Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fall into the Gap

Dedicated to Tiff

GAP holiday lights, San Francisco, December 2008.

What do these photographers have in common? Herb Ritts, Annie Leibovitz, Mikael Jannson, Matthew Rolston, Inez van Lamsweerde, Michel Comte, Christian Witkin, Gus Van Sant, Albert Watson, Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, David Bailey, Peter Lindbergh, Brigitte Lacombe. They have all shot ads for the Gap, the San Francisco-based clothing retailer that was established in 1969.

Gap built itself on the strength of image and marketing. Its ad campaigns employed the best image makers in the business whose collective work for the company not only changed the face of advertising, but created a group portrait of celebrity during the last two decades.

Photographers themselves took center stage in Gap campaigns. Diane Keaton, Karl Lagerfeld and Peter Lindbergh made self-portraits for Gap. Annie Leibovitz photographed Steven Meisel and William Wegman in 1988, and Herb Ritts shot a magnificent portrait of Sheila Metzner in 1990.

Gap's ongoing "Individuals of Style" campaign, which began in 1988, has featured hundreds of the most famous - and unlikely - endorsers to grace its print ads. Beyond their notable achievements, what these celebrities had in common was an idiosyncratic sense of style, not just in fashion, but in everything they did. Gap kept its finger on the pulse of the cultural scene, and brought its leading figures to the attention of the public-at-large: art world personalities such as Francesco Clemente, Santo Loquasto, Will Kemp, Aaron Eckhart and Isabelle Adjani. Gap didn't shy away from controversial personalities like Tony Kushner or Timothy Leary, and lured very private people like Joni Mitchell, William Burroughs, Marianne Faithfull and Ali MacGraw out of their hideaways and into the posters of Gap.

Gap campaigns were not just about image, they were also about music. Every pop musician at the top of his game has shot a Gap ad. The Legends of Jazz campaign featured wonderful new portraits of jazz greats like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie by Ritts and Leibovitz. And the "Favorite Songs, Favorite Jeans" campaign, which best captured the music+fashion philosophy of Gap image-making, featured young musicians like Joss Stone, Keith Urban, Jason Mraz, Michelle Williams, John Legend, Alanis Morisette, and Brandon Boyd (see video below).

Then there were the TV ads (a few are shown below) which showed impeccable taste in pop music. The songs "Tempted" by Squeeze and "Love Train" by The O'Jays were stuck in my head when the ads first came out. My friend, Jorge, recommends playing all the videos below at the same time to create a "wall of sound" -- the sound of Gap ads.

Joss Stone, Keith Urban, et al., "Favorite Songs, Favorite Jeans"

Will Kemp, "Stuff Like That" (Quincy Jones)

Scarlett Johansson, Ashton Kutcher, et al., "Feelin'" (The LA's)

Raoul Bova, "Tempted" (Squeeze)

Gap Holiday, "Love Train" (O'Jays)

Orlando Bloom & Kate Beckinsdale, "Love Is All Around" (The Troggs)

Khaki Swing, "Jump, Jive An' Wail" (Louis Prima)

Madonna & Missy Elliot, "Hollywood" (Madonna)

"Dress You Up in My Love" (Madonna)

Everybody in Leather, "Just Can't Get Enough" (Depeche Mode)

"Mellow Yellow" (Donovan Leitch)

Claire Danes & Patrick Wilson, "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better"

Raoul Bova, "I'm Free to Do What I Want Any Old Time" (Rolling Stones)

Khaki Soul, "Lovely Day" (Bill Withers)

SJ Parker, JC Chasez, Will Kemp, "Shinin' Star" (EW&F)

Herb Ritts, k.d. lang, 1990.
Herb Ritts, Chris Isaak, 1996.
Diane Keaton, self-portrait, 1989.
Karl Lagerfeld, self-portrait, 1993.
Peter Lindbergh, self-portrait, 1996.
Herb Ritts, Sheila Metzner, 1990.

Annie Leibovitz, Steven Meisel, 1988.
Brigitte Lacombe, Isabelle Adjani, 1993.
Patrick Demarchelier, Timothy Leary, 1993.
Annie Leibovitz, Santo Loquasto, 1989.
Herb Ritts, William Burroughs, 1991.
Herb Ritts, Joni Mitchell, 1990.
Annie Leibovitz, Tony Kushner, 1992.
Peter Lindburgh, Ali MacGraw, 2002.

Mikael Jannson, Will Kemp, 2002.
Inez van Lamsweerde, Aaron Eckhart, 2006.
Gus Van Sant, Francesco Clemente, 1993.
Mikael Jannson, Marianne Faithfull, 2002.
Peter Lindburgh, Jakob Dylan, 2002.
Annie Leibovitz, Miles Davis, 1989.
Albert Watson, Bryan Ferry, 1993.
James Houston, Keith Urban, 2006.
Christian Witkin, Scarlett Johansson, 2001.


  1. I am trying to find a photo of Miles Davis, that was taken I believe, in the mid-1980's for a Gap ad and he is almost in complete silhouette. It is a side profile and he is holding his horn behind his back. It is in black and white. Does anyone know where I can find it...Thanx, Pat.

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