At first glance, Alex Prager’s photographs are rather different to those of Slim Aarons. Prager’s photo series, The Big Valley, tells a story; the models play a role and the scene is carefully composed in order to fulfil the photographer’s vision. In Aarons’ images, the subjects don’t play a role, they just live their lives. Yet despite the different ideas, the photographs of Aarons and Prager share several key similarities: beautiful women, glamour and the allure of Hollywood.
The polished perfection of Prager’s women is reminiscent of Aarons’ beautiful subjects, except Prager’s women are styled like Hollywood stars, whereas Aarons shot the stars. The women in The Big Valley wear 60s suits or baby doll dresses, their blonde hair formed into bouncy bobs. One image, Susie and Friends has a more 70s feel to it; the sleeks bobs are replaced with wavy locks, while steam and bikinis create sex appeal. The models emulate the women in Aarons’ images, what is intriguing is how these models are made to look this way, Aarons’ women just did.
Glamour isn’t just one single thing; it is created by several aspects coming together. Aarons and Prager both successfully capture glamour in their images. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly the cause of it–the wealth, the beauty, the fashion, or even the lighting? Perhaps it is just a state of being, something that these women channel in the photographs. Maybe it is the mystery that surrounds the glamour, which actually creates it.
Hollywood is arguably the ideal habitat for beautiful women who exude glamour. Hollywood draws people in, like moths to a lightbulb, yet it is also poisonous; it breaks dreams and ruins lives. As I wrote in my review of Aarons’ work, a person’s position in Hollywood is precarious. Prager’s Eve is clearly a reference to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, a film which combines elements of glamour and horror. Notably it was directed by a man who had his own dark side, highlighting the potential cruelty of Hollywood.
There is one final point I want to make, one which is based upon my own ignorance. Despite my research on Prager, I had failed to notice that she is a woman; I had automatically assumed she was a man (obviously Alex is unisex, but the thought that she was a woman never occurred to me). Why is this relevant? When I was writing this and comparing the two photographers, I thought that both sets of photos were taken from a male perspective. I can’t truly explain what this meant in my mind, perhaps one day I will be able to, but it made me look at the photographs in a certain way. Now that I know Prager’s photographs are from the female gaze, it changes things. I think it creates less of a ‘us and them’ situation with the photographer and the subject, and creates more of the idea that is a collaborative effort between the two.
All the images are from Prager’s website, where you can find more of her work: http://www.alexprager.com/