Lady Gaga X Terry Richardson: A Critical Review


There were billboards heralding the coming of this giant collaboration for weeks before the release.  Chummy photos of Richardson and Gaga leaning on each other, Terry smiling, Gaga making that funny mouth-face thing she does.  I was admittedly kind of excited about it. I’m a fan of Richardson’s photography (most of it, anyways) and I think Lady Gaga is always interesting if not always talented.  In a sea of Taylor Swifts and whatever that other chick’s name is, I kind of think Lady Gaga is the shark that eats them all without apology.

I found a copy in West Hollywood and did my usual Photo Book Treatment.  Start at the back, flip through at an average pace to the front and then begin at the front and slowly work your way to the back.  This is a tried and true method.  It allows for an immediate impression which you can hold on to or drop completely upon further inspection.  (And then I did it three more times, much to the annoyance of the bookstore clerk.)  First impression: So-So.

A lot of what you’d expect…an unending barrage of on camera flash and candid shots.  Some stage stuff.  Gaga inhaling oxygen.  Laughing in bed.  Lots of her making faces, a couple of Terry Richardson.  Basically, stuff I feel like I’ve seen before.  And so began the slow march to the end.  A genuine friendship between the two emerges.  Inside jokes.  Some goofy friend shots, some interesting behind the scenes moments with her fans.  Meat Dress.  The Egg.  There’s something here, something you can almost sink your teeth into.  But not quite.

Lady Gaga is always on stage.  She’s always playing to the camera and never lets her guard down.  Even photos of her asleep or exhausted after a show, it seems like she’s always aware she’s being watched.  Photos of her eating spaghetti, which I think could be interesting, are actually “Photos of Lady Gaga Eating Spaghetti.”  She can’t just eat spaghetti…she’s got to make a complete performance out of it.  This is unlike Annie Lebovitz’s photos of the touring Rolling Stones where we felt like Lebovitz was able to move past the rockstar and get to the human.  We all know Lady Gaga as a larger than life meat-dress-wearing super-performer.  We don’t know who she is behind the wigs and the bondage shoes.  And that’s where Richardson falls short.

This is a photographer known for making compromising, dirty, and sometimes spectacular photos, often of people doing naughty things.  But Lady Gaga is always doing naughty things.  Spaghetti shots and shopping for paper towels would have been more interesting.  The book is not without merit.  Well-printed and with nice big photos, there are some great shots.  There’s a certain amount of stare-factor at all the nipples, the hugeness of her stardom, her fans, her very hectic lifestyle.  She’s maybe the biggest performer with the most rabid of followers, presently, and that’s all very cool to see.

Who will buy this book?  People who love every single thing Lady Gaga does and people who love every single thing Terry Richardson does.  Which, I’m sure is what the publishers are counting on.  Its a cool, pop-culture-ish thing to have lying around, and in concept, not a bad idea for a collaboration.  It’s just not “Lady Gaga as I have never seen her!!!” that I hoped it would be.

Here’s a link and a write-up.  Bang.


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