Sunday, September 27, 2009


It's not a well disguised secret that the art of fashion photography is a collaborative endeavor. The final image is the result of a team of artists each contributing their expertise to what is hopefully a stunning, transformative photograph. The list of participants involved in any single image is long, including models, lighting assistants, set designers, fashion stylists, hair stylists and retouchers. In my estimation one of the most crucial artists of all is the makeup artist.

Each contribution is essential and must reach for perfection but none more so than the "maquillage".
Perhaps it's the human inclination to search the face first, before taking in any other visual information. When encountering a photograph I arrive at a multitude of aesthetic opinions at once but my eyes always lock on to the face, searching for clues to emotional communication. Delight, wonder, joy, sensuality, loneliness, fear are all communicated by the most imperceptible contraction of the eye or mouth and enhanced by the splendor of the makeup artist's work.

While there are a plenitude of talented makeup artists working today, none stand above "the little mouse" Topolino. Arriving in Paris at 19 years old from his native Marseille during the creative explosion of fashion photography in the mid 1990's, he quickly climbed the daunting fashion heights, working for magazines like The Face, Arena, Interview, I-D, and Vogue. His photographer collaborators include Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Jean-Paul Goude, Mario Testino, Pierre et Gilles, Bettina Rheims, Thierry Le Goues, Raymond Meier and on and on.

A genius with accessories, he can manipulate human physiognomy  to create fantastical transformations that go beyond mere beauty and tap into  a mixture of mythology and cartoon pop culture. Butterflies, feathers and beads of glass are just some of the items in his kit to aid his flights of fancy. He practically defined a style of makeup that is copied to this day.

Topolino is still in top demand for his makeup skills. In 1995 he was honored with a show at the Musée de la Mode. His book Make-Up Games was published by Assouline in 2002.




latina makeup and beauty said...

Thanks so much for writing about Topolino. I was assisted him and he's not only a great artist but a very nice man!

Benjamin Kanarek said...

You can see more recent Topolino work for VOGUE Brasil here: