"The Last Photo Shoots"-Hallelujah For Something Long Overdue!

the last photo shoots

I’ve been pumped ever since the news broke about this new documentary feature. Michael: The Last Photo Shoots, a project directed by Craig Williams, promises to be a fascinating glimpse into Michael’s 2007 photo shoots for Vogue and Ebony-not to mention a feast for the eyes.

Read more about the project here:

http://www.michaelthelastphotoshoots.com/home.html

And judging by the adorable, rare behind the scenes clips that have already been made available, fans will soon have yet one more gem to add alongside This Is It and Spike Lee’s Bad 25.  And, more importantly, documentaries like this are adding, piece by piece, to the reconstruction and rediscovery of Michael Jackson’s image and artistry  that has been ongoing since 2009.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCQkNSpRka4[/tube]

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCDC2EVrgiQ[/tube]

Judging by the title and content, there may not be much to learn that is new about Michael Jackson the musical artist here. But this documentary may well serve another purpose that is just as important, and just as crucial to the rehabilitation of Michael’s image. This documentary marks an important milestone as a celebration of Michael’s mature beauty, model looks, and sexuality-yes, a celebration of Michael’s beauty, post-surgery, post-vitiligo, and post the trauma of 2005. It was 2007, the height of the “Wacko Jacko” era, when the tabloid caricature that had been created of Michael Jackson-the “freak with the mutilated face and no nose”-was the only image most were familiar with. To be sure, I think that the idea of Michael Jackson having participated in a series of high profile modeling shoots as recently as 2007 might seem hard to believe to a generation raised on the notion that this was a man who had supposedly spent his last decade as a “self-mutilated freak.” I know those photos were a revelation to me when I first discovered them, and served as an important milestone in introducing me to the beauty of mature Michael. It was also the beginning of my education into the media conspiracy that had determined to sell us on a lie.

Fans, of course, know all about these photos. But the reason why this documentary just may be of vital importance is that it finally allows the public at large, for perhaps the first time, a chance to see Michael’s mature looks and appearance cast in a new mold. Judging by what I have seen from these clips, this is certainly not Michael Jackson The Caricature. The clips utilized, as well as the photos, celebrate Michael as a photogenic artist and as a sensual man who is very confident in his own skin. To see Michael in his maturity being celebrated as a photo subject worthy of serious study and appreciation is, for sure, going to be an eye opening revelation for many. In my estimation, it’s something long overdue.

I half suspect, of course, that we’ll still see our share of snarky reviews. The media is a tough and bullheaded lot. After having invested years into convincing the public that Michael Jackson in any era post Thriller was a freak, they aren’t going to give up the ghost so easily.

But the clips speak for themselves, loud and clear.

Contrary to popular myth, Michael Jackson was not a cute youth who grew into a wreck of a human being. He was a cute but somewhat shy and akward youth who blossomed into a ripe, confident man full of swag. And, as true in 2007 as it had been in 1982, he was still an artist in complete control of what he wanted-and how he wanted to look.

I have only seen the clips, but it’s enough to convince me that Michael: The Last Photo Shoots is going to be a treasure.

And, just maybe, the start of a long overdue reassessment of Michael Jackson as a man who never ceased to be beautiful, but instead, became even moreso in his final years.

For those who would like to read more on the topic of Michael’s mature beauty, check out my article from February 2012, Why I Love The Mature Face of Michael, which continues to be one of the most popular articles I have ever done for this website (apparently, I am not alone in my assessment!):

http://www.allforloveblog.com/?p=5924

24 thoughts on “"The Last Photo Shoots"-Hallelujah For Something Long Overdue!”

  1. I couldn’t agree more, Raven! Did you happen to notice this little blurp on the web page?

    Noval Williams Films, LLC, a company jointly owned by Victorino Noval Productions and Bonaventura Films, is pleased to announce the production of a series of informative documentaries about Michael Jackson and the completion of principal photography and post-production on the first documentary of the series entitled: “Michael: The Last Photo Shoots”

    Sounds like Michael was planning more than just this first one.

