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Old 18th January 2010   #1
HSG
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Join Date: July 2005
Posts: 1,784
Default The Natural Ideal

There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
- Wordsworth, "Intimations of Immortality" (1807).

On this forum, we have frequently discussed how the lush beauty of natural settings harmonizes with the robust appearance of plus-size models. Images that unite the two demonstrate the congruence between well-fed women's bodies and the teeming splendour of the world in full bloom.

Numerous models and photographers have seen the wisdom of this concept, so we can now present a respectable collection of images showing plus-size models photographed in organic locations.

Note the fact that adopting this approach gives models and photographers a variety of choices and possibilities. There is no one, single type of "natural backdrop," but a host of settings of widely differing characters, each creating its own mood, its own impression, and exhibiting the beauty of the models and their attire in a unique manner.

We have divided this post into several sections according to the different types of shooting environments:

1. Formal Gardens and Parkland
2. Tall Grasses and Fields
3. Forests and Woodlands
4. Leaves and Flowers
5. Rustic Fences
6. Organic Structures
7. Rocks and Brooks
8. The Georgic

* * *

1. Formal Gardens and Parkland

From French-style formal gardens to English landscaped parks, the settings in this category are probably the loveliest of all, since gardens and parklands are specifically designed to be picturesque.

One perfect example of a formal-garden setting is this much-discussed image of Kelsey Olson (Heffner/DCM). All of nature appears to be in bloom as a tribute to her loveliness. She resembles an angel in an earthly paradise. Notice how vividly the red of her gown plays off against the emerald green around her. Of the various settings described in this essay, the formal garden--the most cultivated of natural environments--is best suited as a location for regal attire such as this.

Click to enlarge

Set in a landscaped park rather than in a formal garden, another masterpiece in the present category is this celebrated photograph of Kailee O'Sullivan (Click NY). Her bountiful charms are sensually displayed. Her peaches-and-cream complexion, and the agrarian print of her dress, are eminently suited to this verdant locale.

A few summers ago, Reitmans produced an exemplary campaign that situated Barbara Brickner in a formal garden with elegant stonework and vibrant greenery. As in Kelsey's photo, the model's red top contrasts richly with the verdure. The snug white capris lovingly define Barbara's generous hips. Such luxuriant environments seem to have a liberating effect on plus-size models, prompting them to display the fullness of their figures more openly than usual.

Lane Bryant has an undistinguished history when it comes to print campaigns, but its finest promotion, from several seasons ago, was also shot in a formal garden--indeed, in the loveliest gardenscape ever pictured in any fashion campaign. We have preserved numerous images from this legendary photoshoot in our second Crystal Renn gallery, including the following picture, which is possibly her finest image to date. Crystal was rather fuller at the time of this campaign (a size 14 at least), and consequently much more attractive. Notice how the image focusses directly on her soft, rounded arm, which is the centre-point of the composition.

Last summer, the Quebec women's magazine Coup de Pouce published an appealing editorial with Justine Legault (size 14, Scoop/Ford T.O.), showing her in a gorgeous parkland setting. Notice how frequently the images in this category feature sunlight illuminating the greenery, making it glow with a rich emerald radiance--or, as Wordsworth describes the effect, "appareled in celestial light." The emaciated model to the right appears utterly out of place, but Justine seems to belong in this environment, her coral top playing off against the glowing leaves. That top attractively emphasizes her womanly hips, and the skirt shows off her alluringly full legs.

Click to enlarge

Whitney Thompson's CoverGirl commercials were all lovely, but none more so than her tenth, which showed her strolling through Central Park (an English Garden). The organic yellow of her top blends in perfectly with the lush foliage.

What a blessing it is to have so many images of true plus-size models to feature in this thread. Here, Courtney Maxwell, a size-16 Australian goddess (BGM Models), is shown walking along a velvety carpet of green grass, with towering, tropical-looking trees in the background. The dress shows off her voluptuous fullness and accentuates her hips, and its hue contrasts well with the setting.

Valerie Lefkowitz has had two glorious phases in her career when she was fuller-figured, and this splendid test photograph by Darren Trentacosta dates from the first of these two phases, when she was a size 14/16. The cultivated parkland setting, with the lone tree rising behind her, creates a warm mood, eminently suitable as a backdrop for the model's beauty. The dress reveals the soft fullness of the model's arms. Her recumbent pose and languid expression are highly sensual, as is the seductive bedroom-style hair arrangement. The green environment, which brings to mind thoughts of romance in the park, renders the image even more alluring than if it had been shot on a bed.

Lest there be any doubt, green dresses read perfectly well in parkland settings, as we see in this image showing Bethany (size 14/16, Wilhelmina L.A.) amid sub-tropical trees of one palm variety or another. The spray of delicate white blossoms in the grass is an enchanting touch. The necklace draws the eye towards the model's decolletage, with the dress exhibiting the model's hips and buxom charms. Her curves appear highly suitable to this verdant setting.

