How Bazaar: Looking at the Harper’s Bazaar September Cover

Say what you will about Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, but they look amazing on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar’s September issue, courtesy of none other than Karl Lagerfeld.


I woke up yesterday morning to a text from a fellow magazine nerd: “KIMYE ON HARPER’S BAZAAR SEPTEMBER. Discuss.”

While I find myself perpetually repelled by celebrity drama and I greet any unironic mention of the phrase ‘Kimye’ with a tired eyeroll, I went immediately to look at the cover for a number of reasons:

1) It warrants a text to wake me up so early?
2) They’re on the cover of the September issue? Interesting!
3) That has to be one amazing cover.
4) They’ve released the September cover rather soon, haven’t they?

And they all turned out to be valid, accurate reasons for creaking out of bed.

While the celebrity it-couple first graced their own magazine cover with Vogue, shot with Annie Leibovitz’s signature dreamy shadows and light, it was for the magazine’s April 2014 issue. And April is decidedly not September, which is of course any fashion magazine’s biggest issue of the year. Harper’s Bazaar called in the big guns, though, to rival even crème de la crème Annie Leibovitz, with images by fashion god Karl Lagerfeld himself. The result is a cover that a friend mentioned hearkens back to the Bazaar of the 1950s, with its Alexey Brodovitch-era style close-up and use of white space.

 
 

Lagerfeld–who has exhibited his photography across the globe–positions us so close to Kim and Kanye we can see their pores, their noses touching, lips just barely so, as if they’re a movie poster for a grand romance. It’s metaphorical, in a way: with such active social media presences and strong cultural positioning, we always feel like we are close to them, even if we’ll only ever be far away. There’s just enough natural shine to let us know they’re real.

The background of the image is a stark white that outlines every curve of their profiles, from chins to noses to even eyebrows and eyelashes. The magazine’s title perfectly matches the pink on Kim’s lips and eyes. It’s as if the magazine is suggesting this couple is our new classic, that which defines our generation as perhaps Jackie and JFK or Marilyn Monroe and DiMaggio did. Whether or not you agree with that idea, the cover succeeds in at least asking you to consider the thought.

While some of the other images that go along with the cover story are a bit heavy-handed–in some the couple is taking selfies or photographing each other with their phones: come on, we get it by now–there’s a stunning black and white portrait of them where they’re both staring at the camera, the crispness of the image radiating down to the seams of Kanye’s shirt and the cut of the stone on Kim’s engagement ring. It feels as if Kanye is staring directly into your soul, that Kim’s eyelashes could poke you in the face.

 
 

None of the images are necessarily complicated, but there’s no reason they should have to be. Fashion photography used to be a lot simpler: not really too high concept, not really too involved, but always elegant. Lagerfeld not just achieves but betters these throwback styles with his cover, a glowing achievement. I love the idea of a return to minimalism, with sharp, clean backgrounds like the one Lagerfeld offers us. It’s an exercise in thinking beyond what a magazine cover is or should be, and instead thinking what it is next.

Read Editor, Marius Troy's response to this story. 

Elyssa Goodman