  2. The ‘series’ idea is intriguing. Maybe these photo shoots will also also present Michael ‘in his own words’ as well — an opportunity for the mature Michael to muse on his life, like a talking memoir — “MyStory: Past Present and Future” (told my way) by Michael Jackson. This could be true, especially in the Ebony atmosphere which Michael always found comfortable and relaxed.

  3. I’m looking forward to this film which I hear isgoing to be on television in the US. I feel that we are on the verge of a renaissance of interest in michaels work…and that it is just a matter of time til history judges the media for their perversion of the truth.

  4. Isn’t this just so exciting? When I first read the news I was over the moon! Who hasn’t tried to get a copy of L’Uomo Vogue and Ebony? They pop up occasionally on eBay but be prepared to pay an arm and a boob for a copy! Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment of what this will do for Michael’s image. Stunningly photogenic with an instinctual flare for the artsy and eye-catching image, he will definitely show the world that this is NOT the Michael Jackson the tabloids so loved to plaster all over their trash. This promises to be a real gift to the fan community and a strategic missile to assault the naysayers. I don’t know about you, but I feel like there’s a real paradigm shift going on where Michael Jackson is concerned. Although we’ve seen more than our share of ugly comments from the usual “ignorants”, there seems to be a real sense of positivity about him in the air. I hear his music played more frequently on local stations. There are new and wonderful books out about him and one forthcoming from the three security guards who were his “back” in Las Vegas. I was very disappointed when I learned they had pulled out of the original book deal with Karen Moriarty. Even the most mean-spirited, jealous doorknobs will have to cough and choke when they get a look at Michael in these images.

    Yeah, I’m in your court, Raven. I found him irristable as a dynamo child prodigy, over-the-top-exciting during Bad, Dangerous and HIStory, but he owned and ramped up his sensuality and swag to a million volts in the 2000’s. His confidence and enthusiasm pulled in a whole new legion of fans.

    Great write-up! Thanks, Raven!

  5. >>>”I don’t know about you, but I feel like there’s a real paradigm shift going on where Michael paradigm shift going on where Michael Jackson is concerned. Although we’ve seen more than our share of ugly comments from the usual “ignorants”, there seems to be a real sense of positivity about him in the air.

    Yeah girl, you got it, MJ Renaissance coming soon, just watch.

  6. ‘And, just maybe, the start of a long overdue reassessment of Michael Jackson as a man who never ceased to be beautiful, but instead, became even moreso in his final years.’

    Hear hear to that Raven!!! Being a latter day fan, I didn’t know Michael as a cute youngster, but boy is he a beautiful man inside and out. Personally I much prefer his mature looks, and also think his mature music was better than the younger stuff – not to say that that wasn’t great, outstanding and all those things, but his later work was more so. I think for instance that Invinsible is a much better album overall than Thriller, and Michael did too!!

  7. Raven.. as always another great post.. thankyou for letting us know about this.

    Caro… “Personally I much prefer his mature looks, and also think his mature music was better than the younger stuff – not to say that that wasn’t great, outstanding and all those things, but his later work was more so. I think for instance that Invincible is a much better album overall than Thriller, and Michael did too!!” ..Absolutely agree with you….

    Ladypurr9…”Yeah, I’m in your court, Raven. I found him irresistible as a dynamo child prodigy, over-the-top-exciting during Bad, Dangerous and HIStory, but he owned and ramped up his sensuality and swag to a million volts in the 2000′s. His confidence and enthusiasm pulled in a whole new legion of fans ”

    Great comment,( as always), and absolutely agree with your quote above !!

    I know it’s always a bit corny when people borrow Michaels lyrics, or quotes for their own metaphor.. but I’m going to do it anyway !!

    “Lies run sprints, truth runs marathons”.. maybe we are beginning to see some progress in that marathon of truth he was referring to.

    Whenever I see Michael in my minds eye it is always a “mature” version of him. I can’t imagine he would ever have been vain, but did he ever understand how physically attractive he was? probably not .. the people who are the most attractive don’t usually see it.

  8. I have to disagree on this! Of course it’s a matter of taste, but I have to say that to me, Michael appeared the most beautiful and sexy from around 1978 to 1982; before we saw the effects of his vitiligo, and before he underwent very much cosmetic surgery.