Click to enlarge

* * *

2. Tall Grasses and Fields

While gardens and landscaped parks may be the most dazzling of natural locations, due to their prettiness and opulence, some might prefer wilder, less formal environments. Tall grasses and fields provide such an option.

Observe the subtle difference in the colour palette of the following images, compared with the previous set. Now the colours appear more muted, lacking the intense emerald glow of the sunlit gardens and parklands, and taking on the subdued hues of the unspoiled countryside. Instead of vibrant greens punctuated with floral tones, we see beiges and browns mixing in with the foliage.

Again, an image of Kelsey Olson offers the most gorgeous example of this motif. Notice how she is ensconced amid the grasses, their golden stalks visually blending with her fair tresses. With her fresh-faced look, she seems to be the very embodiment of springtime, herself a blossom of the natural world, so young and soft and gentle. The parted lips and expanse of her bare person below the neck add a heady dose of sensuality.

The following image comes from a stunningly successful Melissa Masi test. The campestral wildflowers and uncultivated flora amidst which she sits give the image a distinctively different flavour than the more refined garden-and-parkland images. The styling is ideally chosen for this location--a peasant blouse and a bohemian skirt, an ensemble that is just as appropriate for this setting as Kelsey's elegant red gown was for a formal garden. Melissa's blouse displays attractive folk embroidery, and the skirt is a traditional hue of the kind that one might have seen in ages past, before garish modern dyes were developed. Even the model's hair has a windswept, romantic look. This is the beauty of the Old World personified.

Click to enlarge

The greatest print campaign in the present category was the acclaimed Summer 2009 promotion from MXM, starring Kailee O'Sullivan (whose celebrated "highland lass" test popularized this motif). Here is a representative example from that much-loved promotion. The tall grasses shoot up around Kailee, who sits comfortably nestled among them. The purple of her dress plays off against the greenery. The chair on which she reposes is wooden (hence organic), and of a visibly old-fashioned style, thus blending harmoniously into the surroundings. Kailee's straw hat is also of an organic material, and its design is charmingly rustic. Even her necklaces seem composed of natural artifacts--stones and golden nuggets. The light bathes Kailee's soft shoulders in a celestial radiance.

Click to enlarge

Tara Lynn (14/16) won fame for participating in V Magazine's "Curves Ahead" editorial, but her loveliest images to date come from a particularly accomplished test; one which, like Melissa's, was wholly shot in a natural setting. This is the finest picture from that series, a dreamlike photograph showing her standing tranquilly in a golden field, with the greenery behind her providing a framing effect. The peasant-style dress is appropriately folkloric, and the model's romantic gesture suits the theme of the image.

Click to enlarge

The first campaign that distinguished itself for employing a field setting was a J.C.Penney promotion of several years ago, featuring Kate Dillon. The grasses surround and envelop her. Although the hairstyle is fittingly romantic, the attire is a tad prosaic. But even these clothes look far more appealing in this environment than they would if they were shot against a bare studio backdrop.

In case you haven't noticed, fields and grasses provide especially fine locations for headshots, as we see in this image of Kristina Yeo (size 16, Ford T.O.). The wildflowers give the grassy backdrop a feminine touch, but accord with the uncultivated flavour of the setting. The model's long, thick tresses flow unrestrained, in a way that is far more suitable to the location than an elaborate coiffure would be.

We recently revisited Barbara Brickner's "Napa Vallery" campaign for C.J. Banks, of which this picture is a fine example. The image shows her against a field backdrop, the dark-red sweater contrasting with the green-brown grasses. The model's hairstyle is appropriately wavy and feminine.

The most attractive images of plus-size models are those that show them exhibiting a weighty indolence, a sensual feminine lassitude, averse to any exertion, and instead luxuriating in languid repose. The congruence of a goddess's appetitiveness and indolence is what makes her most alluring. Nevertheless, the following image of a model in motion has a certain appeal, and fits with the dramatic nature of the location. The viewer perceives the wind blowing the model's tresses and causing waves in the tall grass through which she moves so romantically. The dress is fittingly folkloric. The upwards-looking angle of the image adds to the drama. The model, Hillary Officer (Heffner), is unfortunately faux-plus, and while we feature this image primarily because of the fine setting and wardrobe, at a fuller size Hillary would be quite attractive. Also, notice the overcast sky. While halcyon, clear-blue skies best suit images in formal gardens and landscaped parks, pictures set in fields and grasses benefit from moodier weather.

Click to enlarge

This image of Anuschka (Model Management, Hamburg), with the model absolutely surrounded by tall grasses, is the first picture that we have come across showing a plus-size model in traditional German Dirndl, or folk attire. Needless to say, such apparel looks infinitely better on a full-figured girl than it does on a waif. Morever, this wardrobe could only be showcased properly in a provincial setting such as this.

