Lena Dunham’s Vogue Cover: Photoshopping Isn’t The Real Story, Here

lenadunham_1Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Courtesy of Vogue.
As anyone who has ever interacted with the Internet is certainly, painfully aware, Lena Dunham's body is the source of much controversy. Not because her body itself is all that controversial. Rather, it's the reactions to said body that have been the center of a lot of discussion of late. Whether it's criticisms of her nudity on Girls, praise of her nudity on Girls, or a thoughtful discussion on what the criticism and praise of her nudity on Girls means for feminism, how the media chooses to approach a boldly presented, slightly unconventional (by media standards, that is) physique is something we just can't stop talking about. To that end, Dunham is far from the only subject of such discussions; recently, Mindy Kaling's Elle cover and, previously, Melissa McCarthy's cover for the same magazine both drew harsh response for the perceived decision to cover up or simply not picture bodies that don't fit a specific, white-washed standard.
So, it was with some caution that we approached the release of Lena Dunham's first cover portfolio for Vogue. We knew the images would be heavily retouched — and, indeed, we were right. Her face, skin, and body have certainly been nipped, tucked, and smoothed. Probably, these photos received more attention and work than, say, Claire Danes (except when her leg went missing). But, beyond that? Well, we were actually quite impressed with the shoot.
Hit the next page to read more, then check out the full feature over on Vogue!
lenadunham_2Photo: Annie Leibovitz/Courtesy of Vogue.
What we have here is a very original, quirky, odd, conceptual photo series courtesy of Annie Leibovitz. It's probably the most natural approach we can expect from Vogue regarding a star who champions a raw, unretouched image. Granted, she looks a bit...stiff. Some of Dunham's humor, her liveliness, seems to have been suppressed here in favor of a still-life aesthetic. We're not sure if that's a result of said Photoshopping, or just a lingering reticence on Vogue's part to really commit to a less glossed-over version of reality (even if this cover girl happens to have unfinished, lovable sloppiness as a primary personality trait). There is messiness here, it's just a little bit too perfectly staged to be believable. That awkward balance is best illustrated by the cover — she's doing a characteristically awkward gesture, but her face and even her blouse (which is actually a pretty amazing number from the Burberry Prorsum Spring/Summer 2014 collection) give the photo the performative feel of a clown or a mime.
Still, this feels like a step in the right direction, moving toward featuring Lena in a way that is authentic, honest, and genuinely interesting. “I love clothes that have eccentricity and wit to them,” Dunham explains in the interview. Those are adjectives that embody everything both Lena and Hannah Horvath are (and aim to be) at their best. And, certainly, the Vogue team has chosen to, for the most part, honor that, rather than put her in totally out-of-character ensembles. Granted, these are much, much more glamourous looks than anything either the woman or her character has worn before, but this is Vogue, after all. We've essentially received the best of both worlds, within reason. A Vogue-ification of Lena Dunham should be glossy and pretty, but also quirky and weird — and maybe involve birds perching on people's heads.
Actually, this feature looks like it could have come straight out of Hanna Horvath's dream diary. A slightly more whimsical, optimistic version of the world, but still burdened by, say, the grayness of a Williamsburg block or the bored, layabout life of the chronically underemployed. Oh, and of course, Adam naked in the bath.
Read the interview and see the full spread of photos on Vogue.com — it's worth it, trust us.

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