The Lady Who Fell to Earth

Anything you dream is fiction, and anything you accomplish is science, the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.

(Ray Bradbury)

This quotation by Ray Bradbury, one of my favourite novelists, perfectly explains the fundamental role science fiction literature has had in modern culture and for the whole history of mankind. As for me, I would write millions of words about science fiction, in all its versions (literature, cinema, comic books and fashion), because it’s a genre [1] I love and because there are so many implications in one and each of these fields! But enough: I’m not here to teach you a lesson about sci-fi, but to show you the latest photoshoot by the visionary Tim Walker, published on Vogue UK (October 2009). The title – The Lady Who Fell to Earth – is a reference to the cult movie The Man Who Fell to Earth (1967) by Nicolas Roeg, starring David Bowie in his first leading role. Before starting, just a thought about the title of the photoshoot: I have appreciated the stress on the word Lady (not Woman), because it makes us understand this is not ordinary science-fiction-inspired photos, but a unique rendition of well-known themes.

I really admire Tim Walker’s work because he always succeeds in remaining true to himself, even when dealing with a theme far from his vibe. Yet, he has managed to give us something to write about by taking the topos of the alien – an extraterrestrial form of life – and connecting it to what he knows best, British culture. The reference to the movie by Roeg is quite misleading, because the pics don’t pay a clear homage to its surreal imagery, but maybe we can find something in common.

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This is what I call a brilliant opening! The model/alien – Kinga Rajzak – is sitting on the rim of her flying saucer. Her pose conveys a deep sense of sadness and dismay, probably because she has lost her way home or because she can’t find on Earth what she’s looking for. This feeling can also be found in The Man Who Fell on Earth, whose protagonist, the humanoid Thomas Jerome Newton, lands on our planet seeking a way to bring water back to Anthea, his home planet.


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The model is wearing an interesting dress by Karl Lagerfeld and an amazing beaded helmet (an exclusive creation by Les Ateliers Ruby), a homage to the sci-fi fashion of the Sixties [2].

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The irony of this pic is lovely. The alien is sitting in her flying saucer, with a sequined Balmain dress on, and is landing on a lawn. The owner of the house on the background is overlooking, standing on the back door, while another person (another lady, I guess) is so shocked by what she’s looking at, that she’s losing hold of her saucer and cup. The juxtaposition of two different saucers – flying and actual saucer – is sublime, and so is the reference to the British tradition of tea. I like to think Walker probably thought of the infamous Lady GaGa’s purple cup and saucer, while planning this shot.

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This really looks like a science-fiction shot, with those light trails coming from the flying object. I love the lighting in the flying saucer, coming from the bottom, which makes the model look ghostly.

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The pvc fedora hat by Lika is the protagonist of this indoor shot. The model’s hair, so strikingly platinum blonde, her elegant profile, the soft light coming from the background are just perfect.

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Tim Walker’s style is always recognizable, but it sometimes strikes unexpectedly back. This shot is very different from what we’ve seen so far, yet it retains a strong Walker mark. The beautiful Jean Paul Gaultier dress Kinga is wearing adds a touch of Victorian gothic to the picture, along with the blue-ish lighting, the barely visible umbrella and the dramatic pvc hat.

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I don’t get how this pic is expressing the main theme – this is one of the few flaws of Walker’s photography, which is not consistent all the time – but I love it anyway, because the model’s outfit is gorgeous.

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She’s wearing a total look from Miu Miu fall/winter 2009 collection – embroidered powder pink top and tube skirt – and a Louis Vuitton rabbit-ear headband (in the pic above, seen on Rosie Huntington Witheley). The outfit says more Olsens than alien [3], but I like it like that.

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I think this is another transitional shot, where the reference to the main theme is apparently missing. In this case, the focus is on clothes and accessories (after all, this is a fashion photospread).

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Kinga is wearing a feathered coat dress by Giambattista Valli and furry braided Giles Deacon gloves as headband.  The outfit is completed by black leather opera gloves and oval sunglasses.

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The white-clad alien is probably screening her face from the sun, but in the meantime we can drool over the beautiful buttoned leather gloves she’s wearing.

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This shot is amazing, one of my favourite of the whole spread. The alien, dressed in a houndstooth suit, has landed on the wrong place (some rocks along the road). See the road sign on the right, which forbids flying saucers to land there! She emerges from her ship more like Dovima than like a disappointed alien.

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Her quirky suit and umbrella-shaped hat are of course creations by the one and only Alexander McQueen.

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I hardly get the sense of this shot, where the alien (dressed in Chanel tweed jacket and bodysuit) is standing in her flying saucer, holding a rifle in her hand. The only reason behind this shot can be explained by the following one.

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Brilliant idea: the alien has become one of us, one of the huntsmen in a fox hunt. I love the way in which an extraterrestrial object has been made common and plausible: the flying saucer has the same function as a horse, it even jumps a fence at the same time as the horses. The uncommon and unbelievable becomes ordinary thanks to the British culture, whose charm cannot be resisted.

Before closing, a few pics from the movie which has inspired the title of the photospread. Bowie was extremely handsome here, even if his alien self was not attractive as well. The red hair and the androgynous self are reminiscent of the Ziggy Stardust phase, and emphasize the strong connection he has always had with science-fiction [4].

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The desolate lands of Anthea, a planet suffering from terrible drought, cannot be compared to the English country, but they are similarly quiet and solitary.

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For all the rock nerds out there, here is an oddity: the painted portrait of Bowie on the movie’s poster is the same on the cover of Low (1977), the first album of the so-called “Berlin trilogy” (including Heroes and Lodger).

lowDo you like Tim Walker’s rendition of the alien theme or do you think he should stick to his beloved architectures, cats and rabbits, his favourite celebrity couple and dream-like atmospheres?

[1] I’ve never liked the term genre, but in this case it’s useful, because it gives you the idea of what I’m talking about.

[2] A lot could be said about this, but I cannot leave out a reference to one of the most unique Italian movies ever made, La Decima Vittima (1965) by Elio Petri, starring Ursula Andress and Marcello Mastroianni. Critics tend to label it as sci-fi, but La Decima Vittima is much more than this: based on a Robert Schekley novel, it mixes comedy, drama, satire, and has amazing visual references to Pop Art, hyper-realism and conceptual art. The costumes by Giulio Coltellacci and the set designs by Piero Poletto are beyond gorgeous.

[3] Someone could say that the Olsens ARE aliens, but whatever!

[4] Many think Bowie’s role in Roeg’s movie came just naturally. The British singer has always been influenced by science-fiction themes, since his second studio album, Space Oddity (1969). The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) is the ambitious concept album based on the story of the ultimate rock star, a Starman from Mars who has come to save the Earth with messages of love and peace, but who is eventually destroyed by his own excesses of drugs and sex (Ziggy’s death song is Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide, one of my favourite Bowie’s songs).

Source, source and source.

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3 comments

    1. Nonostante lo stile di Viktor & Rolf non sia nelle mie corde, vanno certamente lodate le architetture di tulle plissè che hanno mandato in passerella e l’esibizione di Roisin Murphy.

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