Roundtable: Picture Perfect
Magazines are abundant in South Korea, with well-known publications like Vogue and Instyle setting up shop and making the most of the conspicuous consumerism seen in the rapidly developing society. One upside to all of this for fans of Hallyu is the regular use of idols and actors as models for various editorials; they’re dressed in the latest haute couture, sometimes flown to exotic locales, always looking stunning (well, almost always). These editorials do include interviews touching upon the star’s latest project, but the images are the main pull here. This is especially true for international fans who do not cannot read Korean, or even Japanese or Mandarin Chinese; but what does that matter when a picture speaks a thousand words?
And so, we ask our writers: What has been your most memorable magazine photoshoot? And what are your thoughts on photoshoots in general?
Gaya: My favourite photo-shoot isn’t from the more typical fashion rags: HIM Military Culture Magazine is actually quite well-known for its photo-shoots and they have made good use of serving male celebrities in order to fill the pages of their volumes. One of HIM‘s recent subjects was none other than Sunny Hill‘s leader, Jang-hyun.
Jang-hyun joined the army in January this year, having his number called up midway through “The Grasshopper Song” promotions. The ladies of Sunny Hill made the best of his absence with various guest singers filling in for their sole male member, and went on to release a female-centric follow-up song in “Prince and Princess Charming (Is The White Horse Coming?),” but it was really great to see the five of them together again for this photo-shoot. My favourite photo though, is this solo one of Jang-hyun; the other photos have an element of fun to them, but I just love how he’s all serious business here, and he does look really good. Considering that I wasn’t expecting to hear from Jang-hyun until 2014, this photo-shoot was a pleasant and very welcome surprise.
Maria: I don’t know what constitutes a good model for photoshoots. I usually have three people I have my eyes on for pics: Jang Geun-suk, SNSD’s Tiffany and Wonder Girls’ Yubin. Jang Geun-suk has the brightest fake smile ever and he’s so adorable when he tries to play tough, that I’d just hug him 24/7 and never let him go. As for Tiffany, I like her for the same reason: she lights up the mood. Her photoshoots, as the life-in-pink for Ceci, are colorful, youthful and breathe life into my PC monitor. Then there’s Yubin who is, hands down, the goddess: can’t say what this girl’s doing, she’s breathtakingly sensual. Seriously, she stood on a couch with socks on, eating hot dog from a newspaper and still looked good. How crazy is that? Since I can’t just stay on a topic for too long, another picture that I loved was Yoon Mi Rae and Tiger JK‘s homage to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Besides their honorable intentions, has anybody noticed how hot Tiger JK is?
I don’t remember usually the names of magazines. I know just one: Dazed and Confused. You can call them whatever you want to — artistic, daring, hipster, special — whoever is behind that camera must be completely nuts
Kim: Just to preface this quickly, I used to keep an unhealthy habit of collecting selected titles of Korean magazines, as long as I could get my hands on them. Korean editorials — actually, Korean fashion publications in general — were unlike anything I’d seen prior to this buying frenzy. I was absolutely enamoured.
Haha. So, this topic just gave me a good reason to go unearth my stash of Vogue Girls, Elle Girls, Nylon Koreas, Dazed and Confused-s and High Cuts. I think my current collection makes up only two-thirds of the original lot and this was because a bunch had to be cleared out when our house went under renovation. A bit of a sad recollection but my cupboards can only store so much.
But I digress. With Korean fashion shoots, I’m more inclined to appreciate the stories they tell (with the clothes, of course), versus the celebs being shot. I did get into this because of the odd editorial from a familiar K-drama/K-pop face but then I discovered the world of Korean models and the rest became history. Other than the occasional pretty ones (Song Joong-ki, Hyun Bin, Lee Min-jung, etc.), I prefer unconventional beauties to models (like Jessica Gomes). Personally, I feel the lesser known faces don’t have to be over-styled or styled to fit an image, and they aren’t photoshopped much or photoshopped at all. Photoshoots look better when they’re less clinical, more organic. (This editorial isn’t the best example but it’s packed in quite a few young faces from the modelling industry.)
And of course, some pairings are just meant to be… (right)
Gaya: I really want to see the rest of that Gong Hyo-jin photoshoot now.
But, pardon my woeful ignorance, Kim, but who’s the couple cosplaying as the leads from The Corpse Bride in that last photo?
Kim: Ah that’s Kim Min-hee and Lee Joo-hyuk!
They used to date and so some collabs came out of that. I should’ve mentioned their Factory Girl one as well!
Fannie: I’m an avid packrat-esque collector of K-magazine photoshoots (and if you’re a regular reader of my Comments of the Week, you’ve probably guessed that by now).