    I don’t know why this is: but I swoon whenever I see photographs of him during this period, when he was in his early ’20s; and I become increasingly indifferent to (or even turned off) by his appearance, the more he appears altered from his youthful state. Don’t get me wrong; I see in his changed appearance no pathology, no “self-loathing,” or anything that generally gets attributed to him in this matter. It’s just that I find him less desirable, and not more, as the years go on.

    Nonetheless, we see here that at any time, he could have modeled clothes. Nobody rocked a suit, a shirt, a belt (and buckle!), a beaded or buckled jacket, etc. like Michael did. Michael Bush’s book “King of Style” is a fascinating journey into Michael’s sartorial mind… as if his musical and dancerly mind weren’t enough of a treat!

    I agree that public sentiment has certainly shifted, anyway. It’s no longer cool to diss Michael Jackson, and I think we’ve been seeing steady progress, actually nearly from the moment after he died! At the risk of sounding like a broken record (and bringing up a sore subject), however, I think we’ll find increasing support for his changing, “morphing” appearance among people who want to be on the cutting edge. The “androgynous” or “effeminate” aspect of Michael’s face is nowhere in greater evidence—to my way of seeing—than in these photoshoots for Ebony and L’uomo Vogue. And it’s nothing to ridicule, it’s nothing to judge, and it’s *absolutely* nothing to regard as any kind of a negative thing.

    For years, cultural studies scholars who’ve written on Michael Jackson have celebrated the progressive, utopian aspects of Michael’s work and his entire presentation. The general public will catch up; and, eventually, so will some recalcitrant fans who still link this way of thinking exclusively (and erroneously) with the tabloids.

    1. For me personally, it’s not so much a a question of which is “better.” Michael, to me, was beautiful in both his youthful and more mature incarnations, but in different ways. My point is that it is time for both to be equally appreciated, and celebrated. Of course, fans will always have their personal preferences for one era or another.

      I think what I find most fascinating about mature Michael is that I find him incredibly sexy when all the world was telling me this was supposed to be someone to find repulsive. It was a revelation to me to discover that thousands (perhaps millions) of people all over the world saw him as gorgeous and desirable during this era when the media was trying so hard to convince us he was a “freak.”

      Is part of it a kind of rebellion against the status quo? I have considered that possibility (I will always rebel against whatever someone tries to dictate to me). But I’m also very independent in what I find attractive, and given that my attraction has always been towards the slightly androgynous (perhaps that’s the rocker chick in me, which is why Michael became more irresistible to me the more he rocked the long hair and guy liner) it’s no surprise that I should find Michael during all of these later eras as being at the height of his desirability.

      Most of the public perception of Michael’s appearance during his last years was shaped by the tabloids. And the tabloids, as we know, always emphasized the worst photos, usually taken from the worst angles or under the worst circumstances, to highlight. If the public had seen more images of him like those in Vogue and Ebony-and without all of the negative commentary attached-that false image would never have taken hold and become so ingrained in the public consciousness. I believe people would have still been aware, obviously, that he had altered his appearance. But I don’t think it would have been perceived in such a negative light had the tabloids not continuously fed that frenzy.

      I think he would have been viewed more in the same way as artists like David Bowie, whose idiosyncratic (and often androgynous) style is celebrated as avant-garde “cool” rather than as weird and something to be made the butt of jokes.

  9. “I half suspect, of course, that we’ll still see our share of snarky reviews. The media is a tough and bullheaded lot. After having invested years into convincing the public that Michael Jackson in any era post Thriller was a freak, they aren’t going to give up the ghost so easily.”

    In doing my routine Google search on MJ, I first found articles about MJ falling during the final photo shoot before I found the straight up articles on the documentary. So snarky is alive and well.

    1. Yes, although oddly enough, I didn’t find that clip to be too offensive. Michael was a bit of a klutz offstage, and I found that clip to be more endearing than something to get too ruffled about. It sort of reminded me of the piece I once did on “Michael’s ‘Oops’ Moments” (and, in fact, would be a good one to add to that collection, lol).

