Strike a Pose
The aspirants on Work of Art, the celeb photography team on Double Exposure.
This summer, Bravo's got two visual-arts reality shows for its audience of "affluent influencers," aka "affluencers," i.e., coastal couch potatoes vegging out on reproduction Knoll sofas. The network is very slightly getting in touch with its roots as a culture channel, harkening back to that era when its signature show was Inside the Actor's Studio, hosted by James Lipton and his leer and their whiskers. Very slightly. The gaudier of the new shows is Double Exposure (Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET), a sort of Bravo-after-dark soap opera. Themes include the aesthetics of desire, the symbiosis of artist and muse, and Lindsay Lohan missing her call time. It's artsy by the standards of the ripe reality-show slumming season—artzy with a z.
High-glossily trashy-good, Double Exposure is a diptych portraying the principals of Markus Klinko & Indrani Photography, fabricators of fashion spreads, magazine covers, and celebrity marketing materials. With their innate sense of tackiness and their weakness for heavy-handed classical gestures, they will never exactly be Irving Penn, but they aim to elicit a literal frisson and occasionally succeed. Despite Markus' ever-roiling obsession with the projected hotness of his female subjects—"hot!" he shouts; "so hot!" he cries—the duo's best pictures have a visceral chill to them. The visual textures variously suggest spoonfuls of good pudding, the steel tubes of a Corbusier chaise lounge, and bronze sculptures of sirens and sphinxes.
The photographers' résumés are not without intrigue. Markus, who hails from Switzerland, once had a serious career in classical musical klinking the harp. Indrani, perhaps more radical than Elena Kagan and Michelle Robinson combined, wrote a Princeton thesis titled In Pursuit of Happiness: Desire in Hinduism's Vedanta Philosophy and Practice. They met when he was, as the job counselors say, transitioning into photography, and she was trying to be a model. They dated, and they quit dating. An exotic mutant relationship emerged from the radioactive crater of their failed romance. Where normal exes decide to "just be friends" or "duck one another on the sidewalk," Markus and Indrani formed a creative partnership bearing the stigmata of pathological codependency.
Markus, the primary shootist, is possessed of a few traits that have historically served people in his field quite well, evincing talents for flattery, patience, forceful composition, and tantrum-tossing arrogance. His delusions of grandeur are nothing less than effervescent: "A celebrity that gets photographed by us—it's the ultimate moment in their career because they're never gonna look better after." Elsewhere, Markus tells the camera, "I like to consider myself the James Bond of fashion photography." Though there can be no doubt that he does, he looks here more like a Bond bad guy. Shot from low angles, he is gaunt and monumental, and his hair glints a villainous white blond.
Indrina, meanwhile, is a strutting brunette. Seeing her in her first few minutes on-screen, you might start thinking that she is merely Mark's test model and arm candy. (For one thing, to believe so would be a way of rationalizing both her chronic petulance and her habit of slinking around the workplace while clad, if that's not too generous a word, in Gucci dresses.) However, once you swallow your guilt and continue to watch Double Exposure through another commercial break, you realize you need to take her seriously. A series of vignettes clarify that she and Markus are equal partners. She has a good eye for color, a gift for Photoshop, and—what Markus most profoundly lacks—a basic working knowledge of human behavior. She further serves as his second photographer, personnel manager, chief lighting technician, spokeswoman, chauffeuse, and sulking superego.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.
Still from Double Exposure © Gary Moyes/Bravo. All rights reserved.