If you’re on social media right now, you’re probably seeing folks having a blast making memes and jokes about the newest fine art-fashion photography crossover: German photographer Juergen Teller’s offbeat portraits of various actors for the cover of W magazine.
In this set of portraits, you’ll see Alan Kim hanging off the luggage rack on the back of a station wagon, for some reason. Steven Yeun squats on a folding chair on the street, in front of a truck. A big tree plays a prominent role as the backdrop of photos of Riz Ahmed, LaKeith Stanfield, and Taylour Paige. Nicole Beharie perches in a grocery store shopping cart that someone has thoughtfully left in the street next to a car. All the images have an artfully artless quality.
People are just truly befuddled.
What has people angry, writer Dana Schwartz points out, is the supposedly amateurish look of the shoots.
why do these pictures look like a middle school girl took them with her friends by the 7/11 just so she could upload them to a facebook album called “~*SuMmEr AdVeNtUrEs *~ https://t.co/UIyRrUGg1I
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) February 24, 2021
Schwartz wasn’t the only one with that reaction. (Good thread here!)
Gal Godot seemed pleased.
Riz Ahmed, for his part, was very pleased, pointing out that the shoot was lightning fast.
Some folks reacted like, yeah, obviously.
juergen teller get to work at 2:59 and clock out at 3:00
— misky (@KllBOT) February 24, 2021
One of the best things that can happen on the Internet is when a meme meets a meme: one user mashed up Teller with viral photos of a disheveled Ben Affleck juggling a Dunkin’ Donuts order, published by Page Six last year, as if Teller had shot them.
Another user proposed that the critics are just haters who don’t get it, slyly assigning various celebrity meme images to Teller.
Some users imagined backstories to the photos.
Even cartoon characters Phineas and Ferb, caught posing near a tree like many of Teller’s subjects, were called into duty.
Writer Jonny Sun’s take? You’ve all been punked.
Good Evening, “photographed by Juergen Teller for W Magazine” was a 24 month sociological study conducted by Harvard University. We are now complete with our study. Thank you for your time.
— jonny sun has a new book coming out in april! (@jonnysun) February 24, 2021
The magazine did not immediately respond to a request for comment, sent via the publication’s PR firm. The artist also did not get back to us on a request sent via his gallery, Lehmann Maupin.
It’s at least Teller’s second round with outrage over his covers for W. In an intra-gallery scandal in 2018, tweeters took Teller to task for making covers that looked a bit too much like trademark works by his gallery-mate, Mickalene Thomas.
And don’t forget when Teller photographed Kim and Kanye in 2015 on the grounds of a French chateau, in which a pile of rubble played a supporting part, producing similarly outraged and confused results. (We ourselves, dear reader, termed the images “bizarre.”)
The reaction to the W shoots is a bit overheated, but as Artnet News critic Ben Davis observed in a group Slack: “It’s almost as though people are sitting around at home with nothing to do.”
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