  10. Snarky may be alive and well, Madi, but so are a lot of other things about Michael.

    A book called “Michael Jackson and the Blackface Mask” by Harriet Manning (published by Ashgate Press) traces the history of blackface minstrelsy and locates Michael’s work, in part, within that tradition (unfortunately, the book is frightfully expensive). I look forward to the publication of Susan Fast’s book on “Dangerous” in the 33 /13 series this coming Spring. There’s the “One” show that’s opened in Las Vegas, and, on a much smaller scale, the Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati has mounted a show by an artist who was inspired by “This Is It,” called “Is this It.”

    All over the world, fans are commemorating Michael’s achievements through music, art, dance, etc. We see signs of him everywhere. On another site, one person posted a series of four short pieces in a publication called “Live Design,” which have to do with a whole assortment of technical and artistic work that went into mounting the “One” show. We hear from lighting, projection, and sound designers. Here’s the first part:

    http://m.livedesignonline.com/cirque-du-soleil039s-michael-jackson-one/one-singular-sensation-michael-jackson-one-part-1-new-venue

    (“One Singular Sensation: Michael Jackson ONE, Part 1: A New Venue,” Ellen Lampert-Greaux)

    It’s not always the case that we always find what we are seeking out or *want* to find. Yet with MJ fans, I’ve long suspected that one major draw, one compelling reason why people remain hooked has todo with their obsession with his endless suffering and victimization. I’m sure it has a certain appeal to it, and there’s plenty of evidence to confirm this view of Michael, of course.

    But at the same time, there’s so much other material on offer that the first few pages of a daily Google search won’t necessarily reveal. It won’t give us the full panoply of public opinion, or even media reportage, that has emerged on any given day. At best, the Google search is an extremely fuzzy snapshot: out of focus, impossibly dark and obscure, unyielding to much insight or fresh information. It’s not necessarily the best picture of things as they are.

    1. I found the premise of Manning’s book so intriguing – and so wrong-headed – I was inspired to try to find out more about it and her. Ms. Manning is based in the UK, which doesn’t automatically disqualify her as an ‘expert’ on black American performance tradition. But it doesn’t help. I just hope the book is better than its description on Amazon and the Ashgate website6.

      1. Probably not, Simba: not to you, that is. I got the book (because I’ll buy everything related to MJ that’s in print), but I don’t think I’ll be sharing my thoughts on it here. New York Times Dance critic Alastair Macaulay was, I seem to recall, the first British critic I ever heard you put down; and you slammed him because he was disrespectful enough to call Michael a “mover” instead of a “dancer.” (I know that when it comes to Michael, you particularly distrust British critics.)

        Well, it turned out that, according to Michael’s own testimony on the “Making of Thriller” film, Fred Astaire had said to him, “you’re a hell of a mover.” And Michael *loved* it.

  11. Raven

    Michael was a contemporary of Davie Bowie and Prince and Boy George. All of whom got away with wearing false eyelashes.

    But with Michael (in my opinion) it scared the hell out of mainstream people because Michael was already such a known commodity. He was such a cultural mainstay even as a child – not so for the others who could come in as “avant-garde artists” as these could be dismissed as fringe by our parents, white men, and black men.

    But Michael Jackson? Those people freaked out because it was just all too close to home – and let’s face it everyone knew how he looked before, he didn’t have the previous anonymity that say Boy George had.

    Lets not forget this was in the late eighties/early nineties, when it was still perfectly acceptable to bash homosexuals, single mothers, and Democrats. Remember Murphy Brown?

  12. Dee Anderson says,
    “Those people freaked out because it was just all too close to home – and let’s face it everyone knew how he looked before, he didn’t have the previous anonymity that say Boy George had.”

    I hadn’t thought of this point before, Dee Anderson; thanks for bringing it up. I think there’s a lot to it, in addition to all the other factors that’ve been mentioned. If Michael had simply burst on the scene as a young man in his twenties with no foothold in the public imagination, it would’ve been a different matter.

    Unfortunately, it’s still perfectly acceptable to bash homosexuals and other queer people. There are just subtler ways of doing it these days. The 80s and 90s were also an unprecedented time of gay/queer visibility and empowerment. It may therefore be no coincidence that the “new androgyny,” as it was called by some critics, who found exemplars in Michael Jackson, Boy George, Prince, and Annie Lennox, among others, was more fashionable and even, in some ways, more acceptable than it is today. According to some cultural critics I’ve read more recently, hip-hop as it emerged in the late 80s and beyond, represented a “re-masculinization” of male stars… especially black male stars.

