- Photographer Russell James just released a 448-page book of nude photos of some of the world’s most famous supermodels.
- “Angels,” which was released on December 1, starts at $US1,500 and has limited copies.
- James told INSIDER that while the book “could be considered to be tone-deaf” in the age of #MeToo, every person in the book wanted to be there and had the chance to review their film and kill any shots they didn’t like.
- “The point isn’t that we should be banned and forbidden from doing something sexy and fun; we should be able to choose when we do it, for our sake, in an environment where we control it,” James told INSIDER.
World-famous photographer Russell James has released a 448-page book of intimate, nude photos of some of the world’s most iconic women.
James, known for shooting ad campaigns for designers like Ralph Lauren and Burberry, has been working with Victoria’s Secret and its angels – models who have special contracts with the company – for 20 years.
Having originally released his portrait collection “Angels” in 2014, the new series by the same name features provocative portraits of “the world’s most alluring art subject: the female form.”
The book features photographs of some of the most “amazing” women James has worked with throughout his career, only 25% of whom actually have a tie to the Victoria’s Secret brand, he told INSIDER.
This means it includes images of models including Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Behati Prinsloo, Bella Hadid, Candice Swanepoel, Cindy Crawford, Elsa Hosk, Gigi Hadid, Hailey Baldwin, Heidi Klum, Jasmine Tookes, Kendall Jenner, Lily Aldridge, Martha Hunt, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Sara Sampaio, Stella Maxwell, and Taylor Hill.
You’ll be lucky to get your hands on one of the signed volumes, though – only 1,000 copies have been made of the collector’s edition, which starts at $US1,500, and 200 copies of the “art edition,” which will set you back a whopping $US3,600 at minimum.
The book was released on December 1, just a day before 2018’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show aired – an event James was also behind the scenes for.
When we caught up with Australian-born James ahead of the book launch, he said he had been creating an archive of nude portraits over the years without even realising it – so he decided to turn the portraits into a book.
“Over the past 15 years, I realised, over the diverse shoots I had a large category of nude portraits,” he said. “When I look back at people I admired, like Irving Penn, he did focused categories. In 2014 I published ‘Angels.’ It was an archival project going back a decade.”
He said that on the opening night of the book and exhibition, two women – supermodels Elsa Hosk and Stella Maxwell – were actually “disappointed” they weren’t in the book, and he realised there was much more to be done.
‘It could be considered tone-deaf’
But amid the #MeToo movement, which has seen victims of sexual assault and harassment – particularly those in the entertainment industry – speak out about their experiences, James knew he had to get the tone right.
“The most important person I want to like the image is the person in the image,” he said. “Each person got to review their own film and kill it if they didn’t like it. I wanted it to be about collaboration.”
He said that speaking to iconic supermodel Cindy Crawford, who he had shot for the first book, helped put the idea for the second collection into perspective.
“There was a big point in her career where there was only a downside [to the project], no upside, and she said she wanted to do it. [She said] ‘I’m a businessperson, a successful model, a mother, but I still want to be a sexy woman when I feel like I want to be.'”
He said that Candice Swanepoel, who was chosen for the cover of the book, perfectly defined the idea of it with an image that was “not too revealing.”
“She’s so comfortable with herself,” he said.
“It could be considered to be tone-deaf in this social world,” he went on. “But the point isn’t that we should be banned and forbidden from doing something sexy and fun; we should be able to choose when we do it, for our sake, in an environment where we control it.”
‘The camera gives me an excuse to conduct a visual interview’
A Sports Illustrated cover shoot featuring Tyra Banks, the first African American Sports Illustrated cover model, initially put James on the map.
Now, he told INSIDER, he shoots everything “from lingerie to sport,” has worked with the likes of Barbra Streisand and Scarlett Johansson, and has even shot portraits for Hillary and Bill Clinton.
“Sometimes there are 50 people on set, but my one mission is to connect with that person,” he said.
Despite calling himself “socially awkward,” he said: “I tend to ask a lot of questions about people. I have a natural curiosity about people, and the camera gives me an excuse to conduct a visual interview.”
Throughout his career he’s gotten to know models such as Lily Aldridge, Kendall Jenner, and Crawford, who he said has evolved from supermodel to a “megabrand” and “businessperson.”
“I’ve had great memories watching people grow,” he said. “It’s fascinating to watch their evolution through it.”
He said one of the most memorable images in “Angels” is a landscape shot of Jenner, who he has been shooting “since she started her career.”
However, he said asking him choose his favourite model to work with is “like asking which of my kids is my favourite.”
Perhaps this is why each of the women included in “Angels” was comfortable enough to have their naked bodies shared with the world.
“I usually start by photographing really close to the face and eyes, talking to the person, excluding anyone who doesn’t need to be on set,” he said.
“Never in the history of one of my sessions, even on a nude shoot, have I said, ‘You’re so sexy, you’re so gorgeous.’ We talk about family and kids, life … I try to find out what the person is actually interested in speaking about.”
James said one thing that many people don’t realise is that the Victoria’s Secret angels have “extraordinary personalities.”
“That’s why they really stand out,” he said. “That’s why there’s a global appeal of these particular women.”
‘Just like an athlete that wants to play in the NFL’
Aside from their personalities, James said it’s the perseverance the models show that makes them successful.
“Any of the particular girls in the book, I’d love everyone to know how damn hard they work to have this kind of career,” he said. “There’s a misconception you’re discovered overnight and you take off. You have to win the genetic lottery – that’s a given – but other things have to happen.”
He added that “just like an athlete that wants to play in the NFL,” fitness, health, ambition, and not being deterred by rejection are all important parts of becoming successful as a model – particularly a Victoria’s Secret angel.
“I have daughters as old as some of these girls are,” he said. “I have this protective feeling about them.”
You can find all of INSIDER’s
Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show coverage here.