Click to enlarge

Fields and grasses flatter exotic looks as well as Nordic features. Notice the colour schemes. For Catherine's headshot, left, the environment is wholly gold, without a trace of green, in keeping with the model's complexion and hair colour. In the image on the right, however, the green blends with the brown, catching the green in Wyinnetka's eyes. (Both models are size 14, DCM). With exotic models, such settings take on a different flavour, creating a safari-like impression of the African veldt rather than the plains of Northern Europe.

Finally, everyone who loves the environments in this category will appreciate the following Chloe Agnew video from her solo DVD. It shows the singer in a field of tall grasses, the wind buffeting the flora and blowing her tresses in a dramatic and attractive manner.

* * *

3. Forests and Woodlands

In his magisterial Decline of the West, Spengler ascribes to the Nordic soul

a world-feeling that had found the first of all its symbols in the high forest of the Northern plains, the deciduous forest with its mysterious tracery, its whispering of ever-mobile foliage over men’s heads, its branches straining through the trunks to be free of earth. (I, 396)

How fitting, then, for plus-size models to shoot in forests and woodlands. Observe how the palette in these photographs changes back to a strong green hue, away from the intermingled green-browns of the above category, but one that is less sunlit and emerald than that of the garden/parkland images. In these pictures, the shadows are heavier, the compositions darker, in keeping with the character of the sylvan locales.

The first image is transitional, and could as easily have been photographed in a forested English garden as in an actual wood. Allegra Doherty (size 14) is not a Judgment of Paris favourite, but this image is indisputably lovely--proving once again how an attractive setting and styling can enhance the beauty of any woman. She sits barefoot on the green grass, curled up coquettishly as if she were on a divan. The tree beside her casts a dappled shadow, differing the picture from a photograph in an open field, giving it a more private, secluded character. The spring of wildflowers in her hand contributes a feminine element, and unifies her with the environment. The wild blossoms, yellow by the tree and white in the field, add an agrestic touch. The styling is very feminine, from the ruffled blouse to the bohemian skirt (similar to Melissa's in her fields-and-grasses photo, above). The model's auburn hair complements the greenery of the image.

Click to enlarge

In another image from Melissa Masi's exemplary outdoor test, she stands amid wild plantlife, but it is the darker green of the woods before her that frames her face and give the image is distinctive character. Her attire is more rough-and-tumble here, suitable for an actual excursion in the forest. The wildness of her hairstyle is highly attractive.

Click to enlarge

Here, Melissa stands within the wood itself. The forest cover throws her into shadow. The horizontal branch seems to cradle her, giving the picture the secluded quality seen in the best woodland photos. Note how wild the flora appears, wholly unlike the manicured grass around the trees in the garden/parkland images. Again, the wardrobe is sturdy, but not unfeminine, and perfectly colour-coordinated with the setting.

Click to enlarge

Perhaps the darkest, most secluded, most mysterious woodland test is the following, showing Molly Kavanaugh (size 14). Perched on this rock, she is truly immersed in the forest, enveloped by it, covered in shadow. She appears to be in a private, secret world. The deep crimson of her outfit juxtaposes with the dark green of the trees.

A forest setting complements all types of feminine clothing, from Allegra's bohemian outfit, to Melissa's more active ensemble, to Molly's red coat, to this ornate dress modelled by Anna Kleinsorge (size 14). While a forest is an inherently wild environment, it also has a dark elegance, which makes it perfect as a backdrop for decorative feminine dresses.

Click to enlarge

Forests also have fairy-tale connotations, as evidence by the following image. Myla (Ford) is sadly faux-plus, but the styling and photography of this picture warrant consideration. In her old-fashioned, white, feminine gown, she resembles a princess lost in the forest (an impression aided by the romantically curled hairstyle), hiding from her would-be captors by situating herself within the shadow of the dark coniferous trees. Alternatively, one could see her as a forest nymph poised to ensnare her prey, a seductress of the kind that appears in many Romantic verse-narratives.

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We end this category with an image of Christine Shields (size 14, Heffner). The pose could be more naturalistic, and the print of the dress a little less contemporary, but the environment is lovely, from the tall tree on the left to the deeper wood in the background. Both the model and the garment look far lovelier in this locale than they would in other settings.

Click to enlarge

* * *

4. Leaves and Flowers

By focussing closely on a model and a specific item of plant life, images can achieve a natural effect in an economical manner. In these pictures, the model is frequently offset in the frame, to allow her to share the screen with the flora. Two of the most common elements that appear in such photographs are leaves and flowers.