  13. Nina Y-

    Yes, agree about hip-hop representing a “re-masculinization” of male stars particularly blacks. At the time, there was some very strong backlash against Michael for the changing color of his skin among blacks because previously they had seen him as this amazing role model for male black success.

    It was as if he had them all down by becoming white. Whereas his message was “it don’t matter” — that’s where he was ahead of, and out of step with, the culture.

    In America we are now moving quickly towards legalization of gay marriage and acceptance of all types of alternative lifestyles. If Michael came around today, it would not be politically correct to bash him the way that was done in the 80s/90s.

    Goodness his performances were very family-friendly! Compare him to Lady Gaga, or Miley Cyrus today – Michael never had a nudity or swear words, nothing remotely as provocative. Except for the crotch grab, which was considered outrageous by our parents. If they only knew. I am glad I am not trying to raise kids today!

    1. Yes, and the hip hop community as a whole is very homophobic. This was the subject of a very entertaining (as well as eye opening)episode of “The Boondocks, about a gay rapper who befriends a young fan in a way that becomes a little too close for comfort (since the fan is underage, but is also one of the most ardent protestors against his idol’s gay rumors). The rapper in the story had a very typically macho image, and though rumored to be gay, was trying hard to hide it and to be accepted as a typical rapper. In fact, much of his over-the-top macho posturing turned out to be a case of over compensation.

      Unfortunately, they couldn’t resist throwing an MJ joke in, as well. But that bit of bad taste aside, I thought it was a pretty interesting take on how the hip hop culture perceives the idea of one of their own as gay. It’s probably the last bastion of entertainment where one’s career is truly still over if they come out of the closet.

      1. It’s often perceived that way, Raven; that the hip hop community is homophobic. Lately, though, things have begun to shift. Last year, for example, Harvard held a conference on “The Queerness of Hip Hop; the Hip Hop of Queerness”:

        http://qohh.tumblr.com

        Also, last summer hip hop artist Frank Ocean got a lot of support for confessing on his blog that he’d once had a homoerotic experience with another man (albeit unconsummated).

        Things are loosening up in the hip hop world, too.

        1. Yes. Frank Ocean is a name I first heard via my students. As you know, I teach at two different institutions and one is a historically black college, so I learn a lot about some of the newer hip hop artists just by keeping my ears and eyes open to the people the students are discussing most. A couple of students last year did presentations on a Frank Ocean song (Pyramids) and the discussion, of course, would always come up among them about whether he is gay. I knew from those discussions that there is at least a lot of talk regarding Ocean’s sexuality; nevertheless, his music is still selling so I hope you are right and that maybe things are changing. Still, the fact that his name elicits more discussions among young people about his sex life than about his music doesn’t seem like progress enough. But I guess as they say, these things have to happen in baby steps.

          I still remember as a metalhead back in the 80’s just how homophobic that market used to be, as well. I don’t think it is as true now, or at least those attitudes aren’t flaunted as much as they used to be, simply because it is no longer “cool” to openly flaunt these attitudes.
          .

    2. Michael Jackson suffered from vitiligo. He did not become “white”. His identity as a black American was precious to him. Given his treatment by corporate America and the media, Michael would be the last person to claim that it didn’t matter. He HOPED that one day it wouldn’t matter, but he knew good and well that, as a society, we have a long way to go.

      1. Exactly. That is the entire message of the song and video of Black or White. It is definitely not a celebration of racial harmony, but rather, a very hard look at the way things truly are (even if albeit cloaked in the guise of a catchy tune).

  14. Completely agree with you… *I* didn’t say he became white… I said that the black men at that time said it, and a lot of them through him under the bus. Of course Michael was proud to be black.

    However, he was also a cultural symbol of triumph for the black community at that time. I believe he had no idea just how much that meant to people. And so his message of “it don’t matter,” which was a beautiful sentiment, and so true, just really pissed a lot of people off. Which of course he never meant to.

Leave a Reply