We Know Where You Live

Sean Lennon, What Are You Doing?

In Don Dissociate on September 8, 2009 at 4:33 pm

rolling-stone-john-lennon-yoko-ono-345x447 sean-lennon-purple-terry-richardson

Stumbled upon this article today. Here Sean Lennon and photographer Terry Richardson imitate a famous photo (by Annie Leibovitz, if the nakedness and Rolling Stone logo aren’t clue enough). Naturally, I read the comments posted by the site’s visitors before bothering to form my own opinion about the photo, Lennon, or recreations of classic icons in general (I still cringe at modern VW Bugs). Naturally, I say, because I’m surfing the internet and can’t be much bothered by original thought.

What interests me about the reaction of fellow surfers is their tendency to jump to conclusions when alternatives are just as available. The most common critique of the photo is that it misses the point of the original.

User Plaid Lemur says:

They missed what was beautiful about the first photo. John is nearly fetal, showing a complete trust and devotion to Yoko. One of the truly beautiful things about it is that it’s John who’s naked and vulnerable, whereas Yoko is clothed—a reversal of the societal norm then and now. The second photo is nothing more than the male taking his normative role along with the female, neglecting the slightly jarring contrast to what’s expected in male/female relationships.

A fair cop, but aren’t Plaid and the other commenters missing something, too? Regardless of the fact that this new photo is a re-imagining of the the Lebowitz shot, it is still a new photo. Similarly, Sean Lennon may be his father’s son, but he is also his own artist. Should the question asked be “how well does the new photo encapsulate the first?” Should we not instead ask “what does the new photo say that the first does not?” Sean Lennon is not naked, he is not fetal, he is well dressed and in a dominant pose. His partner is his girlfriend, but the aesthetics of her pose bespeak a model’s professionalism, not a lover’s intimacy. Her contribution is superficial. Her personality is irrelevant. To me this photograph speaks not only the differences between John and Sean, but to the cynicism of the world today compared to the world as John imagined.

To me this photograph says “this is what you get.”

That said, it’s rather dull isn’t it?


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