A Kelsey Olson masterpiece provides a memorable example of this technique. The sub-tropical look of the branch gives the image an exotic quality. She seems to be emerging from the jungle, a "white goddess" in the midst of a native environment--a familiar theme in 19th-century European literature. Her earth-toned outfit harmonizes with the greenery. What absolutely makes the picture, though, is Kelsey's haunting gaze, as well as her astounding beauty. She seems delicate and angelic, a seductive innocent in need of protection--an impression aided by the gorgeous, romantic hairstyle.

Earlier this year, Valerie Lefkowitz produced a headshot in which her fair beauty was balanced by a lovely expanse of green. Notice how the lilac hue of her top plays off against the foliage. Also, compare the temperature of the lighting in Kelsey's image, above, which is warmer, to Valerie's, which is cooler. Both colour palettes have their advantages, the former playing up the exotic nature of the leaves, the latter bringing out Valerie's sapphire eyes.

Click to enlarge

Surprisingly, relatively few images exhibit flowers in a prominent manner. One would have expected floral motifs to be far more common. But while colourful blossoms do appear in the background in various formal-garden images, and while wildflowers are sprinkled throughout numerous woodland pictures, flowers are seldom as prominently placed as, say, the leaves in Kelsey's image, above. Here is a rare example--a photo of Barbara Brickner from a popular Eddie Bauer campaign of several seasons ago. The red, yellow, and lilac flowers add a variety of colour to the picture, especially against the leaves and the dark wall of green in the background.

The following glorious image of Ashley Graham (size 16, Ford) shows her surrounded by a profusion of white blossoms (azaleas?). The dark purple of her dress is well matched to the shadowy green of the bush behind her, and the intermingling of these dark shades play up the light colour of the flowers, as well as the illumination of her face and decolletage.

Click to enlarge

* * *

5. Rustic Fences

The loveliest of backdrops need not be devoid of any human-built structures. On the contrary, if the constructions fit harmoniously into their locations, they can be quite picturesque. Many formal-garden photos feature pillars and other elegant stonework that endow the images with a classical quality. A preferred element in less cultivated settings, though, are rural fences. Constructed of wood--a natural material--they inject a pastoral touch into the pictures, and are especially visually pleasing if they have an aged, weathered look. They suggest a human interaction with the landscape that is not obtrusive, but in tune with its organic character.

The following image, featuring Ivory May (size 14), provides a segue between our flower discussion, above, and this note about rustic fences, with the colourful blossoms playing off beautifully against the green leaves. The wooden gate appears to provide entry into a cottage garden, and the model interacts with it in an attractive manner. Her pose emphasizes her voluptuousness, as well as the sensual swell at her waist and her womanly hips. (Again, consider how these outdoor locations seem to liberate the models, freeing them to pose in ways that emphasize rather than diminish their fullness.) The closely fitted attire seductively defines her curves. Her ample figure seems to of a piece with the teeming abundance of the world around her.

This extraordinary picture of model Gigi Hill (size 14, Page Parkes) gives the impression that she is an angel at the gateway to Elysium. We see here the celestial emerald-green light that distinguishes so many of the images in section 1 of this essay. The model interacts with the gate very effectively, and her pose emphasizes her curves. The only shortcoming of the image is the incongruous denim wardrobe and animal-print scarf. However, the photographer cleverly de-emphasized these shortcomings by leaving the outfit in shadow, which draws the eye toward the illuminated background. Regardless, the attire looks far more appealing in this setting than it would in any other context. The model's updo is full and attractive, her expression sensual and appetitive.

Click to enlarge

The caption identifies this picture from Barbara Brickner's celebrated Napa Vallery shoot for C.J. Banks as an autumn promo, but, like most of the images in this thread, it actually looks springtime-summery. The attractively weathered fence integrates seamlessly into the landscape, and the flowers and country hat that hang over it tie it in with the model and the setting. The wardrobe is not to everyone' taste, but the vest's print is organic enough--a vegetable orange-red--that it works well within the image.

Maiysha Simpson has, alas, diminished herself to a faux-plus size, according to her latest Polaroids--a tragic development, as she formerly possessed a luscious figure. This spectacular image comes from that most attractive phase of her career. The rustic fence blends in perfectly with the setting, looking as natural as the verdure itself. Notice the distinctively celestial, emerald light, usually an element in garden/parkland photos--a unique example of a fields-and-grasses shot so illuminated. The wardrobe is appealingly folkloric, especially the white blouse with its ruffled, lacy trim. And the display of the model's decolletage seems wholly suitable in this environment, in keeping with the liberated femininity that models seem to feel when they shoot in bucolic surroundings.

Click to enlarge

Kasey (Wolf Models) is regrettably faux-plus, but we cannot omit this picture of the model, as it shows a marvellously weathered fence in a wild, overgrown setting. The browns and the greens in the field harmonize beautifully with one another. One can almost see the grasses swaying in the wind. The model's top has an attractive folk design.

