Before I begin with an observation of a photo that…
Remember when little Joe was an awkward teen playing an alien on 3rd Rock from the Sun? Nah, me neither because I never watched the show, but he was. And now Joseph Gordon-Levitt is all grown up. No more ponytail, just 100% stud with roles in movies like 500 Days of Summer, Inception, and a little movie called The Dark Knight Rises, which grossed a mere $441 million this year. Joseph has a new movie out with Bruce Willis called Looper, so he’s doing the magazine cover circuit. And heck, since it was “3rd Rock,” let’s do our first three-way comparison.
You might be thinking that we selected this cover because it was shot by our pal, Michael Muller, who recently spoke at Luminance a few weeks ago. But actually I didn’t know who photographed it until my top notch research staff (i.e. Lauren) tracked down the photo credit for this October 2012 Flaunt magazine cover. Serendipity at its finest! Single light source, high and to camera right. Judging by the shadows, it looks to be a pretty big light source with some nice diffusion. Convention says that we like to see catchlights in the eyes so that the subject doesn’t look dead, but judging by the gun show, I’m pretty sure that Joseph is alive. I like the set decoration, and I think this is much more effective because it’s not shot on seamless.
Rodolfo Martinez took this cover image for the September 2011 issue of Menswear. I suppose that the clothes are supposed to be prominent in this shot, but I find the image to be pretty pedantic. The “environment” doesn’t contribute much to the image, and I would argue that the little river stones are actually a distracting detail. It’s a well-exposed image with lots of fill, but ultimately I find it pretty boring.
Going even further back in time, we have Norman Jean Roy‘s photo for Details magazine from August 2010. I’m digging the motion of the tie, but can’t help but wonder whether that’s been Photoshopped. There’s a lot of shadow detail that seems a bit hyperreal, but it’s a portrait on a magazine cover, so I won’t judge too much on this account. I like the pose, and I like the non-uniformity of the background, but I find the shadow that he’s supposed to be casting a little too much.
Verdict: I’m going with Michael Muller on this one, in part because it’s the least traditional image for a magazine cover, which is as much a testament to the art direction as it is for the image (this is also true of the sparse copy). Keep doing your thang, my man.