With its percussive soundtrack and deft editing, the teaser video is a dynamic presentation of the shooting process that went into creating this unprecedented art exhibition. The video shows the photographer, Wahb Mabkhout, skillfully coaxing his models into sensual yet tasteful poses, like a conductor summoning a fine performance out of an orchestra.
Keep in mind that this clip is indeed a mere "teaser," while the complete video (as Mr. Mabkhout has stated),
will be a final documentary of 10 minutes about the project and its concept, rich with interviews with all the models involved and other fashion experts exploring the changes in our industry and society to move away from publicizing the UNHEALTHY size ZERO and instead embracing beauty that comes in all shapes and sizes.
Clearly, the full-length documentary will be nearly as captivating as the exhibition itself, and just as important.
The video tantalizingly suggests what the project's final images might look like. Early on, we see Kelsey being made up for the shoot. Observe the smoky eyes--a darker shade than Miss Olson usually wears. This extreme close-up also reveals, more precisely a Polaroid ever could, the natural perfection of her skin.
While the stylist arranges Kelsey's blonde hair, the model gazes aside with a languid look. Her blood-red lip colour gives her a haunting, dramatic allure.
The stylist briefly interrupts his work to admire the spun-gold beauty of Kelsey's fairy-tale tresses, even as Miss Olson continues to gaze aside with an indolent sensuality, as if she were mentally configuring her vixenish persona for the shoot, like a method actress preparing to inhabit her forthcoming role.
As the camera views Kelsey from a different angle, it records a very different set of emotions. In these stills, Kelsey's beauty is even more pronounced, because she appears irresistibly troubled. This inward-looking, soul-searching gaze reveals the model's endearing vulnerability. As if in concert with her emotions, her hair is now more softly curled, more doll-like and feminine, although the blood-red lip colour carries over the minx persona from the previous stills.
Next, the camera records the gaze that has won Kelsey legions of admirers: open-hearted and vulnerable, displaying the doe-eyed helplessness of a young girl. These two photos, the one above and the one below, reveal why Miss Olson is so effective in seductive contexts: even amid the dark allure, she still discloses an undercurrent of softness, a desire to be protected and cared for. This undisguised neediness engages and involves the viewer in a way that a harsh, domineering look would not.
A last-minute adjustment from the wardrobe stylist offers a memorable look at Kelsey's seductive outfit. In subsequent images, the neckline rides higher up on the model's shoulders. But in this image, it sits captivatingly, precariously low, creating an enticing tension. The presence of the stylist in the image adds a narrative suggestion, as if Kelsey were a princess sitting at her dressing table while her servant arranges her finery. The necklace exudes vintage luxury. The look in the model's eyes is deeply affecting, a gaze that mixes gentle innocence with a definite sense of purpose. She seems to be reflecting upon a troubling course of action, as if the were Queen Louise of Prussia--armed with nothing but the beauty of her person and the pureness of her heart--about to petition Napoleon not to ravage her homeland.
The first image from the actual shoot shows Kelsey engaging in her unique manner of coquetry, presenting an inviting look that is free of any carnality, but is seductively sincere. The fairness of her complexion is dazzling, a pure white skin tone that gives the model a delicate quality, for all of her physical robustness. The lacy top offers a discreet glimpse of decolletage.
The following still is not only the most important screencap from the video, but also the most size-positive presentation of Kelsey's beauty to date. Such an image already establishes the About Face project as a resounding success and a boundary-pushing triumph, even before it opens. Not only does this image showcase the soft fullness at the model's neck-and-shoulder area, but it also celebrates her most gorgeous figure feature, her opulent 39" waist, as no image has ever done before. The pose even reveals the soft fullness along the model's back. Her expression is openly appetitive.
A moment later, the model deftly shifts into a more deliberately voluptuous pose. Even at her most consciously seductive, Kelsey always remains chic. These screencaps display the effectiveness of the styling in a way that the previous images did not. The lacy, body-conscious top embraces and defines Kelsey's soft physique, lingering over every curve, yet preserving her modesty as well, offering a tantalizing suggestion of the figure beneath the fabric.* * *
As Graham noted, one of the special surprises that the teaser offers is that it reveals the presence of size-28 goddess Rosie Mercado among the About Face models.
The video clips of Rosie do not capture her overall figure, but they do reveal that she was given an especially attractive outfit for the shoot, perhaps the most recognizably '40s/'50s-themed attire worn by any of the models for About Face. Rosie looks wonderful in this vintage look--which is no surprise, since the fashions of the day were made for curvy bodies. In this screencap, she adopts a gently flirtatious pinup pose, entirely characteristic of the time period.* * *
In addition to praising Kelsey's soft beauty and Rosie's dark sensuality, we must also acknowledge the extraordinary vision and talent of the man who made About Face possible: Wahb Mabkhout. He selected the perfect goddesses for his project and chose the ideal concept: a '40s/'50s pin-up shoot, relating the models to an era when fuller-figured women still represented the ideal of beauty. This vintage context also offered marvellous options for wardrobe and styling, because the pin-up attire of the period was not as blatant as the Maxim-like wardrobe of today, but much more discreet, keeping a goddess's figure half-revealed and half-concealed. This voluptuous mixture of exposure and modesty creates a tasteful seductiveness that is far more exciting than a garishly clinical modern display.* * *
Furthermore, as the video reveals, Mr. Mabkhout skilfully coaxed his models into poses that are sensual without being vulgar. In doing so, he created looks that sophisticated and artistic--poses worthy to be associated with the Classical ideal. He has presented plus-size models as living works of art, goddesses whose beauty is eminently worthy of gallery inclusion.
The idea of full-figured models as artistic muses is, of course, right in tune with the theme of the Judgment of Paris. With About Face, Wahb Mabkhout has bridged the gap between photography and painting, between fashion and art, by shooting his models with the technical facility of a fashion photographer, yet presenting them in an art-gallery context.
About Face proves that Classical femininity did not die with the introduction of "heroin chic," but lives on in the world's greatest plus-size models, who are ready to take their place as the true embodiments of ideal beauty.
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