* * *

6. Organic Structures

As Spengler writes further in The Decline of the West,

The village, with its quiet hillocky roofs, its evening smoke, its wells, its hedges, and its beasts, lies completely fused and embedded in the landscape. The country town confirms the country, is an intensification of the picture of the country. It is the late city that first defies the land, contradicts Nature in the lines of its silhouette, denies all Nature. (II, 94)

This contrast between city and country is one of the underlying themes of this essay. Just as the city "denies all nature" in its buildings, so does it deny nature in the emaciated, androgynous standard of appearance that it prescribes for women. It is no coincidence that the suppression of the timeless, full-figured ideal coincided with increasing urbanization. The alien, unnatural standard of androgyny is an urban phenomenon, a Manhattan look, while full-figured beauty is "an intensification of the picture of the country"--which is why plus-size models look so gorgeous and right in organic settings.

Other structures besides fences can appear in the backgrounds of these images, so long as these buildings are "fused and embedded in the landscape" in the way that Spengler describes. They don't have to be humble edifices either. In this famous layout from Figure magazine, featuring Yanderis (size 14, DCM) as a latter-day Southern belle, observe how the elegant plantation house nestles comfortably within its setting. Just as the North in U.S. history was relentlessly brutal and urban, the Old South was proudly agrarian, with agrarian values and a great love of timeless beauty. Observe how the mighty oaks both tower heavenward and dig deep into the earth. Yanderis's position, nestled amid these roots, symbolizes her love of the blood and soil of her land, a reverence for its traditions. Her Old World blouse is the ideal wardrobe for this romantic setting.

Click to enlarge

This image of Barbara Brickner comes from another attractive Eddie Bauer campaign of several years ago. Notice the interesting structure in the background, which, blurred as it is, appears to have a Classical portico, giving the image the quality of an Arcadian paradise. The delicate pink of the model's blouse plays off against the muted gold of the field as effectively as the deep red garments shown in previous categories contrast with darker greenery. The fact that the shirt is opened, and Barbara's voluptuous curves displayed, continues the theme of the body-liberation that models display in natural settings.

In this image, Heather Dineen (size 14) rests coquettishly on a carpet of grass against a wooded backdrop. Notice the structure nestled amid the trees to the left, seemingly overgrown. The off-white shade of the model's apparel, looking cozy and warm, fits in with the environment. It has a knitted look, which underscores the pastoral quality of the image--in that the garment is a distaff creation, and derived from an organic source (wool or cotton).

This Alfred Angelo promo shows Valerie Lefkowitz in a formal-garden setting, complete with a smattering of small flowers that add a welcome touch of colour. The building in the background is not obtrustive, as it is almost wholly obscured by the greenery before it. The dress emphasizes the model's beautiful hips, and leaves her arms bare. The elegant gown, her flowing hairstyle, and soft expression, all harmonize with the refined, cultivated setting.

While Bianca is regrettably a faux-plus model (Heffner), we cannot overlook this atmospheric image. The Romantic poets were especially fond of ruins, and the crumbling stone dwelling in the background, and its attendant stone wall, could have come straight out of the Lyrical Ballads. It doesn't look at all like a North American edifice, but rather like something from the Old World--from Ireland, perhaps, or the Lake District. The vegetation seems wild, like the grasses of a windswept heath (an impression reinforced by the gust that catches the model's tresses, as she dramatically brushes them away). The sky is suitably overcast.

Click to enlarge

* * *

7. Rocks and Brooks

Waterways add another interesting element to natural locations, as do rocky outcroppings. In this striking image, possibly the best of her career, Victoria Lewis (size 14, Wilhelmina) stands astride a mossy boulder alongside a forest creek. The red of her dress contrasts dramatically with the greenery, and the foliage glows with that distinctive, emerald illumination that we have frequently noted. The tight dress seductively defines the model's curvy hip and rounded abdomen. Note how the model's arms visually echo the canted trees in the background.

Click to enlarge

Compare the completely different effect that a waterway generates in the following English-garden setting. In Victoria's image, the brook was a wild little creek, in keeping with the chaotic woodland setting, while here, just as the lawn in the background is flat and manicured, the stream is quiet and still. Both approaches yield compelling if different effects. And just as Victoria's pose and wardrobe are vivid and dramatic, here the opulent Karen Vermeiren rests heavily, languidly, on a stone bench, the sumptuous fullness of her waist perceptible through her stone-coloured sweater, her expression calmly appetitive, her tresses flowing and romantic. This image has the greater elegance and sensuality, the former, more excitement.

Although the brook itself is barely evident, owing to the shadows, this image of Caroline Worsley (12/14) shows her sitting on the rocky bank of a creek similar to the one pictured in Victoria's image. The light is especially effective here, with the sun illuminating the model while leaving the rocks around her half-obscured in forest shadow. The styling is gorgeously feminine, with the sweater removed so that the model can display her buxom contours and bare arms, feeling the body-liberation of shooting in a natural setting. The moss on the stones, the ferns among them, and the reflected light of the forest, tint the image an olive hue.