There are a bazillion to choose from, but if I had to pick, I’d say that one of the more memorable ones would be the Shoot Must Go On photoshoot from the July 2011 issue of Vogue Korea, where the cast of Infinity Challenge came together to do a series of parodies of famous works of art including (and this is for you art nerds out there): Eugène Delacroix‘s Liberty Leading The People, Jan van Eyck‘s The Arnolfini Portrait, Edouard Manet‘s The Fifer and The Luncheon on the Grass, Marc Chagall‘s The Bridal Couple, Edvard Munch‘s The Scream, René Magritte‘s Galconde, and Frida Kahlo‘s Self Portrait Dedicated To Dr. Eloesser.
I’m also a huge fan of the behind-the-scenes video shoots of photoshoots that seems to be the new trend in the fashion magazine world — and I love that these videos are sometimes like works of art themselves. Some of my favorites videos would have to include the behind-the-scenes of Exo-M‘s Agit Night photoshoot for the September 2012 issue of Ceci Magazine, the Five Fairy Tales with ‘YG Ladies‘ photoshoot for the December 2011 issue of Elle Magazine, and Jung Yeon-joo‘s cover girl photoshoot in the March 2012 issue of Wanna Girls Magazine.
Also, not necessarily related to photoshoots, but I also LOVE this recent fashion feature of the Wonder Girls on Nylon Magazine TV.
Paloma: Oh God, I started writing about this but then it got annoyingly long and I thought our readers would want to defenestrate me after clicking in so many links, so I’m going to do a summary of my own answer and save you all some valuable life time. THIS PICTURE:
… and the whole Yoon Eun-hye photoshoot for the May 2010 issue of W Korea, and probably every single Yoon Eun-hye photoshoot out there. Because there are too many photoshoots I like (aside from the perfection that is the one I previously mentioned), I’m going to pick two trends I really like: outdoors nocturne sets with artificial lighting and black and white sharp photoshoots.
For example, I really like this GD session for W Korea too, the lighting is fantastic and the concept is very sassy and falls out of the typical in-set photoshoots. As for the B&W concept, there are two I especially treasure. First, Infinite‘s photoshoot for the March 2011 issue of Vogue Girl, which also has the cutest behind-the-scenes video. But my absolute favorite is SHINee‘s photoshoot for Nylon Magazine (around July 2010 I think?). These two pics will probably be my favorite SHINee pics forever:
And also, following what Fannie said, I’m also enjoying the behind-the-scenes videos a lot lately, they really put lot of effort in them and some are authentic masterpieces. I especially love the ones from Nylon TV, but I think the best one I’ve ever seen is the collaboration between f(x), Mad Soul Child and Calvin Klein Jeans. Precious.
Jasper: I’m not gonna say much since I don’t really pay attention to these shoots as much as some of my fellow writers, but I just have to mention that one B1A4 CeCi shoot back in July that rocked the Bana fandom by storm. Highlights can be found here. I’m pretty sure it changed the perception of plenty of Banas everywhere about their favorite group, and I’m also fairly certain that B1A4 gained quite a good number of new fans through the attention that shoot attracted. It’s not my favorite photoshoot per se (I’m probably with Paloma in worshiping everything my girl Yoon Eun-hae gets featured in), but I just felt it deserved mention for how photoshoots can effectively affect a group.
Gaya: SHINee and Black and White are two things that have never really gone together well, for me, because for me SHINee means colour, lots of colour; I very strongly associate them with colour, and I feel like B&W looks too plain on them (this is also the reason why I hate some of their new stage outfits). But the more candid nature of the photos taken in that SHINee shoot kind of negated the formal feel that I tend to associate with B&W.
By the way, “defenestrate” is my new favourite word.
Paloma: Really, Gaya? I actually almost mentioned another B&W SHINee photoshoot, the one for the August 2009 issue of Numéro, I absolutely adore this and this picture; but I think what you say makes sense, I actually wonder why two of my favorite SHINee photoshoots ever are in black and white… I guess I don’t really associate B&W with formal, for example especially in the first set I mentioned it goes with the retro feel of the stylism.
On another note, this picture (right) is so “Dibidibidis my name is Minho” I have to love everything related to it (did I say Onew‘s and Taemin‘s shots were my favs from the set? Nah, forget it, this one totally is.)
Gaya: “Dibidibis mi nombre es Minho.” Me gusta mucho.
The thing is, I’ve always loved colour. I tend to see colour before I see other things, and even associate things, like numbers, with colour. When I organise, I tend to colour-code everything; in fact, I could wax lyrical about hues all day, so I’ll stop here and talk more about black and white instead.
For me, B&W provides this focus–it strips away all the busy-ness that colour provides. I also see it as a bit of a leveller of sorts, where all these different colours are essentially going to appear as one: grey, with the only real difference perhaps being the shade. For me it makes the photo simpler but complex in a different way, with the level of contrast between light and dark. The only problem is that I sometimes have a hard time telling whether a photo was published in black and white, or was edited to be such by a fan; in any case, these photos of Exo-K‘s Sehun and Baekhyun from L’Officiel Hommes, are recent favourites. It’s interesting, because having a darker background for B&W photos seems to create a greater sense of warmth than having a white background, which can appear as harsh.
