The official royal engagement photos have been published and, predictably, the media has something to say about them. The Guardian and the Telegraph have talked about the fact that the photos are re-touched (although it must be fairly subtle – the couple still look like themselves to me).
For more subjective commentary on the engagement photo, look no further than the routinely bonkers Liz Jones in the Daily Mail. To begin with, Liz had advised (in an earlier article) against using Mario Testino as the engagement photographer, so she can’t quite believe that the Palace didn’t listen to her.
I even wrote in this paper that whatever other mistakes the Palace may make in the build-up to the wedding: ‘Please, no one stick her on the cover of Vogue, to be airbrushed by Mario Testino… let her find her own feet first.’
And what have they done? Had her photographed by Mario Testino
The bare-faced cheek of them! Sometimes it’s almost as if nobody at the Palace reads the Daily Mail!
Liz’s concern was revisited at the beginning of the article:
Diana was the world’s most photographed woman, and she knew better than almost anyone how to use that power of the lens to her advantage.
But ultimately that same power also made much of her life a misery and, of course, contributed to her death.
Which is why, as we watched Kate take those first formal steps into the public limelight as a royal fiancée last month, I feared that she too, might buckle if exposed to the same degree of scrutiny.
What Liz Jones fails to remember is that Princess Diana was very young indeed when she became engaged and had been the product of an extremely sheltered aristocratic life, whereas Kate Middleton is in her late 20s and has been raised by normal parents. I think that she’s likely to be a great deal more robust than Liz suspects.
Anyway, as the article unfolds it becomes clear that Liz views the fashion world with great suspicion, which explains her aversion to the idea of a Vogue cover shot. She begins by explaining why she doesn’t like Testino as a photographer:
Firstly, I don’t believe Testino was the right man for the job. He may have been Diana’s favourite photographer, but he likes everyone to look the same way. He believes that all women have to look unnaturally perfect, like models on the cover of Vogue, so he’s lit and styled Kate in precisely that way. It’s what he did to Diana, time and time again.
She then goes on to discuss Testino’s general character:
I’ve known Mario since the 80s, when we were both starting out.
He is indeed a nice guy, very affable, and I have nothing against him personally.
And then she turns all this on its head by describing him and his ilk thus:
He’s part of that whole fashion mafia. They’re ghastly, shallow people and I don’t want Kate falling into their jaws.
The summary: for a ghastly, shallow person who is obsessed with making women look perfect, he’s nice and very affable. OK, gotcha.
Although I would have thought that most photographers attempt to light and shoot their subjects in order to make them look as good as possible, according to Liz, it’s all a bit sinister and the Palace should have gone an entirely different route:
What I’d have liked to have seen is something more natural, not by one of these superstar glossy magazine photographers. It would have been nice to have used a British photographer, too.
I don’t even think it’s that flattering. Mario has been quoted as saying that William is very photogenic – if so, then I don’t think he’s done a very good job.
You can see the photo in the Daily Mail story. It’s perfectly charming: the couple look young, happy and relaxed.
Liz also saves some misery for Kate’s choice of outfit:
Then there’s the matter of Kate’s Reiss dress. I like Reiss, it’s a good mid-priced label, but for an image that will go around the world, I think she should have been in something a little more special.
This, coming from the woman who was advising that Kate should remain true to herself and not dress according to others’ tastes, just a few weeks ago. And her message is so confusing! The photo shouldn’t be too perfect, but Kate should wear something more special and it should look more natural. That sounds like a fairly exacting brief.
But it all comes right in the end: having written a load of shallow, judgemental nonsense, Liz finishes with:
Of course, ultimately the only thing that matters is Kate and William’s relationship – and that they should be given the space to let it flourish.
Perhaps – and stop me if this thought is too zany – the media could help in this regard by refusing to continue judging every single choice made by the couple?