Were it not for the unfortunate facial expression adopted by Amanda Mecham (size 14) in this image, it would be a masterpiece. In many ways, it still is. The setting appears to be in the midst of a forest, but one could imagine an identical photo with a pond or lake situated where the log rests in the background, with green reeds right behind it. The model reclines on a shelf of rock of the kind commonly found alongside small lakes and natural pools. The recumbent pose is attractive, and the dress offers a delicious view of the model's decolletage.

* * *

8. The Georgic

In this essay, we have focussed on environments that express a pastoral rather than georgic spirit, but we do wish to feature at least one picture of human-cultivated "growing things."

Ivory May is pictured here amid a thriving crop in a sultry, misty setting. The image displays that celestial emerald light seen in many of the previous photos, except tinged with a warm yellow. The regimented appearance of the rows of plants gives the vista a different character than any of the other locations in this thread, which were wilder--or, in the case of the formal gardens and parklands, more variegated. The model's yellow dress harmonizes with the hues of the landscape, and both the style of the dress and the hat connect the wardrobe to a farm environment. The picture certainly has its beauty, especially with the forests and the mountains in the distance, but is different in tone from the rest of the images in this thread.

Click to enlarge

* * *

The harsh, angular, appearance of modern emaciated models is perfectly suited to shooting in cold, white studio backdrops, or against grim, modern city backdrops showing metropolitan blight and urban decay, with boxlike structures made of artificial substances like steel and concrete. However, the soft, rounded, feminine beauty of plus-size models is better displayed in the fertile surroundings of the natural world, in all of its organic loveliness.

Modern, androgynous waifs, like the bleak, grey, urban environments in which they are frequently photographed, are cold and artificial, incapable of creating or sustaining life. It is very telling that they starve themselves so much that they lose their reproductive capabilities, and take on an androgynous look. Not for nothing is their appearance, like that of the modernist city, deemed a "death aesthetic." It reflects the barren, rootless values of the modern age.

Plus-size models, on the other hand, are actual women, emphatically feminine in every aspect of their beings. Like the natural world in which they belong, their lush figures, with womanly hips and generous busts, speak of life-giving capabilities. Theirs is a fecund beauty, a look of fertility and plenty. As minus-size models look sickly and malnourished, so plus-size models look robust and well-fed, bursting with vitality like the burgeoning greenery of the organic world in full bloom.

The images in this thread reinforce the symbolic significance of plus-size goddesses, and demonstrate how fully and completely they embody natural beauty.


Last edited by HSG : 15th April 2013 at 21:29.
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Old 19th January 2010   #2
Kaitlynn
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Default Re: The Natural Ideal

I am absolutely overwhelmed by the loveliness of the images in this post. Any one of them is a picture of a better, more beautiful world, but looking at them all together is like seeing a vision of heaven itself. My favourites are the photos with Kelsey and Kailee, because those goddesses have the kind of soft, gentle beauty that is perfect for these environments, but all of the models (and all of their fashions) are beautified by being pictured in these surroundings.

I think the phrase "natural ideal" conveys the idea behind these images perfectly: yes, the locations are natural (not artificially generated), but they are also ideal in that they're carefully chosen to represent the outdoor world at its most attractive. The same is true of the models: they have natural curves and bodies, but they're also ideally beautiful. Natural + ideal, that's the recipe of true beauty; either one without the other is incomplete. It's not just prosaic "reality" that's depicted here, but a heightened reality, an ideal version of the world that is nevertheless wholly true- and therefore beautiful. For to quote another Romantic poet, "beauty is truth."
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Old 21st January 2010   #3
Chad
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Default Re: The Natural Ideal

Quote:
Originally Posted by HSG
Just as the city "denies all nature" in its buildings, so does it deny nature in the emaciated, androgynous standard of appearance that it prescribes for women. It is no coincidence that the suppression of the timeless, full-figured ideal coincided with increasing urbanization. The alien, unnatural standard of androgyny is an urban phenomenon, a Manhattan look, while full-figured beauty is "an intensification of the picture of the country"--which is why plus-size models look so gorgeous and right in organic settings.

Modern, androgynous waifs, like the bleak, grey, urban environments in which they are frequently photographed, are cold and artificial, incapable of creating or sustaining life. It is very telling that they starve themselves so much that they lose their reproductive capabilities, and take on an androgynous look. Not for nothing is their appearance, like that of the modernist city, deemed a "death aesthetic." It reflects the barren, rootless values of the modern age.

Plus-size models, on the other hand, are actual women, emphatically feminine in every aspect of their beings. Like the natural world in which they belong, their lush figures, with womanly hips and generous busts, speak of life-giving capabilities. Theirs is a fecund beauty, a look of fertility and plenty. As minus-size models look sickly and malnourished, so plus-size models look robust and well-fed, bursting with vitality like the burgeoning greenery of the organic world in full bloom.

