Steven Klein and Phyllis Posnick Share the Stories Behind Some of Their Greatest Vogue Images


We’d set everything up at a modern house upstate, but I didn’t like the way their faces looked in the camera, or the way the make-up had been originally done on their faces, which is quite difficult. These [prosthetic people] are made of components, so I pulled the faces off and I just thought that they looked more interesting. I remember Phyllis saying, “Anna will never run this picture, it’s too scary.” But in fact she did run it. I think she found them funny and ironic, in a way. There’s seriousness in the way that we posed them, because it’s just like two women during the day. They are these bourgeois women in America and….it’s so classical, in a way.

The idea I am always trying to address is the idea of, what is a portrait? What is a portrait from Victorian times? How has it changed, and what is it today? Because I always feel like you have to portray things in the time you’re living in—and not reproduce things from other times.

P.P.: This shoot illustrated an article about the fear of aging, when so many women were having the same cosmetic procedures, like filler and Botox, and going to the same group of cosmetic derms, that they were all starting to look alike. I thought Steven would be fascinated by this, and he was. I suggested using twins. Not Steven: He wanted to do the photos on life-sized dolls, and he knew where to get them. We ordered two from a man in L.A. where we could design the look from his huge inventory of possibilities…big breasts or small, tall or short, curvy or skinny, blonde or brunette, little or lots of makeup. Ours were a size that fit the samples. The dolls arrived at Vogue, weighed over 80 pounds, and I remember us struggling to carry them into the fashion closet for a fitting. Now, the funny thing about this shoot is that no one, not Anna nor Raul [Martinez, then Vogue’s creative director), ever acknowledged that they knew that these “Real Dolls” were anatomically correct.

The next step was to find a location. We wanted a beautiful modern house where wealthy, cosmetically enhanced women might live. These procedures are expensive! We found it in Westchester. We had the makeup artist Linda Cantello and hairdresser Paul Hanlon on set to give the dolls the look we wanted. They weren’t easy to manipulate, and while Linda was trying to turn the head to do their makeup, she accidentally discovered that the faces came off. (Steven remembers a different process.) The minute Steven saw what was underneath, he was determined to shoot them without faces. I was afraid this was too extreme and would never run, but he won that battle. We used the face in one photo to give a connection to a human being. The extraordinary thing about the dolls was that everything moved like it was a real person: the jaw opened and closed, every digit of every finger and toe moved, we arched a foot like a dancer and crossed the legs in a graceful way, positioned fingers in an awkward way.

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