Indrani explains the many layers of celebrity through the example of Lindsay Lohan.

Jul 29, 2010

Lindsay and all the stars whose income is derived from revealing their private lives, are to me performance artists—weaving a web of contradiction and trapping people in subverted expectations of normalcy. The public’s addiction grows with each contradiction and unexpected act, just as their addiction grows to the public’s attention. In the end, though they are subject to the same moral laws as the rest of us, they must be viewed as objects of art living in the public imagination.

Postmodernists from Benjamin to Baudrillard proclaim the “murder of the real by the image”. Is that what Lindsay--one of the most photographed people on the planet-- is going through? I hope our Post-postmodern approach can give new life to the imaging process by fusing the viewer with the viewed. As an ex-model myself, I know how existentially upsetting it can be to be flattened and objectified all the time. That’s why in our photo shoots, we put our subjects’ desires first and enhance what is normally one photographer’s perspective with dynamic discussions to include our subject as well as an array of creative collaborators in our decision-making. The big question for us is not, “How could Lindsay be so late?” but, “How can we create an image that will truly represent her, both how we see her, and how she wants to see herself?”

In our images Lindsay both frames herself and uses a beam as a stripper pole to transform a ravaged space into the psychadelic site of a grand new construction. In the process, we’ve been criticized from all sides, by Lindsay’s fans and enemies alike, though our client got great press. Did we set Lindsay up to fail as she claims in a Twitter war? Watch the episode, it's clear we did not. But perhaps society has. Are we enablers? Fans blame us for being kind when she came 11 hours late. Should we have tortured her as Tyra would and sent her home in tears, or pulled out her extensions as a Jersey Housewife or prison warden might? Reminding us how far reality shows are from real life, such dramas might increase ratings, but would not be true to us, our business, or our art. Are we exploiters? Lindsay’s fans blame us for filming her lateness. But Lindsay knew she would be filmed, and chose to represent herself this way, gaining huge publicity for her 6126 brand. That’s why she is so loved: Lindsay appears normal, accessible, the girl next door, yet she’s an artist living free, thumbing her nose at society’s rules, and generally getting away with it.

In our culture, we crave heroes to follow. Celebrities become representations of ideas, vessels on which we all project our own fantasies and needs. My image-making work is devoted to bringing out those qualities that make individuals into icons. Whether our clients are psychologically or organizationally equipped to handle the consequences of the stardom their images achieve has been our concern. Our job is to inspire.