There is much to this. The cosmopolitan city tries to eradicate all rootedness, strip away all organic bloodlines and heritage, and leave behind a population of neutered, undifferentiated units, as if they were designed in an office, and produced in a factory.

Everything that is essential and biological, that demonstrates womanliness, is suppressed. Women are taught to diminish every characteristic that has to do with the giving and nurturing of life. They are taught to deny that part of themselves, not just ideologically but even physically. Food especially. Little wonder that the modern city-aesthetic opposes the idea of women enjoying the pleasures of food, and especially, of their reaping the physical benefits from indulging in it. Straight-size models are the most appalling manifestations of this - so skinny that they have no womanly features left, and often no ability to bear children. This is what the city prescribes as its modern "ideal."

Everything in these images - flowers, leaves, grasses, trees, food - testifies to the biological cycle of which humanity is a part, and which the city tries to make the populace forget.

I agree that in many cases, plus-size models seem freer to pose in ways that accentuate their curves when they shoot in these gorgeous outdoor locations. It's as if they're reveling in their womanliness, in a way that they don't always feel they can in urban settings.
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Old 21st January 2010   #4
Emily
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Default Transcendental Beauty

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chad
The cosmopolitan city tries to eradicate all rootedness, strip away all organic bloodlines and heritage, and leave behind a population of neutered, undifferentiated units, as if they were designed in an office, and produced in a factory.

Everything that is essential and biological, that demonstrates womanliness, is suppressed. Women are taught to diminish every characteristic that has to do with the giving and nurturing of life.

Everything in these images - flowers, leaves, grasses, trees, food - testifies to the biological cycle of which humanity is a part, and which the city tries to make the populace forget.

Not only do modern images, set in grim cityscapes, suppress the biological, but they deny the transcendental as well.

What I find especially interesting in so many of the gorgeous pictures in this thread is that "celestial light," that emerald shade of green that looks as if all of nature is lit from within, shining with a divine light. These images really do bring to life Wordsworth's Neoplatonic idea that the transcendent is apprehensible through the Beauty of the natural world. All of this is lost in brutally modern photos with plastic-looking, spindly models shot in cold, sterile settings. But these pictures radiate that heavenly glow. It's wondrous to see.

I also love the fact that in so many of the images, the wardrobe is romantic, or folkloric, or has an Old World quality. The harmony of the beauty of the models, the settings, and the fashion is entrancing.
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Old 26th January 2010   #5
HSG
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Default Re: The Natural Ideal


As the "natural ideal" theme has proven to be quite popular, we thought that it would be worth adding a follow-up featuring several images that didn't make it into the original thread, but should have.

This time, we will invert the order of the first two categories, and begin with:

2. Tall Grasses and Fields

This page from Yes magazine (the British predecessor of Mode, and the one publication that was its aesthetic equal) is as iconic an image of plus-size beauty as are Barbara Brickner's legendary swimwear tears. For years, it figured in a graphic on the cover page of this site. It shows size-14 model Lorna Roberts (formerly British, now residing in Australia and signed with Bella Management) walking through a sea of towering grasses. What makes it such an exciting photograph is that although the model's facial features are soft, she appears rapacious, hungry, like a predator stalking her quarry. Her voluptuous figure, straining against her shirt, testifies to her penchant for self-indulgence, and with her pose, she appears to be deliberately exhibiting her buxom contours to entice her prey. Never has an image better deserved the epithet "dangerous curves." The exotic setting underscores the wild, untamed nature of the model's beauty.

Click to enlarge

For a different effect, here is Barbara Brickner reclining in a golden field. Her recumbent pose is more indolent, yet a banked-down fire smoulders in her eyes, betokening a calmer sensuality that is no less passionate. She engages the viewer, seeming to offer an invitation: "Come to me, if you dare."

This photograph of Erin (Brigitte Models) amid a sea of tall grasses captures the vision of "celestial light" that appears in so many of the images in the first post in this thread; however here, it is a uniquely golden rather than emerald radiance. With the shimmering stalks blowing gently in the wind, and the breeze catching the model's hair, the picture has a dreamlike quality. The apparel is appropriately figure-revealing.

While most images of plus-size models in natural settings adhere to a green colour palette, fields-and-grasses photos vary from golden, to a blend of green and gold, to lush green, as in this picture of Hannie Wolfs (Brigitte). Each colour scheme derives from a different type of grassland in a disparate climate, and the styling in the best images capitalizes on the unique moods of the various environments. Hannie's outfit is more folkloric than the attire in the above pictures, appropriate to the lush greenery, which suggests a Northern European rather than exotic or Midwestern setting.