Nicholas: As per my conservative tastes, I also like my photoshoots in varying shades of B&W, if cause they seem to give off a more elegant vibe. Going on the same logic, I also like my shots themed around suits and dresses, for they always show the idols as what they are — minus really bad fashions, with nice flowing dark hair, and well cut outfits; they are really good looking people.
Another type of photoshoot I like, though on the other side of spectrum, are the ones done by Elle Girl. It might be because of the target audience, but they always seem to use those splashes of colour nicely, yet not overdo the hair , giving off the approachable fashion feel. Think expensive attire, but with simply done hair and honest expressions. Perfect much? A good example would be the Elle Girl Survival Audition K-pop Star shoot, especially Baek Ah-yeon and Ki Na-yoon.
With regard to themes, I particularly like the special edition ones, and even more when they nail the look. One notable themed shoot was Ceci‘s 150th Issue, where they went with a party look, to celebrate theirs and SNSD’s successes. From the clothing chosen (party frocks) to the props (cupcakes, party poses) I would say they nailed it.
I however cannot care for the overly done, cold themes favoured by Vogue at times, as if the brief was not so much to promote fashion, but to push ideas that seemingly provoke (see the Lee Hayi photoshoot as a good example). Give me simpler, more down to earth photo speads, favoured by the likes of Ceci and Nylon anyday.
Ambika: I’m usually not big on photoshoots, but I’m definitely on board the Yoon Eun-hye train. Her photoshoots are some of the ones that I always make sure to check out if I know a new one has popped up. And I’m with Jasper on that B1A4 photoshoot. It was quite the surprise to see the boys showing something a bit different.
The photoshoots I tend to like usually involve actors more than idols. I think I adore almost anything Song Joong-ki does. Okay, no. There was a GQ shoot that was a little bizarre. But other than that. He manages to have quirks in his shoots, and it really comes through that he’s more than just a pretty face. He can, you know, act.
There was also InStyle‘s Olympic shoot with various actors. My favorites were Lee Sun-gyun, Lee Min-ki, Lee Dong-wook, and Lee Jin-wook. Especially Lee Sun-gyun’s. Rounding out the actors is Bang Sung-joon with some photos from his Elle Korea shoot.
I like shoots that have a theme that’s more a plot or storyline as well. So Super Junior‘s Ceci photoshoot was one I liked for the concept, but not as much for the photos themselves. But Donghae, on the other hand, tends to have really nice shoots, like his ones for Elle Korea, Elle Girl, and Ceci. Though that’s probably because he’s ridiculously handsome.
Fannie: Oh god, that B&W Bang Sung-joon photo is seriously one of my favorite photos of all time.
Salima: Paloma, I loves me some W Korea photoshoots too! My favorite, hands down is the Big Bang photoshoot they did back in early 2011, where the group was stuffed into what looks like a trashed hotel room. They’re drinking beers, tearing the place up, and being totally content with just being good-for-nothings. I especially adore the photo of Daesung drunk off his ass, while hugging a bottle of beer. And the one of T.O.P sitting in a tub smoking either a cigarette or a swisher.
I tend to like the more gritty photoshoots than anything else. Give me Big Bang partying in a room littered with beer bottles and pizza boxes over Yoon Eun-hye’s sexy stylized photoshoots. Although, I definitely enjoyed her sexy W Korea photoshoot with T.O.P. Yum! Speaking of T.O.P, let’s not forget to mention the muted yet edgy photoshoot he did for Calvin Klein, and which spawned the “Brooklyn Boy”-inspired video as an added treat. Thank you, photoshoot gods.
Oh wait, this isn’t a Roundtable of our favorite T.O.P photoshoots?
Jessica‘s shoot for Dazed & Confused is another one of my favorites. Seeing her in some a different style in an urban setting (the shoot was done during SNSD’s promotions in the US earlier this year) was something I had been looking forward to for some time now, and she pulls it off like nobody’s business. I also really like how this shoot brought out Jessica’s beauty without distracting from the clothes she was wearing.
Kim Soo-hyun also impressed me in his shoot for Vogue Girl back in September 2010. He looked boyishly handsome and I thought that his stylists did a great job dressing him in clothes that fit his personality and the shoot. And with a picture like this (right), how can you not have one of the best photo-shoots ever?
(Naver, Korea, Style, Vogue, Vogue Girl, W Korea, Calvin Klein, Dazed & Confused, NYLON, Elle Korea, Elle Girl, CeCi, L’Officiel Hommes, Numero, HIM, High Cut, sup3rjunior, OnSugar, P.S.Korea, Nancy Girl)