Can fashion photographers become lifestyle brands?
Prolific duo Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin hope so. In a profile published Tuesday in the New York Times, they expressed that their goal is to become just that. They’ve already succeeded in becoming known, jointly, by their first names, so why not?
It’s an unusual aspiration for a fashion photographer, whom we typically think of as tending to stay behind the camera and out of the spotlight. But Inez and Vinoodh are not typical, and, thanks in large part to their ongoing relationship with Lady Gaga, have enjoyed a fair amount of publicity in recent years.
And at a time when branding has become as important as one’s actual work — if not more so, it makes sense that the couple would have new benchmarks in mind. Something has to come next after you’ve already photographed every major celebrity for every major publication, not to mention shot ad campaigns for every major brand (Gap, Chloé, Balmain, Jason Wu, Viktor & Rolf and Diesel — just in the past couple of seasons).
The Dutch couple have already started expanding their repertoire beyond shooting fashion portfolios. In addition to being prolific on Instagram and Twitter (for which they have joint accounts), they released a book last year, published by Taschen. They also launched a fine jewelry line, which is sold at Barneys and Net-a-Porter. Their Wikipedia has a “written like an advertisement” flag on it, which is pretty accurate. And they even have their own unisex fragrance — necessary for any celebrity couple/aspiring lifestyle brand. Just ask Khloe and Lamar…oh wait.
Could a reality show be next?
It’s worth noting, though, that what sets them apart from other shameless self-promoters is that they have talent and a huge body of work to back up what they’re promoting. They’re not Kardashians or Palermo/Huebls.
However, we could see their ambitions being met with a backlash from the art world, who tend to react unfavorably to the idea of “selling out.” Perhaps they already are. “Everything that I sense about them as gallery artists makes me feel that they’re calculating and want to do it up big,” Vince Aletti, a photography critic and curator, told the Times. “I have no idea why anyone would go for an Inez and Vinoodh fragrance.”
Terry Richardson comes to mind as a photographer with enough visibility to become a “lifestyle brand,” though he’s been pretty straightforward about the commercial nature of his work. Inez and Vinoodh — known for using unconventional elements in their photographs, and whose independent work hangs at the Gagosian — seem to fancy themselves true artists. But is there any reason why they can’t be both?
What do you think? Do Inez and Vinoodh have a shot at finding fame and building a lifestyle brand on their own? And would that make you take them less seriously?