Finally, this lovely image of Nadia Peña (a luscious size 14/16 at the time that it was taken) glows with a warm, green light. The model's captivating expression is gentle and approachable, and the colour of her thin dress plays off beautifully against the setting, as its violet hue is the same shade as that of wildflowers in an open field. (Nature is an infallible colour coordinator, and stylists would do well to follow its precepts.)

* * *

1. Formal Gardens and Parkland

Like many of the most successful pictures in this category, Julia's photograph in a formal garden exhibits a celestial, emerald-green light. The flowers in the background add lovely touches of colour. The model's dress is an effective hue for this setting, but one wishes that the design were more attractive.

It is well worth spotlighting two more images from Lane Bryant's celebrated "Spring Has Spring" campaign from 2005. Never has any promotion been set in a lovelier environment. Where the company found this Arcadian paradise-on-Earth, we may never know, but it is a dreamscape of almost indescribably beauty, suffused with celestial emerald light, punctuated by delicate white blossoms and lush foliage.

It is as if Lane Bryant shot this campaign in the prelapsarian Garden of Eden. The wardrobe that appeared in this promotion wasn't quite as romantic as the setting deserved, but the pinks set off the greenery very well, and everything looked better in this location than it would have under any other conditions. The models too appeared prettier in these pictures than ever before or since.

* * *

3. Forests and Woodlands

From one of the most attractive tests that we have ever seen come these moody sylvan images of Nina Blakemore (14/16). They capture that sense of intimacy and privacy, of the model being in a secluded retreat, that distinguishes the best woodland pictures. Note too how aged this forest seems, from the thickness of the fallen tree-trunk on which the model reclines, to the mossy greenery that pervades everything. This is truly the enchanted Urwald of fable and legend. The model's white, feminine blouse suits the environment, and her expression has an attractive touch of wonder.

Another image conveys the primeval quality of this wood even more effectively, as Nina is shown sitting atop a root so thick that its circumference is as great as that of a cedar tree-trunk. The forest seems to be cradling her, almost protectively. One senses that this is a mighty remnant of the Old World, a Wagnerian relic, and the tree possibly Ygdrassil itself.

While lacking the primal, epic feeling of Nina's forest images, this picture of Olessia is nevertheless an effective woodland photo. Recumbent poses are always alluring, and the glimpse of decolletage adds a touch of sensuality. The forest floor is not as luxurious as, say, the grass of a parkland, but its uncultivated wildness has its own appeal. The model's wardrobe suggests a "city girl in the country" narrative.

* * *

4. Leaves and Flowers

It remains difficult to find images in which flowers are foregrounded in the shot, rather than merely attractive pinpoints of colour in the background. One such picture is the following, showing Ava (Brigitte). The delicate blossoms soften the look of both the model and her wardrobe.

* * *

5. Rustic Fences

This category is remarkably popular, and brings us the very finest of Nina's photos from her accomplished outdoor test. The richness of the green hue in this picture makes it very pleasant to view, and the abundant foliage in the background gives it some of the secluded quality of the best forest images. However, the white blossoms on the shrubs add a touch of delicacy, and bring out the model's white blouse.

Whereas Nina's rustic-fence image has a touch of cultivated elegance, Hannie's is more rustic and folkloric. The model's attire has a countryfied look, in keeping with the setting, and her pose is less formal. The bared midriff is a sensual touch (although it would be even more alluring on a fuller-figured model). The blue sky stretching off into the distance adds drama.

* * *

7. Rocks and Brooks

Courtney Ash (Heffner, Brigitte) appears in this waterside image that, while pretty, also indicates a photographic technique to avoid in outdoor photography. The image's tight focus leaves the background blurred, which is regrettable, as it is clearly an attractive setting. One can distinguish the creek, the rocky bank, the reeds by the water--all highly picturesque elements. While it is an effective image, it would have been more so if the background were more discernible, especially as it fills up half of the frame.

And finally, here is another Chloe Agnew video from her solo DVD, this one titled "Vivaldi's Rain," set to the Largo movement of the "Winter" concerto from the Four Seasons. This video showcases the appeal of a natural creekside setting better than any still image currently available, as it features Chloe sitting amid the blossoms along the bank, dancing in the brook, and even playfully splashing in the water. Her outfit is very girlish and feminine, and at one point, the sunlight illuminates her skirt, giving Chloe an angelic radiance.

* * *

We may add more images to this thread in the future, likely by editing this entry rather than by adding new posts every time.

Images of plus-size models in bucolic locations emphasize their organic beauty, and indicate how the abundance and fecundity of their look harmonizes with the splendor of the natural world. It is an association that is often forgotten in our concrete-imprisoned urban dystopia, with its barren death aesthetic, but the lush beauty of these images revives the human dream of Arcadia, which is the wellspring of all beauty.

- Click to view Lorna's page at a larger size

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