Friday, April 3, 2015

Props: The Photography of Bill King

The image of Raquel Welch, along with swimmers from the 1984 Olympic swim team, inspired today's posts. A few weeks ago I saw the 1984 Vanity Fair issue the image came from at used book and magazine store, the magazine was being used as part of promotion, and sadly was not for sale. I had an instant flashback to when I first saw the image when I was just 8 or 9 years old. The magazine was at a friend of my mothers and I discovered it while we were visiting. I so wanted to tear out the pages with Raquel and the swimmers, but in the end was too fearful of being caught. The images however, remained in my imagination and dreams.

A bit of research uncovered the images were shot by fashion photographer Bill King. The image of Raquel seems inspired by an image King shot of model Janice Dickinson he shot two years earlier. King, who died in 1987, was one of the most celebrated photographers of fashion and celebrity in the 70's and 80's. King shot countless magazine covers and editorials including shooting Elizabeth Taylor for Blackglama in 1983.

King was known for his 'party' themed images. At a time so many were shooting stoic and serious faces and shots, King's models were often smiling and moving around giving his work an energy that had his work stand out from his contemporaries.

Janice Dickinson by Bill King 1982

Although King didn't invent it, he was certainly part of the popularization of using male nudes as props. Men, wearing little to nothing, enhancing the fashion and female models who were front and center. The male models hovered, often in groups, beside and behind some of the worlds biggest female supermodels.

Enrico Coveri Spring/Summer 1986

Although initially props, the trend popularized by King is thought to have actually led to men being able to step out on their own in the world of supermodels. So often the naked men ended up getting more attention to their clothed female counterparts. Such is the case with Richard Aveldon's shots of a naked Marcus Schenkenberg alongside model Stephanie Seymour.

Today, CFNM (Clothed Female/Nude Male) is common in the fashion industry. It is difficult to think of a famous male model who hasn't spent time flanked naked beside a female model. The trend has spread to other visual mediums as well and we can thank Bill King, and many other photographers from the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's for helping to bring the nude male model into the mainstream and into our lives.

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