gave the magazine its qualities of fun and freedom, warmth and whimsy, and tasteful but undeniable sensuality.
You can almost feel the cool tropical breeze of the Bahamas when you look at his images. He creates a world of his own--a Mode world, a world where guilt has been banished, and where women can enjoy food and life without restraint or inhibition; a world in which the media does not exist, and men worship the natural image of feminine beauty that dwells in their hearts.
Photography matters. As much as the public has missed the appearance of fuller-figured models in plus-size magazines, it has also missed the la dolce vita atmosphere of Michel Arnaud's art. And whenever the next great magazine for women of size comes along, it would do well to reference M. Arnaud's vision, first and foremost, and to use it as a guide in brining Classical feminine beauty to life.